September 17, 2013
Hiking and Exploring Cinque Terre
There is no better sound to wake up to than the sound of the ocean. Up bright and early on our second day in the Cinque Terre.
We were all set to get hiking as soon as we enjoyed a quick bite to eat. Starting the hike early means that even if we were hiking all four trails connecting the five towns in one day we could be done by around lunchtime. Hiking is one of the main attractions in the area. A cliffside trail connects the Cinque Terre villages, and provides some stunning views over the Ligurian Sea.
Best Advice: In warm weather the hike can get extremely hot and uncomfortable at mid-day and the early afternoon. Even if you’re only planning to hike between a couple of the towns, it’s still a good idea to get up early so you don’t get stuck on a cliffside with no shade for protection from the noon-day sun.
The National Park
The trails connecting the Cinque Terre towns (and the land surrounding them) was turned into a National Park in 1999, and ever since then hikers have to pay a fee to enter the park and walk between the villages. Being a National Park also means there are certain hours when the trails are open – it’s no longer a 24/7 operation. No one was at the gate when we started our hike, so we waited until the second portion of the hike before purchasing our passes.
Vernazza to Corniglia, Path no. 2 (Blue)
This hike literally offers postcard views of the town, the castle, and more. The trail starts just above the train station (it is well marked). The most amazing views are within the first 10 minutes of walking from the station as the trail wraps around the watchtower of Vernazza’s castle.
We encountered some seriously steep sections. Parts of the trail are made up of irregular stone steps which required a bit of attention when we were hiking. At times it got extremely narrow, and in some areas there would be a wall of vineyards on one side and a cliff on the other (with no railing!).
The full hike to Corniglia is the greenest hike in the Cinque Terre as it travels through Olive groves.
Half way along the path is Prevo, a tiny hamlet of Vernazza: it is the most high and most impressive spot at 208 meters above sea level, that overlooks the famous Guvano Nude Beach.
Corniglia is the only village built high on the cliffs rather than at sea level and, with the town in view, we wind though the olive groves to the little main square where we sit and enjoy a light lunch.
Remember, validate your ticket before boarding the train or risk a hefty fine!
Monterosso al Mare
Travelling northward, Monterosso is the fifth village and the most touristed, since it boasts a proper beach and is home to several larger, fancier hotels. Like the other villages, it is a shining gem along the sea.
Built directly on rock, with winding secret alleys, the old town exhibits the true character of the Cinque Terre. It too was also devistated by the October 2011 flood. The streets crawl up the San Cristoforo hill, showing little sign of the devastation that left it metres-deep in mud and debris two year sago.
We arrived by train into this colorful seaside town and were greeted immediately with a sandy beach. The big waves made it impossible to resist dipping my toes into the warm waters. After enjoying a scoop of gelato under the midday sun, we strolled along the promenade and slowly made our way to the entrance of our next hike.
Hiking Monterosso to Vernazza Path no. 2 (Blue)
The trail begins on the north side of the main street between the train station and the harbor. We left the resort town of Monterosso and begin the 250-metre climb between the cultivation terraces that line the hills.
Probably the most challenging hike is from Monterosso to Vernazza, mainly because it’s not just up or down – it’s both. And it’s very very steep.
The trail has one with the highest percentage of so-narrow-you’re-not-sure-they’re-wide-enough-for-one-person trail sections (many of which have cliffside dropoffs on one side), so be prepared for lots of stopping and starting if the trail is particularly crowded.
Near the end of the trail there were the most beautiful post card views of Vernazza!
We enjoyed taking a little break to watch the waves crash into the rocks. The little restaurant where we were enjoying our dinner the night before had to move it’s tables due to the large waves!
If you watch carefully you’ll see 3-4 brave kids swimming in the massive waves just off of the pier!
Many trails had remained closed until recently due to landslides. On October 25, 2011, Vernazza was struck by torrential rains, massive flooding and mudslides that left the town buried in over 4 meters (over 13 feet) of mud and debris, causing over 100 million euro worth of damage. The town was evacuated and in a state of emergency for many months. Vernazza has returned and with hard work and help from people around the world it is open to travelers again. Most of the shops and restaurants are back in business and as lovely as ever. More Information.
We made it back to our home town! Time to check out the waves at the hidden beach!
Vernazza has two beaches: small, at the foot of the city and another one a bit bigger, from its other side, the passage of which is through the cave in the rock near the main square of the village.
We decided to take the train to the 4th town to pick up some food for our date night on our terrace.
The town was vibrant with locals as many of the day trippers left for the day. Like many other places in Italy we were thankful that we took the advice to stay a few nights to enjoy less crowds in the evenings. The towns really do come to life when the tourists leave!
In late September on the Via dell’Amore (the Way of Love) between Riomaggiore and Manarola injured four Australians and remained closed during our visit. We did however still enjoy some stunning views from it’s entrance from Riomaggiore.
Picnic on the Terrace
A race against the sun! As we waited impatiently for our train back to Vernazza, we quickly learned that the Italian train schedule was basically pointless. The train that finally did arrive didnt stop at our destination and took us right to the end town of Monterosso! We were not the only ones caught off guard, we had a handful of other lost tourists running with us to change platforms to grab a returning train that was just about to leave! We all got on just in time and made it back to Vernazza safely. Just in time to catch a breathtaking sunset over the sea!