Heading north from Lucca this week, I had the chance to spend a day exploring Cinque Terre (pronounced cheen-kweh tehr-reh, by the way) in northern Tuscany. I hiked through three of the five cities along the coastline before making my way to the second and final farm of the summer.
While far too short, this experience was everything I hoped it would be. The scenery is like nothing else on Earth. Rainbow cities covering the hills; hills plunging straight downward into the sea; the sea a clear aquamarine, scattered with large rocks that seemed to dance under the waves.
Needless to say, I took a few pictures. While the pictures speak for themselves, I want to explain how I managed to pull off this trip on a budget and which trails I took during my hike.
I stayed at Ostello Tramonti in Biassa, one of the hill towns outside of the main tourist area. While this city isn’t right on the coast, the hostel makes travel through the park really simple with a shuttle that runs every half-hour in the mornings and evenings. The bus takes guests down the narrow, zig-zagging roads to Riomaggiore, the southernmost of the five cities. From there, it’s easy to jump on a train to one of the other cities (for between 4 and 14 Euros, depending on where you want to go). At 20-30 Euros a night, with comfy beds and a nice little restaurant serving truly delicious food like fresh fruit and homemade bread, Ostello Tramonti was a great choice for me.
Arriving in Cinque Terre, I thought I’d be able to pass through all five cities in one day, starting from Riomaggiore and ending in Monterosso. Unfortunately, the trails from Riomaggiore to Manarola and from Manarola to Corniglia were all closed, so I had to change my plans. I decided to take the 4-Euro train to Corniglia and begin hiking north from there.
At the trailhead in Corniglia, I had to pay 7.50 Euros to enter (this fare covers the entire hike to Monterosso), and found that it would take about 1.5 hours to reach Vernazza. Once I reached Vernazza, I jumped into the bluest water I’ve ever seen and grabbed a quick lunch before setting off again for another 1.5 hours of hiking to Monterosso.
The hike between these cities is doable for anyone in reasonably good shape, and it’s definitely worth it for the views along the way that you don’t get from the train. However, it is a hike! I saw people wearing nothing but bathing suits and flip flops and a family of five (including three young children) with no water. It’s not a light walk or a casual stroll through the park; the path is winding and narrow and often very steep. Plus, since I didn’t begin hiking until 10:30 that morning, by the time I was getting into Monterosso it was almost 100 degrees F and VERY humid. It was a tough push to the finish line, but luckily Monterosso is lined with beaches. I indulged in another dip in the water after the hottest and sweatiest hike of my life.
I walked through Monterosso in a warm and refreshing rainstorm, then boarded the ferry (12 Euros) back to Riomaggiore where I stayed for the rest of the evening to watch the sunset. Bussing back to the hostel at 9 pm, fully 12 hours after leaving the hostel to start the day, I was salty (literally) and exhausted and fulfilled. It was one of the best solo travel experiences of my entire life, full of colors, sore muscles, and revitalizing swims in the sea.
So, without further ado, here’s a quick photo journal of the trip!