So that big day came when we finally were going to hike the official Cinque Terre trail along the coast from Monterosso to Riomaggiore. The trail was consisting of several parts few kilometers each going from one small coastal village to the other and is believed to be one of the most beautiful and unusual coastal walks to take.
We tried to wake up as early as possible and started the day with taking the train from Levanto to Monterosso. As we knew that it would take us the whole day to hike there and the trail was quite challenging, we had to go over the mountain. We wanted to get some seaside views and new shots.
The evening before we learnt that actually the Cinque Terre hiking trail and entrance to the National Park is not free and it costs 7.50 euros per person for one day.
So we really wanted to do this trail and find out whether it was worth it or not and of course sharing it with our readers and audience.
So we got from Levanto to Monterosso by train which was only 7 minutes and were out to discover the trail.
Monterosso was a fairly small village hidden between the steep mountain cliffs from both sides. The houses were colorful and bright as in all of the villages in the area and from every corner there were signs of pizzeria and gelaterias.
So we took advantage of it and bought a vegetarian pizza to take away in one of those little bakers. They were actually two small pizzas and they tasted more like a focaccia bread that we ate before because of the thick and oily dough base. So we learnt that in Italy word pizza doesn’t necessarily mean a classical version of what we used to call it. There are many varieties of it.
The beach in this village was quite small and what we noticed about the beaches in the area is that they were almost entirely occupied by chaise-lounges, umbrellas and lockers to store your things in. These are all paid services of course. There weren’t enough space left for the free beach. Only a small piece of land often with no cold showers to rinse the salty water. It was a real disappointment as we had something to compare it with, for example the beaches in Spain were all (maybe with little exception) free and always had the cold showers. Also all the public toilets we met were paid as well. On the beaches, railway stations etc. These were just our little observations after spending some time in Italy.
After enjoying our tasty meal we were finally ready to start hiking. It was still quite early in the morning around 8am when we passed through the first checkpoint and there wasn’t anybody to sell the ticket. So we were sure that some people were taking advantage of the early mornings to do at least part of the trail as it was perfectly possible. Also out of the season from November to mid-March it is open and free for the hikers.
The trail started going uphill with plenty of stairs to go through and it was quite hard. We found that the stairs were always killing the muscles the most probably because of the same pressure on the same muscle groups over and over again. But the cloudy weather and fresh cool breeze from the sea helped us quite a lot to walk.
We were passing by many vineyards on the sides of the hills and sometimes the trail opened up for the great seaside views. But mostly the trail was going through the dense forests and tree tunnels. There were quite a lot of little river creeks as well coming down from the mountains and we remembered that we met the most amount of snakes in these few days than ever hiking. So probably it was a great habitat for them. We even spotted a little scorpion hiding in the rocks that was very scary. But soon we learnt that it is not actually that dangerous to the human as some others more exotic ones and it’s venom is not mortal.
Then after few kilometers the steps started to go downhill and we were approaching the new village Vernazza. It was quite picturesque located right on the cliff that was stretching along the seacoast and surrounded by many vineyards.
On the way we even saw the little railway going through the vineyard fields. And by accident we heard the information from a guided group we were passing by that they were actually still in use by farmers to transport the grapes and any necessary things to the fields. As the terrain was quite difficult it is really useful. Even people can occasionally travel on it but it reminds very much a roller coaster. It was an interesting fact to learn and we even felt the desire to have a ride on it probably it would be a lot of fun.
We passed through the village quite quickly as we knew, we had another long stretch ahead of us. This 3 km part was pretty similar to the previous one with less steps and more gentle uphills and downhills. On the way we met a couple of people playing on the accordion and guitar collecting money right on the trail and that was another proof of how touristic were the places. Soon the other village Corniglia opened up to our eyes and it was a similar cute fishing village at the edge of the cliff.
When we were leaving the trail at the checkpoint, we asked whether it was possible to do the next half of the way and they said no that it’s closed and the only alternative was hiking higher in the mountains. That was another disappointment of ours to know that the trail is not entirely open. So we ended up paying just for the half of it. We already did some hiking in the mountains and we knew it’s going to be similar so we decided to hop on the train and get to the next village with the help of it.
Fortunately, the train connection is quite good between the villages so you will not have any problems with that. So we got to Manarola like in 5 minutes and were really tempted to still check whether this part of the trail was really closed and why. Unfortunately, it was true and the gate at the entrance was obviously telling about that. Our guess was that there was some kind of rock fall that ruined part of the trail and that is why it was closed but at the same time we saw that some gates and constructions were already rusty and between the tiles on the ground there were quite a lot of grass growing through. Overall, the area was looking neglected so we made a conclusion that it has been closed for several years straight already.
So to our dissatisfaction we had to finish our trail at this point. In our opinion, it wasn’t worth the money we paid for it. Even though the area is quite picturesque and the villages are nice we didn’t feel anything special about the trail itself. We did several hikes along the seacoast and they were all the same – beautiful and free of course. They just not as popular but it doesn’t mean that they’re worse by any means. And also they are not as crowded which is another plus. We feel like in every country there are just several popular places everybody’s visiting and many others great ones that get neglected. Our Great Mediterranean Hike that we did last year was a proof to that. Not a lot of people know about it but it’s very well worth the visit. We highly recommend checking out our video series of this hike and discovering this beautiful part of the coast for yourself. We feel that is one of our goals together with showcasing well known places let people discover some hidden gems trails and places that not a lot of people aware of.
But if you’re still willing to visit these places our advice would be going out of season here when it’s all open and it’s not that hot which is a bonus. Or doing parts of trail in early morning which can be another option as well. Also be aware that the ticket you buy is only valid for one day and it gives you access to the trail itself, guided excursions that you have to check the schedule in advance, some entrance to the museum and free public toilet services. That we feel also quite unfair that you have to pay for extra services even if you don’t need them.
Well after spending some time in Manarola we decided to not go to the last village Riomaggiore as we felt it’s going to be similar and go all the way to Spezia by train instead. We felt like we needed a rest for several days after having 3 full hot days of hiking. And we found that the majority of campsites were in the Spezia region closer to the coast. So without further hesitation we hoped on the train and headed further along the coast. Then we planned to continue hiking Via Francigena in Tuscany and hoped for more beautiful discoveries to come…