Parole: bellissimo (very beautiful), escursione (hike), mare (sea)
Today Aubrey, Victoria, and I went to the Cinque Terre. The Cinque Terra refers to a touristic national park located between Geneva and La Spezia along the west coast, just a little over 2 hours from Parma by rail. It was filled with Americans and English appeared to be the dominant language. Considering how small the towns are, I was surprised at just how many tourists there were. Cinque Terre literally means five lands, and refers to five scenic coastal towns that make up the area. The tows are connected by rail and by hiking trails.
The first town was Riomaggiore. Our train went directly to Riomaggiore, but it stopped first in La Spezia. At La Spezia, hundreds of people got on the train to go to Riomaggiore. The train had to go through tunnels in order to get there. Now and then there would be a 5 second break in the tunnels, and we would be right on the coast on the edge of the sea, and the entire overcrowded train was filled with “ooooohs” and “aaaaaahs” and overall excitement. We went the wrong way after we got off the train and ended up on the trail headed to the next town instead of exploring the main part of Ropmaggiore.
This first path was between Riomaggiore and Manarola. It is called Via dell’amore, or “way of love.” It was a very scenic, paved, well-kept trail directly on the coast and surrounded by cacti and flowers. It took less than a half hour to walk. Once we arrived in Manarola, we grabbed a piece of pesto focaccia and a bottle of water, wondered around a small market, and headed to the next town. However, we got to the trail head, and it said that the trail was too dangerous to walk and it was closed. Based on the condition of the final trail of the day, I question how dangerous “too dangerous” really is. It was probably closed for renovations.
Because the trail was closed, we had to take a train to Corniglia. Once we got to the station, we were faced with 382 steps of a back-and-forth staircase in order to get to the town. These stairs turned out to be a breeze compared to the stairs we had on our next two trails. We took a pit stop in Corniglia, walked around a bit, and headed for Vernazza. The Rick Steves’ Italy book says that this is a 90 minute hike, but it is the “wildest and greenest section of the coast…and is very rewarding but very hilly.” So, we gave it a shot. The trail was long with lots of stairs. The scenery was amazing, and it took us through vineyards and olive groves on narrow and beat stone and dirt paths. It was a rough hike and it took us probably around 80 minutes to complete. It was quite a feeling of accomplishment when we sat down at the end of the trail at “Bar La Torre” for a glass of fresh lemonade, a sandwich, and a couple bottles of water.
The town of Vernazza, like the other towns, is pretty small. It has a small beach and a castle and lots of tourist shops. We decided to skip climbing the castle because of the steep hike to get to the town. We got some gelato, more water, and went on our way to the final town, Monterosso.
Rick Steves’ warns that the trail from Vernazza to Monterosso is another 90 minute hike, is very scenic, has lots of ups and downs, and many of the trails are rough, narrow, and some say are downright dangerous. To us, this meant we had to try it. As it turns out, Mr. Steves was right on the money. The first 20 minutes or so was old rough stone & wood stairs which varied by size, length and width. After that the trail started to go downhill. That was because we had to go back down into a valley to get to the next set of stairs up. The trail kept going up and down lots of stairs and there were narrow paths on top of high ledges. It was always fun trying to figure out how to pass someone going in the opposite direction. This one also took us through some vineyards. All the time I would think to myself, whose idea was it to make these trails, and who is crazy enough to have agriculture on this terrain? Just to get into the fields there were narrow stone steps.
The last 10-15 minutes of the hike was down steep stairs that were even rougher than the ones that we went up. The drop down into the valley was so steep. We took about 90 minutes on this trail, and it was very rewarding, especially because Monterosso has a beach, where we relaxed. I took a dip into the Mediterranean and swam around a bit. After the beach closed, we went to dinner at a restaurant on the beach, and then caught a train home. We got back into Parma around 11, and I went immediately to sleep.
Overall the day was tiring, yet beautiful and extremely rewarding. It was so nice to relax on the beach after a long day of hiking. Overall we hiked about 7 miles, but it felt like so much more because of the rough terrain. Parts of the trails made us feel like we were going through a jungle, with plants and trees hanging all around us, crossing little creeks and watching salamanders scurry all over the trails. We were a little rushed because we wanted to get to the last town before the beach closed, but relaxing on the beach was so rewarding.
I am headed to Torino tomorrow so more posts to come soon!
Tags : Cinque Terre, hike, scenery, train, travel
Categories : Trips