The Cinque Terre (Italian for Five Lands) is a beautiful spot along Italy’s northern Mediterranean coast. Situated between Genoa and Pisa this area is home to what makes northern Italy such a charming destination. These five fishing villages are linked by hiking trails, a railroad and the sea. Automobile traffic between the towns is treacherous to non-existent.
From the north the five villages are Monterossa Al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarolla, and Rio Maggoire. Each has its own flavor, but they all share centuries old buildings and a unique way of life.
The Cinque Terre is an Italian national park and a World Heritage site. In this five part series we will travel between the towns on foot. The trail is breathtaking in multiple ways and requires a hiking pass.
The hike begins in Monterossa Al Mare. This is the most touristy of the villages with many hotels, a wide beach and plenty of restaurants. At the same time it is a relatively small town and easy to get around. The train station, main beach and hotels are separated from the older part of town by a cliff that descends into the sea. There is a walking tunnel through the rock. Or you can take the trail that goes over the cliff and past the old castle that is now a private residence.
When you reach the end of the small town you’ll find the start of the trail. The main Cinque Terre trail, marked by red and white blazes, follows the rocky, craggy coast ascending steeply to hundreds of feet above the Mediterranean Sea. Along the way you pass through lemon groves and olive trees. This is the longest and most strenuous part of the hike. It takes approximately two hours to walk from Monterosso Al Mare to Vernazza. But the picture postcard moment as you approach Vernazza is well worth it. From high above the village you look down into the harbor of the quintessential Italian fishing village. It’s now just a short walk down into the village, which we’ll do in part two of this series.
While each story in this series can be read individually, the reader will gain more enjoyment and knowledge of the area if the series is read in order.