Cinque Terre, in Liguria region, are a gorgeous must-see.
Cinque Terre, in Liguria region, are a gorgeous must-see.
Awarded as UNESCO World Heritage in 1997, thanks to the “harmonious interaction between human beings and nature to realise a precious landscape”, they receive plenty of tourists each year.
The Cinque Terre five maritime hamlets are Manarola, Riomaggiore, Vernazza, Monterosso al Mare and Corniglia, the only one different from the others as it does not directly overlook on the sea, being located on top of a cliff.
“Cinque Terre” (literally: five lands) name originates from their history: since their birth, connections have been almost inexistent, separating them as independent areas more than small villages.
The flood of the 25th of October 2011 has been devastating, but thanks to the help received, the National Park has been restored in less than two years.
Today, the connections to reach those areas are several: trails, car-friendly roads (even if not advisable, as it is quite difficult to find a parking spot once you reach the destination), trains and, in summer, ferries.
The easiest solution is indeed the train, but the best way to fully discover and appreciate Cinque Terre hamlets is to travel the trails which cross the zone.
These tours are among the most beautiful itineraries by foot in Europe, for trekking lovers but also for who simply likes to take walks in the nature.
If you decide to walk one of those trails, you need to be prepared, well equipped and dressed, informed about the possible difficulties and the best time of the year to do so.
This will make a difference between a tiring, complicated excursion and an unforgettable one.
There are some more simple trails, suitable for everyone, but also the mountains one, for the more experts.
Trail no. 2, or the blue trail, is the easiest and most known to enjoy the Cinque Terre area, and includes four individual paths along the coast.
You can walk the whole track in approximately six hours, with short breaks, and so you will see the five hamlets in just one day.
I suggest to divide the itinerary in a couple of days, with no rush, to visit cities and enjoy panoramas along the way.
You can start from both directions of the Blue Trail:
- Monterosso, heading south;
- Riomaggiore, heading north.
My advice is to start from Riomaggiore, with easier, paved paths, moving then to the most complicated ones.
Remember that hamlets are connected also through train stations, so you can decide any moment to continue by train, if needed.
At a first glance, Riomaggiore could seem to be the less charming of the hamlets, but you will change your mind as soon as you will reach the marina.
Colourful houses and green terraces reflect in the sea, creating a magic flare together with the natural pool made by the rocks.
This is definitely an amazing starting point to discover the rest of the villages.
Let’s see together the stops of the Blue Trail connecting Cinque Terre, starting from Riomaggiore itself.
This path is the most romantic one, from which its name was decided.
A wide, paved road, the easiest part of the trail, famous for its kiss statue and a tunnel covered with love promises!
2 km long, you may need around 40 minutes to walk it all calmly, and from Riomaggiore you will reach Manarola.
Unfortunately, currently the main section of the trail is closed and it will be probably reopened by April 2021.
Manarola is the perfect example of the harmonious symbiosis between humans and nature.
A magic hamlet, reflecting in the clear sea its lights and colours.
The concrete terrace offers a beautiful, colourful panorama, the typical one which made Cinque Terre so well known.
This path is quite easy and will allow you to move from Manarola to Corniglia.
This road includes spectacular gardens and terraces with a gorgeous view on the sea.
It is at least 2 km long, less easy than Via dell’Amore, so you might need one hour to reach Corniglia.
A remark: this trail will be closed until 2019.
Corniglia is different from the rest of the hamlets for its position: it does not overlook on the sea, but it is located on a cliff.
It is worth to reach it for many reasons, and especially for the panorama on Golfo dei Poeti (the Poets’ Gulf) from the small terrace sheltered on the sea.
Taking a walk along Corniglia’s alleys, you will recognise in the air the unique scent of lemons.
The beginning of this path is nice and easy, but it becomes then quite complicated.
This trail reaches the highest point of Cinque Terre, to then go down again.
Gradually, it reaches a medium difficulty because of its stone stair steps quite irregular and steep.
It could be very useful to have with you, at this point, a trekking or walking stick.
Indeed, this track is a bit more tiring compared to the previous ones, but the views are breath-taking and you will be surrounded by olive and fruit trees and exotic flowers.
This track is about 4 km long and it will take 1,5 hours approximately to complete it and reach Vernazza.
Vernazza has been the hamlet most affected by the flood, but also the one which has been renovated as new.
The gorgeous marina offers a perfect view of the Santa Margherita d’Antiochia church, dominating the square on the sea.
Among the must-see in Vernazza, there is with no doubt the Doria castle.
You will be able to climb the tower through a winding staircase, up to the top to fully enjoy the view from that perspective.
This is, indeed, the most complicated section of the Blue Trail, because it includes many stairs and narrow passages.
Still, it is worth to face it, though, for the vision it offers: the whole panorama of all Cinque Terre hamlets.
In this case, too, don’t forget the trekking or walking sticks, very useful to help you along the way.
This trail is 3 km long, and it will take about 2 hours to complete it and reach Monterosso.
Monterosso directly overlook on the sea, and it is protected by a small artificial dock.
Here you will find the biggest amount of gravel beaches of Cinque Terre, a result of the natural gulf hosting the village.
The hamlet is characterised by narrow alleys to take and fully enjoy the atmosphere, together with a fresh seafood meal, caught the same morning!
Monterosso was loved by the Italian poet Eugenio Montale, who was inspired by this place for many of his poems included in the collection named “Ossi di Seppia ” (“Cuttlefish bones”).
Once you will reach the Neptune statue, symbol of the hamlet, you will be close to the Literary Park entitled to Montale, created to transmit to visitors the feelings experienced by the poet in Monterosso.
Trail no 2 – the Blue one – is the most known and used, but not the only one.
If you want to avoid the crowd and the most mainstream paths, you need to know that there is an entire network of less known tracks, perfect for the more experienced excursionists.
For a glimpse on Cinque Terre’s history, you should follow paths no 3, 6, 7 and 8.
Those ones will be ideal to visit the famous sanctuaries of the area:
- Nostra Signora della Salute;
- Nostra Signora delle Grazie;
- Nostra Signora di Montenero;
- Nostra Signora di Reggio;
- Nostra Signora di Soviore.
Keep in mind that those are way more difficult tracks compared to the Blue one, so you need to have some experience and face them with caution.
Do you feel adventurous?
Then you will be more than happy to discover the inland, along the mountains of the area, through the trails no 1, 4, 6, 9 and 10.
Those are the less popular, being the most difficult ones among the Cinque Terre paths possibilities.
As for the sanctuaries ones, also those vary between a medium and a high level of difficulty, so they are suitable for experts only.
Those paths include also less refreshment spots, so be sure to have with you water and some food.
No matter which way you will choose to reach Cinque Terre, it will be in any case the ideal one to lose yourself in those colourful hamlets and catch every shade.