Hiking Italy’s Cinque Terre

Vernazza as seen from the Cinque Terre trail walking North

Vernazza as seen from the Cinque Terre trail walking North

We´d frequently heard about hiking Cinque Terre – stories of walking on cliff tops, looking down at turquoise waters and exploring little fishing villages. When we learned that it cost about the same to fly to California through Italy as it would to fly directly from Spain, we decided to go.

Due in large part to Char´s mastery of weather forecasting websites, we enjoyed

Colorful houses.  Corniglia. Our apartment was one of those close to the sea.

Colorful houses. Corniglia. Our apartment was one of those close to the sea.

3 days of hiking in sparkling sunlight that illuminated the colorful villages. There´s a story that each fisherman used to paint their house a distinct color so he could recognize it from the sea, and make sure his wife was home doing the housework.

Cinque Terre has been inhabited since the 11th century, so there are roughly 40 footpaths cutting through the rugged countryside. Four paths connect the 5 seaside villages that fall withing Cinque Terre National Park. Another extends north to a town outside of the park.

Typical train station - The trains are electric.

Typical train station – The trains are electric.

A modern electrified train connects the villages and runs throughout the day and much of the night, so you can stay in any one of the five villages and easily hop back and forth between the others for walking, exploring, dining. We learned that it does not really matter what town you stay in, just pick one that appeals to you and hop on the train to get to the town/path/restaurant that you want for any given day. In the off season when we were there, it seemed that

Vernazza's colorful harbor

Vernazza’s colorful harbor

you could have a car in some of the villages, but in the high season it would be impossible because the towns are very small.

Each village is unique, each is full of narrow walkways and stairs, and each offers plenty of colorful harbors, Italian cappucinos, local wine, and delicious food consisting of all the pasta, pesto, fish, and olive oil you can imagine. The region is

Manaorola's nativity scene

Manaorola’s nativity scene

known for pesto and it was great!

We were there at the start of the Christmas season and one night were lucky enough to be in the village which lights up a huge number of nativity scenes on the local hillside and hosts a fireworks display.

Monorail used for transporting grapes and other material on the steep hillsides

Monorail used for transporting grapes and other material on the steep hillsides (not our photo)

In Cinque Terre they grow grapes on the steep hillsides and make wine. In particular they make a sweet white wine called sciacchetrá that tastes like sherry.

Mid December, when we visited, is at the end of the shoulder season, so there were almost no other tourists, and almost all of the restaurants and hotels were closed. The towns were quiet rather than boisterous, like we imagine they would be

Amusing sign about hiking Cinque Terre

Amusing sign about hiking Cinque Terre

in the summer. Swimming was out of the question. If we were going back we´d try to go in May or September. It was clear that summer would be extremely crowded because the trails are too narrow to handle many people, and the villages don´t have capacity for many people.

The two easiest of the 4 trails were “closed”, due to storms which create

Closed trail from Riomaggore North

Closed trail from Riomaggore North

landslides. The southernmost had been closed since 2011. The next one was actually in good shape except for one small section, so we hiked it anyway, as did several Canadian tourists we met one morning. It seemed odd that the first trail was closed for so long, in a region highly dependent on tourism, so we developed numerous stories. The most entertaining is that Italy purposely delays trail repair so visiting Germans will return home and complain to Angela Merkel that Italy´s austerity is extreme, ill-advised, and misplaced. A fluent Italian speaker could have a good time figuring out what´s really going on.

For reference if you are researching Cinque Terre, the villages, listed from South to North are: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, Monterosso, and Levanto (just outside the N. boundary of the park). To get to Cinque Terre from Rome, you take a train from the Termini station to La Spezia (Central station) and then you transfer to a local train to Riomaggiore. This is quite easy to reserve on the Tren Italia web site, but it is hard to know which train station to use, so that is why we named them here.

Other favorite photos from Cinque Terre are below.  A few from our 2 day visit to Rome are at the bottom.

A few photos from Rome


2 thoughts on “Hiking Italy’s Cinque Terre

  1. adventureswithddandl

    Love your blog! We were in Cinque Terre 2 years ago in the summer. While it was crowded in some villages, we stayed in Corniglia and had a great time with few people. The villages near the beaches were more crowded. We hiked and trained and loved it. Thanks for sharing your adventures. Debbie and Doug Kundrat

    1. danmarshall22 Post author

      Debbie and Doug,
      Yes, it is likely a good idea to stay in Corniglia during the Summer.
      When we stayed there there in early December there was no issue related to crowds. Our problem was finding an open restaurant, though we always eventually did.
      Dan and Char


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