Cinque Terre is beautiful. Taking a train from Milan to La Spezia, you gradually see the scenery get more and more interesting. Houses built directly into mountainous terrain start to become more and more frequent.
Cinque Terre is composed of five villages. Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. The one you may have scene most often is Manarola because it offers some of the most dramatic views.
Hiking is a popular activity for visitors to the area since the terrain is so rugged. We were staying in Riomaggiore and were initially planning on taking the easy path to Manarola, the Villa Dell’amore. This, however, was closed due to a landslide. Our only option to get to the next village was to take hiking trail #531, which we were told was essentially a vertical ascent followed by an abrupt descent.
Trail #531 is an insane trail that winds through vineyards and slippery rocks.
As you make it toward the top of the hill of the trail, the wind picks up, getting louder and louder as there are less and less hills surrounding you. For those afraid of heights, this does not help.
After winding your way to the top then heading down, you may want to take care. Some of the steps seem almost two feet high and there are loose rocks nearly everywhere. Don’t be surprised if someone runs past you with a basket full of grapes they’ve just harvested from the vineyards you were just hiking past.
After about an hour, if moving at a good pace, you will have reached Manarola from Riomaggiore and it will have been worth it. After making your way through the village toward the water you can see a lot of people relaxing on the rocks by the water and swimming.
After hiking for a while and swimming, there are dozens of restaurants in the area serving regional specialties, pasta and seafood.
All in all, Cinque Terre is a very historic and scenic collection of towns. Unfortunately, you don’t always get the sense of the history or tradition since it’s about 70% tourists on any given day. Luckily, however, you can catch glimpses of real life as farmers harvest away in the hills, fishing boats pass in the distance, and restaurants continue churning out pesto, sardine and Ligurian pasta dishes, keeping the towns moving forward for one more day.