If you want to go hiking, Cinque Terre has a lot to offer: it's still today one of the most know Italian destinations, but even if it is really touristic, it's worth the visit! The best is to start from one of the extremities, reaching it by train: we started from Monterosso al Mare, the last village coming from La Spezia, the first one coming from Genoa. Here you'll find the "biggest" beach of the Cinque Terre, protected at the far end by "Il gigante" (the giant), a rocky statue perfectly integrated in the natural environment: almost a declaration of what Cinque Terre is.
Monterosso al Mare together with Vernazza, were heavily damaged in 2011 due to the flash floods that brought death and destruction in Cinque Terre. Still today you can see a lot of works going on in the villages, and open air photo exhibitions showing memories from that episode.
Let's start hiking, Cinque Terre!
From Monterosso al Mare we start hiking following the lower trail (Blue-Number one), the most popular among tourists, passing in the first leg through Mediterranean vegetation over the cliffs. Even if it's the lowest trail, from Monterosso to Corniglia it's not passing close to the sea, but it's rather rising to go back down at the next village, opening in this way some interesting views towards the hills and creeks. Only from Corniglia to Riomaggiore it's approaching the sea. Before starting the hike, it's always better to check in internet or at the local tourist information point for the condition of the trails, because being the area of Cinque Terre prone to landslides, some of the paths could be closed. That was the case when we were there, because of a big landslide in 2012, part of the blue route was still not completely fixed.
Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and the landslides
After Monterosso al Mare, passing through cacti (prickly pears) and agaves along the path, the next village is Vernazza, the nicest and most characteristic of them all. It lies on a small rocky peninsula protected by a fortress, and has direct access to the sea, with a small harbour where you can stare at the waves crashing on the pier. This is the place to stop, relax and taste an ice cream while exploring the steep and narrow alleys.
When we gathered some more energy to continue, we dived again in Cinque Terre. Hiking form Vernazza to Corniglia seemed to be forbidden, because the lower trail was in theory closed for reconstruction. But spotting other people coming from that direction, we started to ask around, and we found out that even if "closed" it was still accessible, and there were no workers around. So we followed the suggestions and tried also to continue through the path number 2. We found on the way some machines and "under construction" bridges, plus the railing was missing in most of the path, but apart from that it was quite ok and not really dangerous, so we were able to reach without any problems Corniglia, the only village of Cinque Terre without direct access to the sea, staying on a hilltop. It is the less touristic of the Five lands, with quiet roads, kids playing around and scenes of ordinary life.
The next village, Manarola, wasn't accessible trough the blue route, because of another landslide blocking the trail. And this time it was closed for real, the front of the landslide still visible from far away. The alternative route was a quite big detour, and being already 6pm we decided to take the train (just 2 minutes ride) to Manarola, knowing that the next day we were still planning to stay in Cinque Terre, and we could have gone back to the missed part directly from our host's place. Manarola is another interesting village, with his boats lined up along the streets, and the buildings embedded in the rock.
La via Dell'Amore (Street of Love)
ticket is still required, but if you arrive after 7pm, there are no employees and you can enter for free, that is very good if you are planning a romantic moment with your partner staring at the sunset. We have to say that we were disappointed by the Via dell'Amore and we were expecting much more from this stretch of the path . Maybe because it was cloudy and we weren't able to see the sunset, or maybe just because of our high expectations, but it wasn't the most interesting part of Cinque Terre. Hiking was finished after arriving in Riomaggiore, and so it was our day in Riomaggiore, the last of the Five lands: we arrived there when it was already getting dark and people were sitting in the restaurant staring at the TV, where the European championship of football was going on. The morphology of Riomaggiore is quite peculiar, it's a V shaped village, staying on two shoulders of two different hills looking each other, with a small harbour at the conjunction .
After spending some more time in Riomaggiore, we run to take the train to La Spezia and catch the last bus to go back to Valdipino where our Couchsurfing host was waiting for us, to listen to our stories from this memorable day!
The next day we went back for some more hiking in different and less traveled paths in Cinque Terre, hiking more rural and authentic routes that you'll find in our second article: Let's go hiking: Cinque Terre and its rural side.