Cinque Terre: Love at First Hike

Adventure Travel, Backpacking & Trekking, Fitness & Workouts, Italy, Train — By on July 22, 2009 at 9:00 am

Traveling intern extraordaire, Patty Hodapp, reports on one of The Lost Girls all-time favorite Italian destinations, Cinque Terre.


By Patty Hodapp

When I came to Italy in May I didn’t plan to fall in love. Then I visited the Italian Rivera and that completely changed. After the Scottish Highlands, the Italian Rivera is my second favorite place in the entire world…

cinque terreLast Sunday a friend and I hiked Cinque Terre, a rugged, rocky–and sometimes dangerous–trail between five coastal towns (Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore) on the west coast of Tuscany. Cinque Terre means “Five Lands” in Italian and the whole hike from village to village takes a decent day of walking if you want to do it all. My advice is to take the train to the second or third village and start from there so you have time to catch some rays, grab a gelato, explore the towns or jump into the sea.

We took the three hour train ride from Florence to Corniglia, the third village, to begin the hike. Just before we got to Corniglia the train stopped in a long dark tunnel for about two minutes, and then emerged, slithering along a straight drop off to the sparkling blue-diamond sea about 200 feet below. It was SPECTACULAR–definitely love at first sight for me.

The hikes starting from Riomaggiore (the furthest east town) get progressively longer and harder so if you are looking for a gentle 15 minute walk, begin here and take the train the rest of the way. We did the hike from Corniglia to Vernazza which was, according to the trail opperator, supposed to take from an hour to an hour and a half. We did it in 52 minutes with several picture breaks, but we were definitely huffing it up those mountains and sweating buckets. We started walking in our shorts and t-shirts and by the time we finished we had stripped down to our bathing suits.

cinque terre The views are incredible, you can see the tall sweeping sea cliffs and green mountains. The sea changes color with the shifting sunlight and there are tons of sailboats and ferrys jetting their way from village to village.

When we arrived in quaint little Vernazza we got a ferry to the last town, Monterosso al Mare, which was totally worth it to get views of the colorful houses and beach umbrellas from a different perspective.

I wouldn’t recommend the hike for anyone who is in tough physical condition just because it was a lot of work and the ground is very uneven at points. Passing people on the trail isn’t a problem if you’re careful. There are a few spots on the path that run along the side of the mountain and its a drop off so one mistep and you’ll tumble down through a few trees straight to the ocean. Be careful and take it easy here.

Wear running shoes or comfortable sneakers–save the sandals for another day. Definitely preapply sunscreen. Carry water and take time to enjoy the Rivera views! The region around Montreosso al Mare is famous for its green pesto so pick up a jar, grab a loaf of bread and hit up the soft, sandy beach and seagreen water for a refreshing end to one of the best hikes you’ll ever do in your life. Guaranteed.

Happy hiking!

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  • Val says:

    I've been to Cinque Terre twice in two years. I love it there! I highly recommend – if you are planning on doing the whole hike – to start in Monterosso. This way you get the tough trails out of the way first, and then they start to get easier as you head towards Riomagiorre. Challenging hike, but amazing to say the least!

  • Abbie Dahl says:

    I love this part of Italy, and the hike is tough but so beautiful! Best pesto in the world! I find your choice of hiking attire… interesting. Especially in a country that requires women to cover their shoulders when they enter a church.

  • Joe says:

    There are actually "cuisine tours" of that region sponsored by sustainable travel group Peace Through Travel mixes volunteer travel and ecotourism; combining wine, language and regional cuisine with nature paths, volunteer excursions and inter-cultural social events. Check out