The primary reason we included the Cinque Terre on our Italy itinerary, aside from its postcard worthy colorful cliff/seaside villages, was to hike all five terre and we purposely chose Monterosso as our jumping off point as it is at the beginning of the trail although some people choose to hike the opposite direction beginning in Riomaggiore. We took the train from Venice to Monterosso (about a 6 hour trip with a bit of a layover in Milan) because like Venice, most of the villages in the Cinque Terre are car free and are all connected via a 10 minute train ride. I was very happy with calling Monterosso home for the three days we were there. First of all, our apartment – another great airbnb find (https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/1177711) had the best view in the terre. Secondly, it was literally a block from the train station so hauling our luggage was no problem at all. But most importantly, it was literally steps from the beach which we planned on spending some chillaxing time on after our day of hiking.
No truer words could be written about hiking the Cinque Terre!
Anyhoo, enough about that. Our plan was to get our required hiking pass (about 7 euro a piece at the National Park office which is also located in the same building as the train station in Monterosso-another plus) as soon as we arrived so that we could get up the following morning and hit the dusty trail. I can’t tell you how disappointed we were to find out that a couple of the trails were closed as they had been washed away. We headed off with Plan B and learned that there are actually a series of colored trails – blue being the easiest and the ones that had washed away. We hiked the first leg from Monterosso to Vernazza which was supposedly the longest and most difficult of the hikes taking about 2 1/2 hours on steep inclines. We did this because we figured it would be better to get the hardest part done early during the coolest part of the day. In hindsight, we ended up doing exactly the opposite but only because we made the decision to switch over to the red/white trail to complete the five terre hike. A decision I don’t regret now but was questioning deeply that day. I’d have to say, however, that the views on this first leg were the best of the trail.
The second leg was Vernazza to Corniglia. This was a little less challenging and took about 2 hours. We spent about an hour in the lovely village of Corniglia walking around and having lunch and a Prosecco. The next leg from Corniglia to Manarola is where we picked up the red/white trail and it took about 2 1/2 hours of mostly uphill trails. The Manarola to Riomaggiore trail which is normally a leisurely 20 minute walk on pavement turned into a 2 hour, anything but leisurely hike straight up and then straight down what seemed like Italy’s version of Mt. Everest. This was definitely the most challenging of the hikes and since it was at the end of our day, proved to be even more of a challenge as we were tired and sore already. Strong legs, knees and will are highly recommended as well as plenty of water and good humor as this stretch is seriously no joke.
We ended up in Riomaggiore hungry and dirty just as the sun was setting and decided that despite our appearance we were going to get some dinner. We found a great little restaurant with some excellent food and wine and even had desert as we felt we had certainly earned it. Based on what we had read prior, hiking all five terre normally takes 5-6 hours depending on pace and stops.
Our day ended up being 9 hours and although we spent a bit of time in each village, most of that was trail time. Overall, it was a great day and an astonishing experience and while I felt extremely sore, I also felt triumphant and an extreme sense of accomplishment. The following day we spent visiting Buranco Winery, a beautiful hilltop vineyard, where we sampled their wines and were fed scrumptious nibbles made by the lovely owner. After, we spent our remaining hours in The Cinque Terre simply relaxing on the beach drinking local wine out of plastic cups until it was time for dinner followed by bed and our early morning train to Florence.
Great wine and hospitality at Buranco Vineyard!