Monday, October 14, 2019
The main reason we came to the Cinque Terre was to hike the trail between the 5 villages. It is a 7.5 mile trail and we had heard that parts of the trail were closed because landslides so we were prepared to take some alternate transportation in places. We have seen lots of photos of the villages and first became aware of the area many years ago when Rick Steves filmed a show here. Before we came on this trip we picked the brain of some friends who had been here recently.
The first order of business was to get our Cinque Terre Card which entitled us to ride the trains and buses all day, use the pay toilets and give us access to the national park (trails). It cost 32 euros for the 2 of us for 24 hours. The woman who sold us the tickets told us the trail between Riomaggiore and the next town, Manarola, was closed. She said to take the train to Manarola then catch the shuttle bus to the next town, Corniglia, as the trail to that is also closed. Then hike from Corniglia to Monterosso and take the train back. She said it is easiest going that direction. We left the building, got on the train and went all the way to Monterosso. We had decided we would ignore the lady and start from the farthest point and hike back.
Monterosso is the largest of the towns with about 1,500 people. I figured I should use the restroom before starting, especially since I had the pass to use it for free, except the attendant just kept saying “NO”. It didn’t look like it was being cleaned or anything but she chased away myself and several others. Oh well. We walked around the beachfront taking some photos and checking things out then headed off. The trail is a bit steeper going south and there was a fair amount of climbing. Shortly after starting the trail there is a checkpoint where an attendant checks to make sure you have your pass. There is also a list of regulations and one was ‘no flip flops, or open toed sandals’. I can’t imagine doing the hike in that kind of footwear, especially since I bang my toes a lot but we actually saw a young woman wearing flip flops. She said she always hikes in sandals. There are several places on the trail that have checkpoints and we show our pass each time. I had on a baseball hat with a Seattle Mariners baseball logo on it and several people we met along the way who saw it said they were from the Seattle area. We were surprised how many people from our home state were hiking the trail at the same time as us.
We hiked up thru some terraced areas where grapes and other produce was being grown. The terraces were steep and they had an interesting contraption to get around and harvest the produce and transport it. There were rails all over the hillsides.
We passed some people working on a stone wall and realized that hauling all the material up or down to the site had to be quite challenging. Building the houses, bridges, trails, railings and plantings on the hillsides is quite an undertaking.
The first town we came to was Vernazza. It is one of the most popular towns on the trail. Just before you get to town there is a spot where everyone stops to take a photo of the colorful town from above. We actually had to wait our turn to take the ‘classic photo’ that you see in all the magazines. There were about a dozen other people in that spot and we had a great time chatting with them and Scott even volunteered to take photos for some of the people so they didn’t have to take selfies. Vernazza had been hit hard in 2011 by the flooding that caused landslides in the area. In town there is a big poster showing the devastation that occurred where the town was buried. I walked up to the train station and stood in line for 15 minutes to use the restroom after drinking a soda we had bought in town. We wandered around for awhile thru the colorful, busy streets and down to the beach. Had Scott take a photo of me doing a Warrior 2 yoga pose at the city harbor. Couldn’t believe the number of people in town. Scott heard a tour leader telling a group they had 2 hours to walk around then back on the bus. I’m sure it is much nicer to spend a night there and enjoy the town after the tourists have left. Maybe next time.
Back on the trail we headed for Corniglia. The weather had been iffy and we had to wear our raincoats for a half hour or so near Vernazza. The trail was a bit slippery when wet and we were careful walking. I had brought along one trekking pole and it came in handy on some sections of the trail.
The view down to Corniglia was nice but a little gray as the clouds were still hanging around and the colors weren’t as vibrant. This is the only town that is up on a cliff with no port.Didn’t stay in town long. Walked by the church and peeked in and then headed out. We had heard there was a high trail from there to Manarola as the low trail was closed so we went in search of it. Saw several signs in town and started following those and stopped to look at our map when a young boy asked what we were looking for. We told him and he said he and his father had just come from there and said we were headed in the right direction, up. It was a climb and there were some great views looking back at the town.
The trail got narrow in a few places as it traversed the terraces. I tend to hug the hillside.
Up amongst the grapes we come upon a sign pointing back towards Corniglia. An affirmation that we are going in the right direction.
Came to a town called Volastra with a nice little church way up on the hill.
As we came around behind the church looking for the trail to Manarola we saw a road with several people waiting for the shuttle back to town. We found the trail and it started downhill. We were up quite high and there was lots of downhill. My right knee doesn’t bend as far as the left so I take it a little slower going downhill and am more careful about where I step.
Early on the hike we had seen quite a few people mostly going the opposite direction. We didn’t see hardly anyone on the high trail. As we came down into town we saw a few more people on the trail below us. The view of the town was great.
It was a nice feeling walking into town knowing we had completed the hike.
We decided to celebrate finishing our hike by going to the Coop and buying some beer. They come in the 1 liter bottles and we stood outside drinking. Two guys came by and said that looked good and decided to join us. We shared our bottle opener and had a great chat with them. They were from Chicago and waiting for their wives to finish shopping. When the wives showed up the guys admitted that they had only hiked a small portion of the trail and were impressed that we had done it all at once. They were planning on doing the rest of the trail the next day.
After the beers we walked thru town checking things out and found our way to the train station and took the train back to Riomaggiore. We went to the Coop and bought some cheese, olives and beer to have on the balcony then later went out for some takeout pizza for dinner. Spent the rest of the evening relaxing on the balcony after an enjoyable day.