Cinque Terre, which in Italian means five lands, is an area comprised of five quaint fishing villages located on the Italian Riviera coastline in Northern Italy. Connected by train and trail, the Cinque Terre is a National Park and Unesco World Heritage Site that lives up to its grand titles. We hiked the villages in order from north to south: Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore.

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Heading out from Milan’s central station to board the train, we decided to leave our plans fluid without pre-booking accommodations.

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the trains are comfortable and the ticket process easy to navigate once you get the hang of it

Rain greeted us in brightly painted Monterosso and we decided to find a hotel for the night. There is a moratorium on further building on the Cinque Terre and you will not find chain hotels or restaurants. Businesses are locally owned, which is just the way the residents like it … and so did we. In our search for accommodations up and down one of the many side streets (everything is up and down!), we found a beautiful hotel and bargained down to 80-euro from the 130-euro price paid during tourist season. Fantastico!

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the narrow streets

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one of the few accessible beaches on the rugged coast

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from the trail looking back.

from the trail looking back

Next morning the weather was beautiful and we hiked on to Vernazza, which we found to be the more difficult coastal trail hike. You have the option to hike from town to town by the mountain trail, but we were determined to stay closest to the twinkling sea and the stunning coastal views. Finding a hotel, we soon set out to enjoy all that picturesque Vernazza has to offer with its natural harbor, traffic free streets, local customs, and, of course, its italian food and vino.

Approaching Vernazza

approaching Vernazza

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Coastal towns have a narrow and steep theme.

coastal towns seem to have a narrow and steep theme

Great way to end an outstanding day!

a great way to end an outstanding day!

Leaving Vernazza

leaving Vernazza behind

With the approach of Easter, our innkeeper suggested to us that we might think of calling ahead to book our next room, and we did so, without much research. Setting out to Corniglia, perched atop its cliff, we stayed on the coastal trail enjoying more gorgeous views. We stopped in to walk through the town, grabbed some Gelato, and headed back out.

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View looking back

the view looking back

View looking forward

the view looking forward

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overlooking Corniglia

Great thing about all this hiking is that we can eat all the Gelato we want.........and we did!

great thing about all this hiking is that we could eat all the Gelato we want………and we did!

Onwards to Manarola! We found the trail closed about halfway to our goal and had to turn back and grab the train instead. The story of our shenanigans on this trail is best explored over a drink!

How closed could it really be?

how closed could it really be?

After a while we realized it was "absolutely" closed!

oh, “absolutely” closed!

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we still doubled back when we arrived to get a few good pics

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More Gelato!

more gelato!

Many of the trails on the Cinque Terre have been closed due to flooding a few years back which created rock slides and managed to take out a couple of bridges and, alas, we found the coastal trail to Riomaggiore closed as well! Determined to hike rather than ride the train, we pressed along hoping to find a path that would take us through. However, instead of finding our way along another part of the coastal trail, we soon discovered ourselves half way up the mountain trail, and, upon realizing it, we had zero desire to pick our way back down the steep incline with our packs! Our legs soon felt like lead, but we persisted, and the resulting views gave a much different perspective on the Cinque Terre!

Looking back

looking back

We love wine and enjoyed all of the terraced vines throughout our hikes.

we enjoyed all of the terraced vines throughout our hikes dreaming of life on a vineyard

Straight up

straight up

What goes up........

what goes up……..

Overlooking Riomaggiore

overlooking Riomaggiore

We arrived well worn out in Riomaggiore and still had to find the apartment that we booked; a definite disadvantage to pre-booking, but at least guarantees a room for the night. That is, if you can find it, Naturalmente, every direction we headed led uphill. We asked for directions and somehow managed to make sense of the rapid-fire response in Italian. Finding our host, at last, we proceeded to follow her through the streets, headed uphill, and headed downhill, getting closer and closer to the ocean but wishing only for the walking to end. How lucky were we when we found that our apartment windows opened directly out to the sea?! What a view, that only improved as night approached and the fiery sun slipped into the lapping waves.

Riomaggiore

Riomaggiore

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absolutely stunning (and not a bad view of the ocean too!)

We had passed a restaurant on the way to the apartment, and, with the display of calamari, fish and chips too much to pass up, we hurried back for take-out. A five-euro bottle of wine (and what a bottle!) rounded out our meal and we sat by the window and enjoyed our last evening on the beautiful Cinque Terre. Saluti!

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Visited March 2015

Next Stop: Florence