Sunday, September 11, 2011

Travel and Review: Cinque Terre (Day 3 to 5 of 2 Weeks in Italy)

Day 3 and 4 : Hiking along Cinque Terre.
From Milan, after 3 to 4 hours of train ride, you will reach the coastal town of Cinque Terre.
The Cinque Terre, while most often described as one place, are actually five villages on the coast of Liguria that are connected by hiking trails, a slow-moving train, and a ridiculously windy road. The villages are, starting from the northernmost one, Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. Monterosso is about 1.5 hours from Genoa by train, and the closest city of any size to the Cinque Terre is La Spezia, just south of Riomaggiore, at about 15 minutes by train.
Thankfully, the Cinque Terre is just remote enough that most people don’t plan on visiting as a day-trip – but some people assume that since it’s a relatively small area they can do it with only one overnight. It’s technically possible to do this, but you miss out on a bit of the quieter elements of these delightful villages if you try to cram too much into 24 hours. By just adding one more night in the Cinque Terre to your itinerary, you get a glimpse of what makes this place so special.
Since my home based was in Monterosso, I actually hiked from one town to the next till I reach Riomaggiore and from there I took the train back to Monterosso. You need to purchase a ticket to hike along the trails but don’t worry, if you start from Monterosso, along the way you will see a hut that will enable you to purchase that ticket (which can also consist of a train+hike which was the one I purchased).
I know you’re on vacation, and I am the most anti-morning person on earth, but I do recommend getting up bright and early on your second day in the Cinque Terre to get on the trail. If you’re visiting in cooler weather, this isn’t as critical – but in warm weather the hike can get extremely hot and uncomfortable at mid-day and the early afternoon. Even if you’re only planning to hike between a couple of the towns, it’s still a good idea to get up early so you don’t get stuck on a cliffside with no shade for protection from the noon-day sun. Trust me – I speak from experience.
Whether you’re a hard-core hiker who wants to just keep going once you’ve started or more of a slow-paced walker, I do think it’s well worth it to stop in each town along the hike and poke around to see what’s different about that one. The towns are similar, to be sure, but each one has a unique feel. I like to get something to eat – even if it’s small – in each town, and scope out which one I might want to stay in next time I visit. I also keep my eye out for people selling things along the trail – like homemade olive oil. I have a very soft spot for buying things like that from the people who made them.
Along my hike from Monterosso, you can actually see the next top while you are on the hiking trail. The above picture shows the town of Vernazaa and although it may look near, that town will probably take you another hour or so before you reach. But the view you get is so beautiful , it is worth all that effort.
Have a good rest in Vernazza and enjoy the view it has to offer.
Above: A coastal view from the town of Vernazza.
Once you have your rest, head on to the town of Corniglia. During my hike, the easy trail was closed due to some avalanche or soil erosion of sort so I took the train from Vernazza to Corniglia. However, do note since if you are coming via a train to Corniglia you will have to climb lots of steps to reach the top.
Once you reach the top you will be pleased to know that you will be given a sort of certificate.
From here you can walk into Corniglia rather easily to reach its peak.
From here, another short hike will lead you to Manarola, another town with its own unique features.

From Manarola, the hiking is no longer on mud path but basically all concrete based thus it is way way easier and definitely something I was hoping after the tough hikes thus far.
Along the way, the view is still as majestic as ever. You will pass through tunnels after tunnels but every time you decide to stop, the view is there to soothe your tiredness away.
And before you realized it, you will have reach the last town of Cinque Terre known as Riomaggiore.
Starting the hike early means that even if you’re hiking all four trails connecting the five towns in one day you should be done by around lunchtime. So even if you’ve stopped in each town for a bite to eat, reward yourself post-hike with a feast in another of the Cinque Terre’s many restaurants. Then indulge in an early afternoon glass of Sciacchetrà, the local sweet wine (with a biscotto cookie for dipping), before heading back to your room to get cleaned up.
This leaves you with the rest of the afternoon and evening to relax. Head back to the beach, find a sunny rock from which to read or write or just stare at the sea, explore the towns a bit more fully (using the slow train to get from one to another, thanks to that train-plus-hiking pass you bought), pick up a few souvenirs, or take a nap. Then it’s time for another dinner, more scraps for the cats, and a good night’s rest. You’ll head out the next morning, back to the train station and on to your next stop on your tour of Italy.
Next : Day 5 – Onwards to PISA and Florence.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for helping people get the information they need. Great stuff as usual. Keep up the great work!!! Alexander Mirza