Walks in the Cinque Terre

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Sentiero Azzurro

Many sites give detailed information of the walks in the Cinque Terre area. You might like to check www.cinqueterreonline.com and also http://goeurope.about.com. The official website is : www.parconazionale5terre.it but many of its pages do not seem to have an English version.

Update March 2013: The following links indicate the paths which are at present closed to the public: Cinque Terre hiking trails and SaveVernazza.

I'll have to say straight away that I'm glad I went because I was curious about all the hype but it's not really my kind of place. The villages are overrun by us tourists and hikers. The locals tend to look through you which, in a way, is understandable but doesn't give you the feeling you want to go back any time soon. And since the principal source of income of the area is obviously tourism, it is not so easy to condone.

           

The organisation is good and the regular train services between the villages are definitely a big advantage: you can get travel cards according to length of stay and what you have planned: www.parconazionale5terre.it. At least the basic card is obligatory (and there are controls) if you wish to walk the Sentiero Azzurro (or no. 2) coastal path but not for the other paths. As I was staying in Levanto, I chose the train-inclusive card and made good use of it. Make sure you keep the timetables with you and when you've had enough walking, you can easily train-hop from one village to another.

The walking times given on the Slow Travel website corresponded to my walking speed, i.e. mid-60s but used to hill-walking. I always walk with proper boots, a rucksack, walking-pole and plenty of water as well as a picnic lunch but many younger people were doing the walk in trainers or even town shoes and, because of the heat and the effort, many were sweatily having to sling their jackets over their shoulders which must have made the going tougher. Be prepared for countless steps, and the paths are sometimes just a ledge between two terraces so passing other people with their rucksacks can be slightly tricky.

           

padlocks on the Via dell'Amore
I split the Sentiero Azzurro walk into 2 days so as to have plenty of time to explore the villages which are in fact tiny.

Day 1 - Vernazza to Riomaggiore: Vernazza southwards to Corniglia is a beautiful walk but, from Corniglia to Manarola, you walk behind a long row of deserted beach huts set back from a rather uninviting beach and, from Manarola to Riomaggiore, it is really just a "walk in the park". This last section is the "Via dell'amore" and of course popular for the romantic connotation, if you're with that special man/girl remember to take a padlock!


Zooming into Manarola ...

           



Day 2 - Vernazza northwards to Monterosso: from the map, it was obvious that starting in Monterosso would involve a steep climb at the outset which is why I set out from Vernazza. This turned out to be a wise decision as the climb up from Vernazza is gradual and the steps down into Monterosso are many and lethal - as other people coming the other way were discovering to their dismay.


There's no denying that the villages are picture-perfect:

           


Other walks

           



On another day I took the path no. 7a up from Corniglia to Madonna della Salute and through Groppo back down to Manarola. This was a great walk with close-up views of the hard work involved in producing the understandably expensive Sciacchetrà sweet wine.

On these steep slopes, the terraces are very narrow and exposed to the wind from the sea. For these reasons, each terrace has just one row of vine of which the branches are trained inland and attached to the ground level of the terrace above. The grapes are transported on miniature railways, part of which is to be seen in the photograph above.





Many of these photographs were taken from the excursion boat which runs from end of March to end of October. It calls at all the villages between Levanto and Portovenere. Daily tickets allow you to hop on or off at will but single tickets between 2 villages are also available.



The walking map I used was the Kompass no. 644 Cinque Terre walking map scale 1:50000, but maps can also be found on the spot. The Cinque Terre cards (whether for the Sentiero Azzurro only or including train or ferry travel) are available at the Cinque Terre offices in each village, at the train stations, and also at the control booths along the Sentiero Azzurro.

I stayed 5 nights at the Hôtel Dora in Levanto in late October 2009. The hotel is perfectly acceptable and has a car park just immediately on the other side of the street. My car stayed put while I used the frequent train, and occasional bus, services.

As I had 4 full days, and knowing what I know now, I would not have taken the day pass on the boat but would have just made a short boat trip between some of the villages including a trip to Portovenere. With the day saved, I would have taken one of the paths inland from either Vernazza, Riomaggiore or amongst the olive groves behind Levanto.

My evening ritual involved watching the sun set from the beach of Levanto before going off to choose from one of the number of restaurants within easy walking distance of the hotel.