Cinque Terre!

At some point last year we got an REI Adventures brochure in the mail and flipped through it, dreaming about all the crazy places in the world there are to explore. One in particular caught Stephanie’s eye, Cinque Terre, which she’d heard about before. Given its close proximity to Nice, she started thinking about going on an Italian vacation within our then-upcoming French vacation.

Cinque Terre means five lands (or villages), referring to the five towns built into the hillsides along the northern Italian coastline. The area around and including the villages are a national park, an ecological preserve, and a world heritage site. They’re also a major tourist destination. Even though there were a lot of non-native people around, and a lot of English being spoken, I got the sense that there was still a strong local culture, and that the national park organization was dedicated to preserving that.

The five villages are connected by a mostly underground railway and a series of hiking trails along the coast and in the terraced hillsides above the villages. Here’s a map that shows the five villages connected by a network of trails.

Cinque Terre map
Cinque Terre map (source: Consorzio Turistico Cinque Terre)

On Tuesday we woke up fairly early in Riomaggiore and prepared to hike north along the coast. The 8.50€ daily pass enabled us to hike the trail and take the train as much as we wanted. This was great because it meant at any one of the villages we could choose to get off the trail and take the train instead.

Stephanie’s mom hiked with us all the way to Corniglia, the middle of the 5 villages, which was only accessible from the trail by climbing up a series of switchbacks with 382 steps! We stopped there for lunch, gorging on pasta and having the best tiramisu of my life.

At that point, Stephanie’s mom stayed behind to explore the town and then take the train back to our apartment, while Stephanie and I continued on to one more village, Vernazza. That last leg was pretty long and hot, so we decided to hop on the train back to Riomaggiore to get some Mediterranean swimming in.

That night we had another nice dinner together, and then on Wednesday we packed our things up, did a little bit of shopping, and then hit road back to Nice. On the way, I counted the tunnels between Cinque Terre and Nice: there were around 175!

Riomaggiore train station
Riomaggiore train station
The lovers tunnel
The lovers tunnel
Lovers' locks
Lovers lock a lock to the tunnel and throw the key into the sea
View of Manarola
View of Manarola
The blue Mediterranean Sea along Cinque Terre in Italy
The blue Mediterranean
Looking down from the Corniglia stairs
Looking down from the Corniglia stairs
The best tiramisu in the world, found in Corniglia, Italy
Tiramisu (in a tea cup)!

16 Comments

So. Jealous.

I really miss Cinque Terre! It’s good to hear that it’s not getting too tourist-y.

(And those steps into Corniglia are seriously rough, especially after you’ve been carefully working along terraces all day. When Crystal and I were there, we had to kind of sneak around to get there, due to a landslide someplace. There was a guy living in a little hut right on the trail we used that tried to talk with us, but my Italian was terrible and he didn’t speak English. He seemed lonely, which struck me as really odd, given that he lived on a veritable foot highway.)

roberta

Is that really tiramisu? It looks like a cappuccino to me:)

roberta, definitely tiramisu.

James Martin

The map on this page is copyright, and belongs to me and is licensed to About.com. Please remove it.

James, my apologies. I’ve removed your map and the link to your “Cinque Terre Trail System” page.

James Martin

Thanks.

Bill

I’m going just for the tiramisu!!!

Jeannie

Hi, Where did you stay in Riomaggiore? Were you happy with the accommodations? Thanks!

Jeannie, we stayed in the “2nd Solution” advertised on this Riorooms website. They are owned by a man and his father, who were very accommodating and helpful.

Melanie

I LOVE the picture of the locks! Between which cities is that part of the trail located? I really don’t want to miss it! Thanks.

Melanie, the “Lovers’ Lane Locks” is between Riomaggiore and Manarola, in the tunnel. You can’t miss it.

Liz

We wanted a swim first up, so caught the train to Monterosso where there is a beach. Wrong way!! too hard to walk back to Riomaggiore from there. Start bottom village! Also temps were 42 deg in August, really hot.
Amazing experience

Lance

Question: is it better/easier to hike the Cinque Terre trail from south to north, or from north to south? Or does it make no difference? Also, are there better accommodation options in Monterosso al Mare (northernmost village) or in Riomaggiore (southernmost village)? We are going this fall.

Lance, I don’t know what’s better, but I can tell you we hiked from south to north simply because we arrived via La Spezia in the south. But I don’t see why you couldn’t do the reverse. Have a good trip.

I updated the link, but I like the old map better, so I left it in the post.

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