Cinque Terre, Italy: Gems of the Ligurian Coastline

After a few days of having basked in the architectural grandeur of the brick-red Duomo in Florence, sipped on frothy cappuccinos on the balcony of Café Key Largo in Piazza del Campo in Siena, and marveled at the white marbled leaning tower of Pisa, one may be inclined to head Northwest to the Region of Liguria, along the Italian Riviera coast, for a change in pace.

For adventurers who are in search of spectacular views and some physical activity, as a break from the sedentary Italian café lifestyle, Cinque Terre is an absolute must. This semi- strenuous, scenic hiking trail takes you along the Northern picturesque coastline of the Ligurian Sea.

“Cinque Terre” means “Five lands” in Italian, referring to the five different coastal towns you come across along the path. These are the colorful villages of (North to South): Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore.  The Italians of this region have spent centuries creating and tending to these vineyards along extreme  terraced inclines of  the land.  Although a lot of people seek out the Cinque Terre trail each year, the lands today are still remarkably unspoiled by tourism, and give the feeling of old world Italian Farm life. Weaving its way along the cliffside, the trail takes you up through vertical vineyards, down through farmland and orchards, and strolling through olive groves.  Some sections of the path lead you up quite steep inclines of rugged stone stairs, but once you have overcome these obstacles you are awarded down the path with view points overlooking the sea with  places to sit and rest.  A solid day is needed to hike the entire Cinque Terre trail, assuming you take your time to stop and explore each uniquely charming village.

The true magic of the hike happens upon the descent into town. The dirt path you’ve be treading on all of a sudden turns into a narrow cobblestone street, passing by yellow and red painted residences, clotheslines hung with linen, and under stone archways. Once inside you can find Bed and breakfasts, small shops and gelaterias serving flavors such as: chocolate blood orange, stracciatella, and pistachio. Once you have aquired your gelato treat, be sure to walk down along the small harbors where the old paint-peeling fishing boats are tethered by ropes. From there you can make your way to the concrete quays where the local fisherman cast their lines from long fishing poles.

You can begin hiking from either end of the five lands, whether you choose to start at Monterosso or Riomaggiore.  If you time your hike right, you will be rewarded to an awe-inspiring sunset at the last village of your journey. Many locals seem to gather for the departing of the sun at the village overlooks and churches. This is an ideal place and way to end your Cinque Terre hike gazing at the gleaming sea that accompanied you the entire way, listening to the local musical Italian chatter, and reflecting on the stunning terraced landscapes you have trekked.  If you are traveling down from the North, Cinque Terre is reachable by trains from Genoa to La Spezia. Coming from the frequently visited  Southern Tuscany region, it’s easily accessible by train via La Spezia station which then connects you with the local villages.

Marisa Bennett Written by:

Hello there, my name is Marisa and I was born and raised in Missoula, Montana. I grew up in a log cabin in the forested hillside of the Bitterroot region of Western Montana. I spent my childhood summers exploring the wilderness, camping out in a tipi, and taking family trips down into the deserts of Utah. I attribute my current state of gypsy wanderlust and footloose traveling to these early days of free exploration. Thus far I have traveled parts of the U.S., Western Canada, Costa Rica, New Zealand, Greece, Turkey, Spain, and Italy. My true ‘awakening’ to my passion for travel happened when I studied abroad on the enchanting island of Paros, Greece. After this experience, I fell head over heals for foreign travel, and realized I needed to be traveling abroad again. This past year I backpacked the Southern Mediterranean region of Europe, volunteering on vineyards and farms, painting murals at nature reserves, and working at hostels, in exchange for housing, food and amazing cultural experiences. I have chosen a worldly education for myself with new cultures and languages, eventually to be balanced with that of academia, when I plan to return to university to pursue my degree in studio arts and art history. I realize, however, that it’s only a matter of time before the travel bug stings again, and I will have no other choice but to pack my bag fast and hit the road …