Hiking on the Mediterranean

Trip Start Oct 29, 2009
Trip End Nov 15, 2009

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Flag of Italy  , Liguria,
Thursday, November 12, 2009

Cinque Terre is Italian for "five lands" and is a collection of the most idyllic Mediterranean villages, all tucked into a dramatic and rugged hillside; it's an Italian National Park and recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Driving through the towns isn't permitted (so glad) but there is an 11 mile trail that connects them and if the weather is dry, they are passable and absolutely gorgeous. I had first heard about Cinque Terre from a sweet girl I met about a year ago who studied abroad and the area sounded too good to pass up. Indeed it was.

The southern most town of Cinque Terre is Riomaggiore; this is where we parked our car for the day and headed from the hillside to the coast-side village. Like all the five towns, Riomaggiore is colorful and quaint and at this time of year, very sleepy. All the sheer buildings have windows with adorable, functional shutters; laundry was drying on balconies and the streets were covered in cobblestone. There is an old regional train that speedily runs through a series of tunnels that connect the towns so we rode it from Riomaggiore to the northern most town of Monterosso. The train ride is about five minutes and the hike back is about five hours... if you move quickly. :)

After enjoying a little lunch overlooking the Mediterranean, we began our hike on this well-marked trail. The beginning portion is cobblestone but it slowly fades to dirt and rock as you get deeper into the landscape. On a topographical map, the hike looks like a chaotic stock market graphic with huge peaks and crashes. After descending into each town, you climb way back up for sweeping vistas and an eventual descent. Along the way, between every town, are vineyards & orchards--most of them planted into terraces since the pitch is so steep. Occasionally we would see little locked doors that made our imaginations so wild--to where do they lead? We imagined cute houses tucked away where people are truly living la dolce vida.

There were so many steps between the first two towns (Monterosso and Vernazza), an article we read said 700, and they are so steep that many of them required a lunge like move--very much chin-to-chest and hoist! On the map, these two towns look so close to each other but surprisingly, it takes about two hours to reach Vernazza. Along with being steep, the trail can be very narrow at times and you really have to mind your footing. It's definitely made for one-way traffic so we were glad to be here in the low season.

Vernazza is probably the most picturesque of the five towns and it's so exciting to reach it after an intense workout. There is a tiny harbor and square at the center of town which is surrounded by little shops and restaurants. Children were riding tricycles and older couples were strolling hand-in-hand. It was so peaceful and rich with new experiences.

The trails are designed to route travelers from the hillside through the streets of a town and then back into the hills. It's such a great and wild blend of nature and town life, unlike any trail we've ever hiked. At one moment you could think you are in Big Sur, hiking an amazing coastal trail but then suddenly you see an ancient and colorful fishing village in the distance and an hour later you are walking among its streets, sampling its food and culture before heading to the next one. It is heavenly.

After Vernazza is the quiet town of Corniglia, which prides itself on being the center of Cinque Terre. It's mainly a residential village with just a handful of restaurants and cafes and we loved strolling among older Italian women who seemed to be gossiping about the day while out for their evening walk. The sun was beginning to set so we widened our strides to get to the next town, Manarola, before sunset.

The hike between Corniglia and Manarola became more of a coastal walk than a hike which was perfect since we were loosing sun light. The walk flattened a bit before we walked up the crest above Manarola. The beautiful colors of the setting sun were illuminating its colorful homes just as we rounded the hillside to see it. It was so still, except for some lapping waves below. The walk we took through the town was surreal--we only saw about five other people and we envisioned the contrast to what they must experience in the high season.

The last part of the walk is romantic, well lit and designed to be a stroll for lovers: La Via Dell' Amore. Since we were only twenty minutes from our final destination, we slowed down and took in this amazing experience and were filled with gratitude. We threw our big backpack in the car and took the train back to Manarola where we had a Cinque Terre dinner right on the water. It was a perfect ending & fueling station for a spectacular & rigorous day.
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malonwil on

Pics look like a trip through a History Book. I don't think any vacation is complete without a walk along the "Big Sur" as Doc calls it. WOW! I think Ma and I will skip the 11 mile hike (lunge like move--very much chin-to-chest). Don't think you could have picked a better time to have done this. Always loved having a place to our selves.

Matt Harrison on

Are you kidding me?! That hike looks out of this world! And to have the whole thing to yourself! Manarola looked like it'd my favorite of the 5. I love how the village is built on top of the cliff and then on top of itself, very cool! And you can see how much joy this trip has brought you both in Kate's smile at the end of the "Almost Finished" video... Almost finished in more ways than one, huh? I am sure you can't believe it is almost over... AMAZING!

lizmaloney on

A hike to treasure. Captivated by the photos, so can't imagine what it was like in person. Loved the little door in the hillside video, the panoramic scrolls off the coast and I agree with Matt about Manorola. Think Troy should remake itself into a Manorola, it could really turn things around. Dad, you could do the lunges ;)

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