Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Cinque Terre

Oh Cinque Terre... you are so beautiful! Cinque Terre in Italian means Five Lands. The area consists of five towns that are in close proximity to each other and are dotted along the Lingurian Coast of Italy.

We had been saving this trip for the end of our time here for a couple of reasons. One is because in October 2011 the area suffered massive flooding with landslides destroying two of the towns for quite some time, making it impractical to visit the area with that heavy damage. Two is because we wanted to do a bit of hiking in the area and we didn't want it to be cold and rainy during our time there - so we put it off for warmer months. There are many Italian cities that you can visit all year round in all kind of weather, but since this area is better known for its hiking and beaches it's best in the warmer weather.

We flew into Genoa from Naples and decided to drive into the city of Genoa to walk around and have lunch. We stumbled upon a few things like the house of Christopher Columbus, a pretty piazza, and remnants of a castle. Since we were in the area known for its pesto we had to sample the local cuisine. We both ordered trofie with pesto (trofie is a thin twisted pasta) and could not have been more satisfied with our order! With our stomachs full and riposo starting we walked back to the car to continue on our trip.

Christopher Columbus's House

We're not sure what this is, but it looked nice

A quiet street during lunch time

Piazza de Ferrari

We drove to Monterosso al Mare, the northernmost Cinque Terre town and where our bed and breakfast was located. The town is divided into two parts, the old and the new, with Cinque Terre's only extensive sand beach. It is the largest out of the five villages, and it also serves as one end of the hiking trail between them.

Our "hotel"
Monterosso al Mare

One of the biggest reasons people visit Cinque Terre is for the hiking. There is a cliffside trail which connects the five villages, while also providing stunning views of the sea and coastline. We wanted to see each of the five towns and since we enjoy hiking this was perfect for us. The first part of the hike is from Monterosso al Mare to the next town of Vernazza. This is actually the most challenging section of the coastal hike mainly because there are very steep inclines and declines with pathways so narrow that at times only one person can fit at once. It took us one hour and five minutes to hike to Vernazza (books state that the average is 1.5 hours... go us!) and when we made our way down to the town we browsed the shops and refreshed ourselves with some water.

Monterosso al Mare from afar

Vernazza from above

Almost there!


After a short break we left the pretty town of Vernazza and walked up towards the trail on the way to Corniglia. Corniglia is the smallest of the five towns and is the only one not accessible by water. Because it is on top of a hill, no matter which way you come from you have to head up. We had a very steep uphill start from Vernazza and from there it was a mix of uphill with small breaks of flat path for us to follow (though still pretty narrow). This section took us about 1.5 hours. By the time we made it to Corniglia we were out of water and were famished! We quickly found a cute restaurant that served all we wanted to eat that weekend, pesto, and cooled off. Afterwards we spent about 30 minutes walking around the town. Corniglia feels smaller and quieter, but is just as charming as the other towns, if not more. There's a little piazza with a tower where people sit to pass the time, narrow car-free streets to wander through, and an overlook to take beautiful pictures of the sea.

Leaving Vernazza

Corniglia. In the distance you can see Manarola. 

From the outlook point in Corniglia.

Now we had a decision to make. Because of landslides blocking the trail, the 1.2 mile coastal section between Corniglia and the next town Manarola was closed. We wanted to keep hiking so we decided to take a route that would take us UP and around the other trails in order to get to Manarola... about 2.5 miles. It winds up to the small town of Volastra and then all the way down to Manarola. So up we went. We went up so much that we really didn't think it was possible to go up anymore. But then we would turn a corner and see another set of treacherous rocks to climb up and there was no other option but to keep going. After making it somewhat to the top, the rest of the trail consisted of small ups and downs, a nice reprieve from climbing. We made it to Volastra, followed the signs to Manarola, and finally went down. It seemed like we were descending way more than we had ascended in the beginning. The hike ended with 1,200 steps and though our calves were starting to tense up, we finally made it to Manarola two hours from when we started in Corniglia.

Leaving Corniglia

A steep climb up!

Manarola from afar


Getting a little bit closer

The descent begins

Almost there... maybe!

Don't fall! 

Trying to keep my balance

We were finally at the last section between Manarola and Riomaggiore, which is the more well-known part called Via dell'Amore, Lover's Lane. It's the easiest part of the trail by a long shot consisting of simply a straight, paved, 20 minute walking path, which actually would have been a nice end to our long all-day hike. But this section is also closed due to rockfalls that injured four hikers last September, and they are still working on deciding who is responsible for the rockfalls which has caused a deadlock in any progress in reopening the section. Disappointed that we couldn't walk the last part, though determined to get to the fifth town, we took the train from Manarola to Riomaggiore.


After spending some time in Riomaggiore, we took the train back to Monterosso al Mare. But our hike didn't end there. From the train station it was at least a mile uphill (why is it always uphill??) to our hotel, which at this point we felt like it was never going to show. We calculated that we hiked a total of 12.15 miles that day, including walking in the towns a little bit... not bad for me being 14 weeks pregnant at the time!

After breakfast the next day we wanted to stop at some small beach towns on the way back to the airport. Our first stop was to Rapallo. We walked along the water and stumbled upon a local market selling typical products of the area. We bought some pesto (what else?), fresh pumpkin gnocchi, and trofie pasta.

Second on our list was the small fishing town of Portofino, about 4 miles away from where we were. Unfortunately, about 2 miles away from the town police officers weren't letting anyone drive in since it was already overcrowded with day trippers, locals, and tourists. The only way to get into the town at that time was to take a ferry or take the bus, both of which we didn't have time for. Disappointed, we drove on. We tried to go to Camogli, but parking was also a major issue there. We ended up stopping in the town of Recco, another beach town that had one parking spot left for us! We had a pesto pasta filled lunch, then bought some gelato and walked (hobbled?) along the water.

View from our drive

The beach in Recco


We really enjoyed our time in this area of Italy and this was our favorite hike so far out of all of our hiking experiences here. Not only does the hike give you stunning views of the sea during the trek, it was pretty cool being able to hike to the different towns and take in the scenery and characteristics of each one. Each town has a different feel to it, but all seemed to hold onto the quaint fishing village theme of the area. It was a great area of Italy to save for the end of our time here!


  1. I have to say this is by far one of my favorite blogs that you have written! I love this place! I don't know where to start! The first thing I want to say is that it's amazing that you and Jon hiked over 12 miles! WOW! Very impressive! But what I'm really impressed with is that you hiked that far while being pregnant! That's so good! (It does remind me of when Dad and I went hiking on the Billy Goat Trail in Great Falls, VA. I was 5 months pregnant at the time, and even though I only hiked about 4 miles, it was a very rough 4 miles, lots of rocks and with lots of climbing! You are definitely a "chip off the old block"!! OK, so let's get started! I was fascinated that Cinque Terre has five small towns. I had no idea that Christopher Columbus' house was in Italy! But for some strange reason, I thought that he was from Spain, so I was surprised to see that his house is in Italy! (And what a nice house it is!!) I love the fact that the hike went along the cliffs and it connected the five towns. I could tell by looking at the pictures just how beautiful it is! One of the pictures of the hike showed some very interesting looking trees and the first thing that came to my mind was how mysterious and intriguing it was! There was something different about those trees! (But it also could have been the angle of the camera that made them look this way!) The colorful pastel buildings along the cliffs in Riomaggiore are so pretty, quaint, and extemely breathtaking! Each town seemed to have their own personality and character! And how great this trip was for you guys since it included hiking and sightseeing to some of the most beautiful places around! This trip had it all including a beach and a fishing village! I do have one question - The picture of the statute - who does that represent? This is one trip that I would love to go on! Just Beautiful!!

  2. Hi, I came across this post while trying to figure out if hiking Cinque Terre is doable while pregnant. I am currently 21 weeks, and we'll be in CT in a couple of weeks time. I am hoping to at least do the Monterosso to Vernazza hike, but I heard that it's the most difficult section. (Hopefully the track will be open when we're there!)

    Since you have done it while pregnant, can you give a realistic view on whether or not it would be good idea for a pregnant girl in her 23rd week to do the hike? My husband and I are fairly active - I still do weights at the gym and I still walk everywhere whenever I can (even in this humid Hong Kong summer weather).


    1. Hi, I think it's doable at 23 weeks pregnant... as long as you're feeling great, have no issues with your pregnancy, and are already active (which it sounds like you are). It will be hotter when you go than when we were there so I would suggest getting an early start in the morning to beat the heat and carry lots of water. We found it to be the most difficult section and there are a ton of steps at the beginning of it. They say that it typically takes 1.5 hours to finish that section. There's many places to stop for photo opportunities in case you need a rest. The Vernazza to Corniglia section was really nice too and slightly easier if you're not feeling 100%. Hope this helps. Have fun and take it easy!