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Quick guide: Cinque Terre and Monterosso al Mare, Italy

Cinque Terre – the five lands – is a beautiful national park in Liguria, Italy. The five villages are Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. Manarola is the smallest with about 200 citizens, while Monterosso is the largest with several hundred – it even has a couple of bars that stay up late! Yes, people do not come to Cinque Terre to party, but rather to go hiking on the idyllic trails between the villages and soak up the sunshine on the many beaches. Eating delicious seafood and yummy gelato are also high on the to do-list!


There are two types of hiking trails between each village – a path close to the sea that cost a small fee to hike and numerous paths in the hills above the villages, which are free to explore.

The trails leads past small family-owned vineyards
Don’t be surprised if you see people hiking in crocs, flipflops and with umbrellas

While the trails by the sea can get really busy and you pass lots of people in inappropriate hiking attire, the hillside trails are deserted and provide beautiful views looking down on the villages. The seaside trails from Riomaggiore to Corniglia have been closed for the past few years, as they were badly destroyed in the flash floods of 2011. They are both to reopen in 2015. On this website you can see how badly Monterosso and Vernazza were damaged in these floods. Everything was rebuilt by the summer of 2013, when I visited, so I am impressed by their hard work!

The path from Riomaggiore to Manarola is the shortest to hike at 25 minutes, and is called the path of love. There are hundreds of padlocks with couples’ names scribbled in locked to the fence along the bay.

 

The easiest way to move between the villages is by train. There is no need to sit down on the train – it only takes about four minutes between each village and a total of 25 minutes from one end to the other. Taking the boat from village to village is a must – it stops everywhere but Corniglia, which lies at the top of a hill:

 

I suggest taking the train to the village you want to hike from and then take the boat back home again after the hike. And bring your bikini and go for a refreshing swim in the Med once the hike is completed!

Two years in a row my summer holiday has been spent in this area – last year we stayed in Monterosso for almost a week and this year I stayed in Santa Margherita Ligure and caught the train down to sightsee and go hiking. I love the quietness and easy way of living that this region of Italy provides. It is in stark contrast to the hustle and bustle of Florence, Milan or Rome. Since there is no nightlife and no shopping to speak of, the number of tourists is limited and this makes for a more relaxing holiday. If I could find an easy way to fly to this region from Norway, I would be saving up for a holiday flat that I would let out when not in use.

To entice you to visit this piece of Italian heaven, here are photographs from Monterosso. Pictures form the remaining four villages will be posted one by one over the next four days.

Catching my first glimpse of old Monterosso when hiking from Vernazza. This hike takes about 45 minutes at a brisk pace and lots of photography stops. Note that it is easier to hike from Vernazza to Monterosso rather than in the opposite direction
New Monterosso on the left, old on the right. You can see the ferryboat on the pier. An old monastery lies on the hilltop between the two parts of town
Old Monterosson al Mare, with its narrow streets filled with restaurants and souvenir shops
 
Monterosso al Mare. New Town. Cinque Terre
Monterosso al Mare, Cinque Terre
There are rarely allowed cars in the streets of the old town during the day, so bikes, trolleys and pure hand power are used
The church of the dead in the old town, with its pretty stripes both indoors and out
The new part of Monterosso, which you reach by walking through a tunnel:
 
The view of new town, as you come through the tunnel. The pavement runs along the seaside to the end of town
The main street in the new town, lined with restaurants and small shops
My “local” spiaggia when I stayed in Monterosso. Notice Hercules in the cliffs on the right!
 

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