Oh Cinque Terre, you lovely little slice of this world you. Cinque Terre caught my eye in a photo many years ago and has been on my list to visit for years now. When I was in Italy several years back I had plans that never materialized to visit and so when the chance came up this summer I snatched it up.
Cinque Terre is a dramatic coastline of five unbelievably constructed fishing villages. A Unesco World Heritage site since 1997, these tucked away little villages are pastel colored wonders. The added beauty of these cities are their connected hiking paths which traverse the towering cliffsides, and a 19th-century railway that line slices through a series of coastal tunnels ferries.
Cinque Terre’s five villages date from the early medieval period. Monterosso, the oldest, was founded in AD 643, Riomaggiore came next followed by Vernazza, Corniglia and Manarola. A large part of what remains in the villages today dates from the late High Middle Ages. Fields and gardens slice through the angled layers of earth surrounding the building and are an amazing example of human ingenuity.
We rented several rooms in the first of the villages, Riomaggiore a perfect spot for exploring the area. The vertical incline of the city is a true marvel and is at times hard to imagine how or why villages where ever even built in this challenges landscape. However, as soon as you reach the shore the answer is obvious and allows you to bask in this remarkable collision of natural beauty and manmade wonder.
We spent the first evening enjoying a wonderful meal at one of the many fabulous restaurants in Riomaggiore and then walked down to the water by the moonlight. I sat by the shore with my feet in the mediterranean and chatted with a little girl from Switzerland for a long time about her life. As I was getting up to leave (to get gelato, obviously) I asked her her name and turns out we share the same name! It was a lovely way to spent a night on this earth.
The next morning ready to hike the paths between the towns we bought a combined train and hiking ticket at the tourist office. The rail line runs between all the villages and stops every 30 minute in the summer. The hiking trail has small entrance booths you can also just buy tickets for there as well. In 2011, flash floods along the Ligurian coast created chaos in the area, burying historic streets and houses and closed some of the walking trails to this day to visitors. The trail that connects the closest villages to where we were staying were all closed. We made our way to the furthest village on the train and walked to the next to villages on foot and from their took the train back to Riomaggiore.
We got off the train in Monterosso, a village with sandy beaches and tourists a plenty. The beaches were lined with umbrellas and chairs for rent and the shore was washed with beachgoers enjoying a lazy summer afternoon. We got a quick bite to eat, made sure we had enough water and made our way uphill on the hiking trail to the next town.
The trail starts off very steep and stays that way for much of the journey. The trail reminded me so much of the Costa Brava trail I hiked in Spain this winter. The shore starts at your feet and you hike upward until the coast becomes a distant view from above. Along the way you cross terraced vineyards, farms and rocky outcrops. Ambitious vendors sell their sweet treats and goods to thirsty hikers along the way reminding you that you are not so far from one village to the next.
The trail linking the villages is called the, Sentiero Azzurro (Blue Trail; marked No 2 on maps), a 12km old mule path. The trail dates back to the 12th and 13th centuries and was the main mode of getting from village to village until the railway line opened in 1874. The