I was most excited to visit Cinque Terre (pronounced cheen-kwey ter-hree). It’s a series of five villages along the cliffs of the Mediterranean Sea. We took the train from Parma through the mountains and countryside of central Italy. We arrived in La Spezia, in the mid morning. We left our big backpack at the train station in a locked area and just packed our day packs for one night. It was a locked room instead of the individual lockers like in other train stations. I was a bit leery to just leave our bag there… but there was always an employee there guarding it. Just as a side note- if you plan to leave it overnight make sure you are aware of the hours they are open so that you can get your bags when you need to. It was just a couple euros and well worth it because we did a lot of hiking that would have been difficult with the extra bag. 

Also, at the train station in La Spezia, there is a Cinque Terre information area. There, we bought our hiking pass for the day. You need to present these passes at little booths along the way when you are hiking the trails. But if you don’t buy them beforehand, we saw people buying them at the booth along the trail. Also, we wanted to buy a hiking pass for the next day too, but they said they wouldn’t sell it to us because it was supposed to rain… (which it didn’t) so we just planned to buy one at a booth but none of the booths were open that second day when we passed them. And if you are planning to hike, they’ll tell you that two paths are closed, but we just took alternate routes I will talk about later in the post. Also, at that information area in La Spezia, you can buy your train pass that will allow you to hop on and off the train for the day between the cities. We planned to hike between the cities, so we just bought a one way ticket to Lavanto, and just got off at Monterosso. So, you could get a ticket for Monterosso too, it depends what they have available. The train was really crowded with tourists, and it took maybe 45 minutes to get to Monterosso. It may be faster in the off season when there aren’t so many people getting on and off.


From here you can look down the coast and see some of the other villages. It was a bit hazy to see all of them.

Our lunch consisted of yummy pizza on foccacia bread, some lemon soda and the Mediterranean Sea-so pretty! I think if I would have known Monterosso was like a little resort town, I would have wanted to stay the night and spend the day at the beach.

{Some gelato for the road because nothing preps you for a strenuous 3 hour hike like some chocolate gelato}
We used THIS map to hike the trails. The hike between Monterosso and Vernazza was 2.5 miles. On the map it was the green trail called SVA. It was very steep and sometimes we were literally walking on the edge of the cliff. It took almost 3 hours. The trail was pretty crowded, so sometimes we had to go slower because of people in front of us. The views were beautiful! 

Danny got a little daring and hiked down to the sea. Can you spy him?
{view of Monterosso}
 {approaching Vernazza}
We planned to stay in Vernazza and reserved our hotel beforehand because we heard there weren’t a lot of hotels and they booked quickly. However, when we arrived, we kept trying to call the hotel and couldn’t find it on a map (a lot of the hotels don’t have front desks, so you just meet someone and they take you to your apartment). Finally, after several attempts, the lady answered the phone and said the hotel was located three miles from Vernazza and we were like “What?!” We had just finished hiking, we didn’t want to hike any further. (the map on Travelocity where we purchased it was totally wrong) She also said she couldn’t even find our reservation. Luckily, we didn’t prepay for our room so we didn’t loose any money. But then we were left homeless! It was pretty stressful. My phone had died so we were trying to use an internet cafe there to find a hotel but to no avail. There were little plaques on a door that had two hotel names near the center of town. We called one (because we charged my phone at the internet cafe) and we just got an answering machine. Then a lady sitting on a step nearby asked if we needed a hotel room. And we said, “Yes!” She took us inside a little restaurant that acted as the front desk for the hotel and then showed us to our room that was up some stairs. It was Hotel Gianni and I think it has to be the best place to stay in Vernazza. The rooms are totally afordable, it’s right near the center of town, and it has two terraces that overlook the sea. And from what we could see there were only three terraces and two belonged to our hotel. And they have a continental breakfast. Some of the rooms have a shared bathroom, luckily for us, we had a private bathroom. We were so glad that the hotel situation ended up working out better for us in the end. 
 {a cave we walked through to get to the beach}
We then felt like we could enjoy the city after being stressed and homeless for about two hours. We went swimming and also hiked to the top of a tower built on the edge of the rocks to be a sort of look out for boats coming in.
 {a view from the top of the tower: the beach we went swimming at and the terrace we ate breakfast at}

This was the path to our hotel, some narrow sidewalks and steep stairs.

{another one of our hotel’s terraces}

We watched the sunset on the beach and then walked a couple of blocks down to the center of town for dinner. There were so many people eating and hanging out. Danny got some fried seafood and I got some pizza and lemon soda-naturally. Then we got some thick Italian hot chocolate and drank it while listening to some local street performers play instruments. It was one of our favorite Italy moments.

We were pretty excited for our continental breakfast in the morning in Vernazza. We ate our traditional pastries and hot chocolate overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. We wanted to get hiking early, so we went right when the breakfast opened at 7:30 am and had the place to ourselves for a little bit.
 {This is looking down from my chair}

This is the view of Vernazza on our way out of town. See the tower on the end of the peninsula, that is the tower we climbed up in the day before. In the distance you can see Monterosso to the north.

Hiking this trail was another one of our favorite moments of our trip. It was about 8 am and there was no one on the trail. We saw only about four people the whole time. The trail from Vernazza to Corniglia was another difficult, 1.5-2 hour hike. According to the map, we took the green trail marked SVA. The weather was about 65 degrees so it was perfect-it got up to about 80 degrees in the afternoon the day before when we were hiking. Hiking high up in the mountains on the other side of the world seeing some of the most beautiful landscapes I had ever seen. Definitely something I will never forget.

 {Approaching Corniglia with Manarola in the background}

 Corniglia was the only city that didn’t have sea access. It was high up on the cliff.

Lemons were pretty abundant in this region, so we got some lemon ice in a few places. In Corniglia, we got lemon ice here, it was perfect after a long hike. 

We had our lemon ice while overlooking the sea. We could see Manarola in the distance and could see the walking path that was right along the coastline, but that had been washed out by a landslide. It was so sad because I could see the path and it was so close it would have been about a half hour easy walk… but it was obviously covered with dirt and rocks, and there was no ferry access to the city we were at, so we knew we would be hiking another few miles. We only stayed for about 20 minutes in Corniglia and then were on our way.

I remember reading in a few places online that these hikes were “average” or “easy” I never saw an “average” or “easy” path. For the hike between Corniglia and Manarola, according to the map, we took the yellow trail number 587 and the the green path number 586, Then the green trail 506 and the yellow trail 531. That sounds confusing, but all of the trails are marked with little red and white flags and a couple times when I thought we missed our turn, I just asked some other hikers coming the other way. The trail was all downhill from Volastra. Which made me so glad we were hiking down rather than up from Manarola! The hike was about 2.5-3 miles. So another 3-3.5 hours of difficult trail. 

The trail led us through vineyards, over streams, up rocky terrain and through people’s backyards even. But we had a map and these little red and white flags to guide us. We never got lost-but some parts looked sketchy and we questioned our next move.

We were pretty tired at this point, so we were so happy to see a sign for Manarola.

While in Manarola, you could see the path back to Corniglia, and towards the right of the picture, you can see the landslide of dirt and rock. We got some much deserved gelato and walked out on a rock to take some pictures of Manarola.

There are ferries that run between four of the cities: Monterosso, Vernazza, Manarola and Riomaggiore. Remember, Corniglia doesn’t have sea access so it doesn’t stop there. We were pretty tired of hiking and we wanted to be able to get a different vantage point of the cities. The short, “easy” trail from Manarola to Riomaggiore is also closed so we didn’t want to take another strenuous hike through the mountains, the ferry was a perfect option for us. We hiked a total of 7.5 miles through the mountains over the two days.


We didn’t spend too much time here either, just got some lunch, then looked around at a few shops and caught a train back to La Spezia. There were trains that went between all of the five villages, we took that train on the way up, but you are driving through tunnels almost the whole time so you just can’t enjoy the views at all. We were so glad we hiked and took a ferry so that we could see the whole coast. It was so beautiful and everything I had dreamed it would be. We knew we would finish hiking in the afternoon around 2:30 pm and a few days earlier we realized how close we would be to the Leaning Tower of Pisa so we decided to jump on a train and go see it.

See other stops on our trip to Europe: CopenhagenBrusselsVatican CityRomeVenice, Murano/Burano

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