If you arrived here by chance, you might want to start with the first part: Let's go hiking: Cinque Terre and its "Five Lands". If not, and you're looking for some more hiking, Cinque Terre is not going to disappoint you, so keep reading!
There are plenty of hiking paths in Cinque Terre, easy and suitable to all ages with amazing views. We were there exactly one year ago, and it's one of the places that we most remember from our last trip. We hiked the low trail (the most famous, number 2-blue in the hiking map) during the first day, and in the second day a small part of the highest route (number one) and the middle route (7, 7/a, 6/d) of which we'll give you more details later. But first a brief introduction that we missed in the first article!
Cinque Terre What?!?
Cinque Terre is the Italian expression for "Five lands" (Easier to say than to write for foreigners, I often see pages referring to "5 terre" "Cincue Tere", "Cinqe Terre", and other thousands variations): in fact they are five villages more than lands, scattered on less than 20 km of the ligurian riviera.
Now Cinque Terre is part of the Unesco world heritage list and it is protected by the creation of a National Park "Parco nazionale delle Cinque Terre", the only Italian park preserving a man made environment. Man made because the landscape was adapted by men to make it usable for agriculture, with the help of terraces and dry walls. Once upon the time these villages were isolated, embedded between the sea and the hills, and the only possible connection was by walking or by boat, until the railway was built in the XIX Century. Still today train is the main connection here, since cartable roads are rare (Thank God). After a period of difficulties and a mass emigration to other countries, Cinque Terre's economy started to raise again in the '70 thanks to the tourism industry.
Practical information about Cinque Terre
The access to the hiking paths of Cinque Terre National Park is free, except for the path number 2. To hike this trail it's requested a daily (or multi-day) ticket for 5€ or 8€ with train transportation in the area included for one day (Cinque Terre Card). There are people moving only by train from one village to the other, but we wouldn't suggest this approach. Try to explore as much as you can walking, even if the villages are beautiful, hiking is the real experience in Cinque Terre, and it is accessible to anybody.
It's possible to sleep in the villages, or even better in some rural houses along the path: for budget travellers and backpackers instead it's better to stay in La Spezia or Levanto and move from there by train: it's only a 10 minutes ride. We even thought to do free camping in the vineyards, but we were advised against it by local, because at night the area can get dangerous due to the high presence of wild boars, roaming freely in the hills. Eventually we slept in Valdipino (Riccò del Golfo) where we had a great experience with our couchsurfer, a nice man in his fifties, previous street artist and vagabond.
Second day Hiking: Cinque Terre reloaded
While the fist day we took a ride by car to La Spezia and from there by train to Cinque Terre, the second day we went hiking directly from home (Valdipino).
With a secondary path it is possible in fact to reach the route number 1, the highest, in about 3 hours of hike. The path was impressive: it was clear that we were the only one to use it in the last few weeks, or maybe months. It was going along a river, flowing through red rocks, with luxurious vegetation sometimes as high as us, fallen trees, abandoned buildings taken back by nature, and in some occasion the trail was disappearing amid the vegetation, leaving us in the middle of nowhere. We had the feeling of being explorers in an unknown land, rather than hiking in Cinque Terre :)
Going through the vineyards
Eventually we reached the trail number one, and we started following it going eastward in direction of Corniglia. We weren't really impressed by the high trail, a wide and flat route on the top of the ridge, with high grass and almost no view of the surroundings. From there we started again spotting humans, and even people jogging, after almost 3 hours of "loneliness". But we decided to abandon the path number one and to turn into the trail number 7, the middle trail. What a decision! When we were thinking of Cinque Terre, before experiencing it, that's what we were imagining! Narrow trail passing through vineyards, olive trees, local farmer houses (sometimes transformed in bed and breakfast) with amazing views over the villages and the cliffs! It was really the best choice to go through this enjoyable route. We spotted even some local life and strange tools: in particular we were intrigued by long rails found across the lands, that we found out were used to transport the grapes (and the farmer) through these steep lands.
We even stopped to eat our packed lunch in a beautiful spot with the view of the vineyards, the cliffs and the sea right in front of us: what more than this?
We finished our hike after arriving in Manarola, that we visited again, this time without clouds. Afterwards, instead of repeating the "Street of love" and paying the entrance ticket, we took the train for another visit to Riomaggiore, that we weren't able to visit at daylight the day before, and then heading back to Valdipino for some more stories from our cool host!
That's it for now from Cinque Terre, but we're sure will be back to explore even more of this amazing lands!
If you still didn't do it, you might want to read our first article: Let's go hiking: Cinque Terre and its "Five Lands".