6 Tips To Walk The Cinque Terre
If you are wondering whether to travel up to the Italian Riviera and walk the Cinque Terre trail because you are not a hiker, or you think it’s too far away, I’d encourage you to re-think your plans. Allow a few days at least, to visit this beautiful stretch of the Italian coastline.
The stark contrast of the bright colored buildings, the rugged coastline, and the little villages that seem to totter on the cliff faces will be a feast for your eyes. And yes a challenge to your fitness, however, you won’t be disappointed.
Cinque Terre means five lands and consists of five villages dotted along the coastline. In order from north to south they are;
Monterosso Al Mare – (Main Photo) The largest village of the five, has an “old” and a “new” part, is flatter than her sister villages and even has a few cars, a promenade to stroll along, beaches and some larger hotels.
Vernazza – One of the most photographed of the 5 villages, kind of a 1 street, 1 church town, with the most stunning waterfront piazza. Beautiful brightly colored buildings, cobblestone laneways and the remains of an old wall that protected the town from pirates.
Corniglia – This is not the place to stay if you have cumbersome luggage. Perched on top of the cliff there are 365 steps (one for each day) to reach this little town. Lovely place to visit but you wouldn’t want to stay there.
Manarola – Again very popular with photographers both amateurs and pro’s, also small 1 street town, with a small swimming area. It’s the baby of Cinque Terre.
Riomaggiore – Built on and into the cliff face the last village has it all, a church, a castle, a rocky beach and several restaurants, it’s also where you can catch the train back to Monterosso (you will need it after the trek). It is also the closest town to La Spezia.
A theory that I have held throughout my life is to tackle the hardest thing in front of you first. The Cinque Terre trail should be hiked with this in mind. You can read more tips about the Cinque Terre Trail here.
Tackling the hardest part of the trek was the reason we stayed at Monterosso so we could begin the trail facing the most challenging part first.
1. Start Early
We set off just after 7.30 in the morning for the main reason that it would be cooler. If we were exerting ourselves to the max as I’d overhead in a cafe the previous day that an early start is a must.
Allow at least 5 hours to hike the trail, make a day of it and have a good look around each of the villages too.
The first 3 villages will take at least an hour to reach each from start to finish. The last two villages are around 1/2 – 1 hour as they are much easier and even have paths.
You will need to be fairly fit. I don’t mean that in a gym junkie kind of way but you will need to make it up a few flights of stairs without passing out. Here’s an extract from my journal…”The trek starts with a lovely walk along a part of the promenade in the old part of town. Within a few minutes, the steps are climbing towards the sky! The elevation was breathtaking for a number of reasons, we didn’t have much breath left by the time we what we thought was the top and the view, which was stunning.”
Pardon me while I state the obvious, but I do because I saw such a variety of clothes and footwear. Noticing people’s clothes was a spectacle in itself as I hiked the trail. I saw hardcore hikers with boots, poles and dressed in khaki, to miniskirts and flip flops. A lady dressed in white trousers and shirt, with a full face of makeup, lots of bling, a gold bag and matching wedges!
I’d recommend a comfortable pair of shorts with pockets, a T-Shirt. A good pair of sneakers, cotton sports socks and a hat is a must. If you feel you’ll need water between towns then a bag to carry a bottle. Otherwise, leave the bag behind and stuff the money in your pockets as you will need your hands at times to pull you up, hold onto railings or just to steady yourself.
6. Stop and Chat To A Cat
The bakeries on Vernazza make some of the most delicious pastries (try the chocolate-filled cornetti’s, O.M.G!) then take a seat and watch the cats.
The Cinque Terre cats are in all 5 villages of the Cinque Terre, and you would think from their “up yours” attitude they owned the place! Cars on Monterosso drove around the ones that slept in the middle of the road. They would win the global award for the cats with the most attitude.
5. Catch the Train
Once you finish your hike the most welcome sight will be the train station. Yes, your body will be telling you that you’ve achieved something rather special on that day, reminding you with aches and pains, probably for a day or so, but it’s so worth it.
*Side Note/Tips – Our accommodation in Monterosso Al Mare was in an apartment in the old section. We lived amidst the locals which I love. If you choose this type of accommodation to be prepared for a bit of noise if you are a light sleeper.
The walls of the buildings are so close you could touch them. You’ll hear TV’s, music, church bells (a lot) lost tourists, cars, and trains. At times it feels like you are living with the whole village.
Are you planning to walk the Cinque Terre soon or have you already trekked this beautiful coastline?