One of the many reasons people visit Cinque Terre is to enjoy exploring the tiny villages that cling to the seaside cliffs in the area. Walking the coastal trail that links the five villages rewards with spectacular views of the Mediterranean.
To walk the entire coastal trail you have to start either at Monterosso al Mare or Riomaggiore, the farthest south of the five villages that make up the Cinque Terre region. From Riomaggiore train station we wandered through town, enjoying the views into Riomaggiore and over the sea. It doesn’t take long to get into the centre and suddenly there are shops, cafes and restaurants on each side of the street leading down to the ocean.
|Riomaggiore shops, Cinque Terre, Italy|
We started the coastal walk here on the Via del’ Amore, one of the easier parts of the coastal trail, that links Riomaggiore with it’s smaller neighbour Manarola. A covered area containing a graffiti wall leads to the Via del’ Amore which is a wide flat boulevard with cliff face on the right and the Mediterranean on the left. Halfway along there is a small café where you can stop and take in the view or people-watch. Read more about the Via del' Amore here.
Lovers, and other walkers, emerge from the Via del’ Amore into Manarola. The town is far more compact than Riomaggiore and you are quickly in the centre that is built around the harbour, and surrounded by people, cafes and boats. Manarola has one of the best swimming spots in Cinque Terre. It is a small deep corner of the harbour naturally formed by large rocks that can be jumped off. As you continue to walk the coastal trail the view back to Manarola is wonderful. You can see the swimming spot, harbour and cafes.
|Manarola, Cinque Terre, Italy|
The path climbs a little as you continue around the corner and the walk becomes a little more challenging here where it is narrower and the ground uneven. After coming around the headland the path straightens again and you come parallel to the road and railway. In front of you however, is the monstrous cliff that Corniglia perches on top of.
|Corniglia, Cinque Terre, Italy|
The climb to Corniglia features 365 steps fondly referred to as one for each day of the year. These steps zigzag up the cliff in 33 different flights of steps. 33 flights of stairs is a challenge to most holidaymakers.
|Congratulations sign, Corniglia, Cinque Terre, Italy|
Once you reach the top and walk into the centre of Corniglia you pass several small signs that say ‘Congratulations, you made it up all the steps to Corniglia!’ “Damn straight” you think as you pass them. “Now where can I get a drink?” The climb is definitely worth it; Corniglia has a nice position high above the sea, with fantastic views.
|Countryside path from Corniglia to Vernazza, Cinque Terre, Italy|
Leaving Corniglia the path becomes a bit of a confusing countryside trail through trees and fields for a while with quick glimpses back towards Corniglia rewarding those who remember to look behind them. The walk descends into Vernazza with spectacular views over the village, especially if you arrive ahead of sunset.
|View over Vernazza at sunset, Cinque Terre, Italy|
Finding the way out of Vernazza to continue the walk is the first challenge of possibly the hardest part of the Cinque Terre coastal walk. The path here is very steep and gets narrow too. Fantastic views over Vernazza are offered though.
|Boats at the waterfront in Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre, Italy|
The entire walk is estimated to take about four hours. We made a long, slow day of it, starting early in the morning and walking at our own (fairly slow) pace indulging in lots of stops for photos and we also had a nice lunch in Manarola, as well as drinks in Riomaggiore and Corniglia.
Have you walked the coastal trail in Cinque Terre? What were your favourite bits?