Cinque Terre is a UNESCO world heritage park, and it’s easy to see why. The area is full of natural beauty that should be preserved. In 2011, Cinque Terre suffered from flash flooding and mudslides, and the area was massively devastated. It has since rebounded, and, as an outsider, I would have never guessed. With the exception that several of the hiking trails were still closed. The trailheads from Riomaggiore to Vernazza were closed, leaving only the Vernazza to Monterosso trail open – which is lucky for us because it’s the longest and hardest (!)
The views are breathtaking from above. The Vernazza-Monterosso trail is the only one from which you can view all five villages. If you visit and do not hike in Cinque Terre, you are only getting half of the CT experience.
This hike is certainly not for the faint at heart. You are, quite literally, climbing a small mountain.
The trails are narrow and rocky – a far cry from the wide paved sidewalks you’ll see on the easier trails. Trail passes can be purchased at the trailhead for about 5 euro per person. They are good for 1 day. To purchase a trailpass that includes train passes, purchase your pass at the train station.
I’d recommend hiking early in the morning. We waited until late morning and the trails were PACKED. And when you have a 12″ wide trail and a brigade of “older” German female hikers wielding sports bras and hiking sticks trying to pass you the opposite way…. well, you’ll be glad you decided to head out early. Otherwise you’ll have to watch them all get a hairy armpit in the face (not mine, obviously) as they clamber by.
Yes, the trails are narrow enough in certain spots that you have to touch strangers.
While the hike took about 2 hours in the morning, we hiked back mid-afternoon in the height of the heat. It was HOT, but the trails were empty, and we did the hike in about 1 hour.
Both times were an amazing experience, but I’d certainly try to time it so you aren’t hiking with the masses.
Monterosso al Mare
Monterosso al Mare is the largest and most resort-like of the five CT villages, and has the largest, sandiest beach. As it’s the only village accessible by car, it is also significantly more populated.
There is a much larger town to explore. Italy has amazing old churches hidden in every town.
And sleeping cats lie in patches of sunshine all over Monterosso.
Overall, Monterosso was a colorful and fun place to spend an afternoon! A welcome distraction from a morning of hiking.
On our last afternoon we stopped by Manarola on our way out of town. Looking down on the town of Manarola is the “classic” Cinque Terre photo opportunity you see all over Pinterest and covers of travel books.
Manarola is a bit larger than Vernazza and we walked through town, among the many boats that were pulled up on to the roads. If you’re looking for “deep water swimming”, this is your place. And, although we weren’t able to test the waters, it sure looked fun!
Before we departed CT, we added fresh anchovies to the list of local specialties we tried. They were not bad, just really salty.
We absolutely loved our stay in Cinque Terre and hope to return again someday! While I had spent quite some time debating whether to visit the Amalfi Coast or CT, I don’t regret my decision one bit! It was beautiful and relaxing.
Next step, Firenze!