Hiking in Cinque Terre – that landlocked valley of “5 lands” on the NW Italian coast – promised a priceless taste of Old World Italy.
We envisioned rose-colored villages
…centuries-old foot trails through olive farms in mid-harvest, 
…and fishing dories piled with nets, rocking on the surf.   
Hiking in Cinque Terre did not disappoint. 

Where do you begin hiking in Cinque Terre?
Cinque Terre’s car-free, so we trained from Genoa to the westernmost village, Monterrossa, and set off on foot with our daypacks.
Unlike most Cinque Terre villages (which are crammed into the cleavage of the hills), Monterrossa boasts blocks of waterfront, with surfside cafes and some of Cinque Terre’s only sandy beaches.
Well-marked trailhead?  No, just head to the end of town, and take the last stony path, heading to the water.
You’re off… hiking in Cinque Terre.

What will you see, hiking in Cinque Terre?
A serpentine path… acres of vineyards… terraces and spellbinding seascapes at every angle.

We stopped for a picnic, and fed the colony of stray cats.    After about 3 hours of hiking in Cinque Terre, our first night’s village came into view!

Where do you sleep when hiking in Cinque Terre?
We worked our way down into the crux of the hillside, then took the cut-off to Vernazza.  
Soaked and worried about the approaching dusk, we wound our way into the square and  approached some men at a wharf café to inquire about a room.   But first, I felt a tug at my elbow, and turned to see a squat, wrinkled woman who, with a low mumble and unfamiliar words, beckoned us across the harbor.

We followed her trustingly through a thick wooden door, up some dark stairs, and into a room, straight out of movie set.   Green wooden shutters opened up onto neighbors’ clotheslines and the misty harbor scene spread below…

Hot showers.  Clean linens.  A view.  
…we had achieved the trifecta of travel lodging!
Then we were off, on a dinner “crawl” through town.

You won’t starve while hiking in Cinque Terre
Stop 1:  a wine bar, tucked back in the town center
Curious tidbit:
Medieval villages were strategically designed as a maze of winding alleyways, with the town center predictably tucked deep inside, away from the harbor, protected from invaders
1st course: Belforte Ristorante, in a tower on the cliff’s edge… literally!
2nd course: the Panaramica, for one of the local specialties – Pesto!
Stop 4:  Joining a table of fun-loving strangers for calamari fra diavlo

This plan repeated, at every meal (except breakfast) in every town!  Good thing that hiking in Cinque Terre burns calories!

 We closed out the night in this grotto, eating chocolate!

What towns do you visit while hiking in Cinque Terre?
Next day we walked onward to Corniglia.   We passed our first English-language sign –  “Rooms with a view” (translation was hardly necessary)  
 then ate a lunch which almost swam onto our plate!
Hiking in Cinque Terre takes you down Corniglia’s famous stairs,
along circular paths into Manarola where we splurged on gelato and a nap on the sun-warmed shore rocks.
In summer, you can boat from this harbor to the final town, but – being October – we  stayed on the foot trail.  Our last (and most visited) stop was Via del L’amore, or Lover’s Walk, in Riomaggiore, a sadly crowded and grafitti-ed cobblestone promenade.

Hiking in Cinque Terre offers Old World immersion
The olive groves were in mid-harvest, draped in plastic orange netting, tended by weather-worn farmers who smiled silently but warmly at us.
Above Corniglia, there’s an in-home wine-making operation, and near trail’s end, we came across crypts — generations of a single family,  laid to rest, beside their sea.
We closed our trek with a train back to Monterossa.  It ran through tunnels and along the sea, but offered no better view than from the trail, hiking in Cinque Terre!
NOTE:   In 2011, bad storms caused flooding and landslides.  Trails are still being restored but most towns are open for visitors.   For more info on hiking in Cinque Terre, go to the National Park site.

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