As we traveled around Italy on our honeymoon, one of the places my husband and I planned to visit was Cinque Terre, a collection of five tiny villages along Italy’s west coast. We heard about Cinque Terre from my sister who studied in Italy during college. She loved her visit there and told us we must go. So, after a short time in the Lake Como area, we drove over to the coast.
What is so interesting about these five villages along the sea is that there are hiking trails linking each one to the next. No car necessary; you simply walk from town to town. If that’s a little too much exertion for you, there is also a train that will take you to all five villages.
We decided to start our Cinque Terre experience in the northern-most village, Monterosso. A very helpful information desk attendant at the train station not only showed us all of the possible places to stay in town, but also called around until she found one with an available room for us! After checking in and unloading, we headed back into the town to grab a bite to eat and watch the full moon rise over the ocean. The night was simply magical as we strolled through town, enjoyed an evening gelato, and walked back to our little hotel.
As a new day began, we packed our belongings, put on our swimsuits under our hiking clothes, and checked out. We weren’t sure where we would end up that day, but we knew we would not be back. We walked through the village of Monterosso on our way to the hiking trail. Monterosso is the largest of the five villages and had plenty of local shops and outdoor markets to meander through on our way out. Finally, we got to the trail and began our hike toward Vernazza.
The hike itself was beautiful and not terribly difficult. We stopped frequently to take pictures of the breathtaking landscape, the fading Monterosso, and the ever-closer Vernazza. You can’t help but want to take pictures of these towns. All of the buildings are painted bright, vibrant colors as they hang onto cliffs and ledges and jut out into the sea. About an hour later, we were in Vernazza. The village center goes right down to the water, which is where we stripped down to our bathing suits and laid out on a large rock to rest and sunbathe before finding some lunch and heading back to the trail.
Another beautiful trek took us to Corniglia. It is the middle village of the five and is quite small. We stopped in a store briefly to get a couple water bottles and then continued on, having high hopes of hiking to all five villages in one day. That is, until we hit a small snag. The regular trail from Corniglia to the next village of Manarola was closed during our visit. It was highly suggested that tourists take the train to Manarola instead of hiking the detour trail. My husband and I scoffed at taking the train. We came here to get the full experience of hiking to all five villages! And so, we naively began following the detour.
This new trail started with what seemed like hours of twelve to eighteen inch tall stone steps. A few of these were no problem, but soon enough each one seemed like its own mountain, and resting frequently was an absolute necessity. Finally, we came out at the highest point we’d need to climb, and the trail starting going horizontally instead of vertically across vineyard after vineyard. When, at last, it seemed like we were coming to a town, we realized we still had to go down just as far as we had come up on the other side…
We lumbered into Manarolo at last and immediately found a place to stay for the night. We were hot, sweaty, and ready to stop walking for the day! So we showered, put on some fresh clothes, and found a nice restaurant nearby to have a well-deserved dinner. I don’t think we slept any better on our entire trip than we did that night!
On our last day in Cinque Terre, we decided that even though we were still tired from our long hike the day before, we couldn’t leave without having walked to the fifth and final village, Riomaggiore. This final hike was really more of a stroll along a paved road with a view of the ocean and an old man playing love songs on his accordion for the passersby. Hand in hand, we ambled slowly along the path taking it all in. It was the perfect way to end our tour of the gorgeous, quaint, and colorful towns of Cinque Terre.
About the Author: Alice Vlasenko lives in New England with her husband and two dogs. She loves traveling and learning new languages as well as cooking, exercising, and creating art.
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