Embraced by the calm turquoise Ligurian Sea of the Italian Riviera, I am always in awe of the simple but extraordinary beauty of the five fishing villages known as the Cinque Terre. I guess that’s why 2018 will be my 10th consecutive year taking one of my Italy Retreat for Women To Live La Dolce Vita groups here to enjoy the hiking trails of the Cinque Terre.
In these small towns, you can get up close and personal with the daily life of the locals. They are hard working and hospitable. Be sure to be respectful of their communities that they share with us. Greet them with Buon Giorno up until around 2pm in the afternoon, then Buona sera after that into the evening. When leaving their stores, thank them with, grazie and good-bye, arrivederci.
I know many say the Cinque Terre is now ‘too touristy.’ That is the consequence idyllic destinations in the world experience. Florence and Rome are super touristy also, packed with people walking through the streets and standing around the sites, but that doesn’t stop anyone from visiting those amazing cultural cities. In fact, my Retreats will take us to those art-filled cities too!
The five fishing villages of the Cinque Terre are located in the region of Liguria, in northwest Italy. My Italy Retreat Groups always stay in the northernmost town, Monterosso al Mare.
The other towns going southward toward La Spezia are Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. They are easily accessible by train and boat, less reachable by car, and all of them by hiking trails. The SVA trail, “blue trail”, or #592 is the basic/original Cinque Terre trail (il sentiero).
Two segments of the blue trail are closed. The trail between Riomaggiore and Manarola called Via Dell’Amore closed in the Fall of 2012 after a landslide, and except for a small segment temporarily, has been closed since. The hiking path on the blue trail from Manarola to Corniglia has been closed at least since 2009 when I first visited the Cinque Terre.
Of course, there are alternative trails connecting these two towns but they are much more difficult, with narrow trails without any railings and much steeper. I would avoid them unless you are an experienced hiker. The blue trails are challenging enough. Please wear comfortable shoes (hiking boots are not necessary), but not flip-flops!
I prefer beginning in Monterosso to climb the steepest steps first while we have the most energy. We take our time and rest often as there are many shady areas throughout our hike near terraced grape vineyards and lemon trees. You are given a reprieve with plenty of flat smoother open paths. Only a small area feels a little precarious. The trail head that was paved for the first 500 feet next to the public beach in the old town was not usable in September 2017, so the new trail head starts in the old town at the edge of the small Garibaldi Piazza. NOTE: 1/27/18: My contacts in Monterosso just told me that they are working on the original trailhead to Vernazza that starts from the public beach area on the path to Porto Roca Hotel. It should be repaired at least by September.
Some people prefer the trail from Vernazza to Corniglia, but I do not. Two reasons–in September 2017 the steps were rocky and the path required careful watching your step because of all the rocks sticking up out of the ground. There were not any flat stretches of smooth walking as there is from Monterosso to Vernazza.
The best part of the Cinque Terre is the sweetness in the air as cars and motorbikes are prohibited for the most part, so there are no exhaust fumes and noise. Instead, the air is filled with the fragrance of lemon trees and the saltiness of the Ligurian sea. Fresh seafood such as anchovies and branzino (sea bass) will satisfy your palate, the local white wine, sciacchetrá, will quench your thirst. There are many lovely restaurants and cafes, churches to visit, chic shops for scarves and clothing, and local products like ceramics, pasta, pesto and limoncello. A simple walk through a few streets in the old part of town or through the tunnel toward the train station in the new part of town along the sea promenade will sooth your soul. Don’t be surprised to see an art show pop up and musicians at the entrance of the tunnel.
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