You had heard about the spectacular views that these five towns in the Mediterranean Coast of Italy offer. But when you actually arrive, nothing you ever heard, seen or imagined can compare to the greatness of these places.
Italy is one of the most blessed countries of the world. It is formed by amazing landscapes and true flavors, rich history and passionate people.
The Cinque Terre are: Riomaggiore (#1), Manarola (#2), Corniglia (#3), Vernazza (#4) and Monterosso (#5).
Cinque Terre is a National Park and protected area. It is formed by five coastal villages (actually 6 if you add Volastra, a smaller city between Corniglia and Manarola a little off the trail).
I arrived to La Spezia, the closest city to the Cinque Terre. La Spezia has connections by train to Firenze, Pisa, and other major points. Here you can find the “Cinque Terre Tourist office”, where you can get your tickets for the National Park and/or train tickets to visit all five towns.
*There is an Tourist Information Office in La Spezia train station. Once you walk in to the station its located to your right. They have maps and sell the tickets for the National Park Cinque Terre. They also will inform you which trails are closed (the two first ones between Riomaggiore and Manarola -aka The love trail-, and Manarola – Corniglia are closed for repair until 2017).
*You can also purchase the tickets in the towns’ train stations and the stands at the beginning of every trail.
*Ticket Prices: 7.50EUROS for the train ticket between the towns (Connecting every town and coming back to La Spezia, you cannot do the hiking trails with this ticket, only take the train between them). 12.50 EUROS which includes the Park entrance to do the hiking trails and the train rides if you decide to take the train between the towns.
*There are stands that check that you have your ticket in every trail, make sure you have yours handy.
Keep in mind that there are two or more trails between the towns, if one is closed the other one will be available. One is the high (or red) path, through the hills and more difficult. The other one is the blue path, that goes along the ocean. There may be a third or fourth path through the hills that take you to some specific point.
Paths are very well signalized and there are red and white paint signs along the path so you know you are in the right way.
Every town is unique and different from the next one, is like they are in a competition to be the prettiest one, and you are the judge.
Early in the morning I took a train from La Spezia to Monterosso Al Mare, the fifth and last town. I decided to start there since the hardest part of the trail is between Monterosso and Vernazza. And since I was staying in La Spezia (next to Riomaggiore) it was easy to come back to the hotel after a long hiking day.
Trains from La Spezia run every 30 minutes or so. It took 20 minutes to get to Monterosso, where I started the hiking trail.
Monterosso Al Mare is the biggest one of all five towns. It has hotels and shopping areas. The beach in Monterosso is truly beautiful and is the only beach in Cinque Terre.
From Monterosso to Vernazza the Blue trail is open. It is of low to moderate difficulty, but this is the hardest part of the blue trail. Keep in mind that for seniors or kids this can be hard at times. There is a part of the trail composed by rocky steps, this I found to be the most demanding part, and I am an active person. So bring a lot of water, comfortable shoes and great attitude since you will find there are a lot of other tourists in this area and many of them want to stop to take pictures all along the trail.
Vernazza is the second town and its smaller than Monterosso but has many restaurants, shops and a little port. It is, in my opinion the second most beautiful one (you will find out soon which was my number 1).
After Vernazza, following the Blue Trail, you will get to Corniglia. This is my favorite of all five wonders of the Italian Coast. It is simply charming. It does not has a port of sea access, is set on top of the hill by the coast.
I would suggest to have lunch here, since Vernazza is slightly more expensive. Corniglia is smaller than Vernazza, but just magic. There is a panoramic view from where you can see the remaining two towns.
After this wonderful little gem, comes Manarola. To get here the blue path is not available at the moment so I took the high (mountain) trail. This is a little more difficult and demanding of energy, but it worth doing it. Its incredible. This path will pass through Volastra; A little town in the hills before Manarola that is usually oversee because its not in the Blue Trail.
I walked by Volastra on my way to Manarola. Before arriving you will walk through vineyards and local’s homes with a view to die for.
Manarola has a little port and ocean access with a rocky coast. From here you would normally take “The Love Trail” that connects Manarola to Riomaggiore, the last town and the closest one to La Spezia. At the moment this trail is closed for repairs (until 2017), so the options are: The high mountain trail again, or the train.
I was already exhausted by the last hiking to Manarola so I went for option B.
Manarola has certain mystery running through its streets…
If you take the train from Manarola in two minutes or less you will arrive to the last town, Riomaggiore. This is a bigger town than the last three, with tons of restaurants, bars and everything else. I had some seafood cone and it was one of the best things I tried in Italy!
It was a magical, unbelievable day. These has to be some of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. It is a gift from nature and if you have the opportunity to be in the area please go. You will never forget Cinque Terre.