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Cinque Terre

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To experience one of the best walks of a lifetime you need to take a trip to Cinque Terre. It is long day from Florence but possible or best combined with a night. Cinque Terre (five lands) is a hilly stretch along the Mediterranean Ocean, that has 5 villages dotted in the hillsides. Four of the villages are not connected to roads. For centuries the townsfolk used paths in the hillside to walk to their neighbouring towns. These paths are now a very popular tourist walk, that could take five hours in total depending on your level of fitness and how long you dawdle in each pretty village.


You can commence the walk from either end of the Cinque Terre, but if you have a car you will need to start at Monterosso, as this is the only town that can be accessed by car, there is plenty of parking here. This is the largest of the towns and also has the most popular beach, as it is the only sandy beach out of the five villages. There are also many eateries and touristy shops here.

It is best to pick up a map at the tourist office and start your walk straight away. Just as you are leaving Monterosso you will see a ticket booth selling Cinque Terre cards, this card allows you access to the walk at a cost of 3 euro or you can purchase a walk and train card as well, which can be used at any train station along the way. The Cinque Terre cards can also be purchased at any ticket booth along the way, train stations in all the towns and information centres. Once you have your card you will need to show it at all the checkpoints on the walk.

The first leg of the walk from Monterosso to Vernazza is the most rugged and difficult, but also has the most spectacular views, it is estimated to take between 1 to 1.5 hours. The view on the descent down into the idyllic town of Vernazza is hard to match.

This is by far the prettiest and the most popular of the towns. As you descend into the town you sill see sparkling blue water surrounded by colourful buildings, all centered around the Piazza Marconi. You may not be ready to dine yet, but this is a great spot to sit and have a drink, eat a gelati and apply more sunscreen before ascending to the next village. If you feel like walking a little more in Vernazza you can climb to the Castello Doria, which is an 11th century fortress that sits above the town, and offers more spectacular views. There is another tough walk between Vernazza and the next village of Corinigilia, but the paths are good, be prepared for an another undulating 1 to 1.5 hours.

This village has a hill top location and is the smallest and quietest of the five. There is a beach here to cool off in but no sand to stretch out on. Best to stop for a drink and rest as well, because when you leave Corniglia there is a long, long descent via stairs to the train station and the path that leads to the next town. Another good reason to start your Cinque Terre walk from the Monterosso end, because these stairs are better going down than coming up! The walk from Corniglia to the next village, Manarola becomes slightly easier, and will take about an hour. The paths are good, but it does get congested with other tourists coming from the other direction, so it seems to slow down a little. The views are still spectacular, and the path has a rural feel as it goes by many farms.

You will have to stop and hold your breath, and maybe get the camera out, when you see Manorola as it is like viewing a real life postcard as you descend into the pretty village. Manorola doesn't have beaches as much as it has swimming holes surrounded by concrete walls, which attract a lot of sunbathers. Manorola is very popular with the young set which gives it a vibrant, busy air. There are plenty of cafes, bars and restaurants here, and by this stage of the walk you may feel like sitting for a bit longer and take in the view over an antipasto platter and a glass of wine. The last leg of the journey only takes about 20mins and it is a very different path to the final town of Riomaggiore.

The hiking stops when you leave Manorola as you enter the Via dell'Amore (Road of Love), this smooth flat, covered path hugging the cliffs is a shrine dedicated to lovebirds all over the world. It takes about twenty minutes to walk, but will take a lot longer if you stop to read all the dedications of love written on the walls, even some marriage proposals can be found scrawled here. It is a beautiful romantic stroll, especially if you come by at sunset. The road leads to the Riomaggiore train station, but if you keep walking through the long tunnel you will enter the township. Riomaggiore is a busy place with people ending or starting their journey on the Cinque Terre. It is a fishing village and has plenty of swimming spots for hot tourists looking to cool off. It is here you can travel back by train or take a ferry. The ferries travel backwards and forwards all day, usually hourly. It is a great way to relax and be amazed at just how steep and far the walk was. The ferry stops at the five towns and takes only about a 30 minutes. When you get back to Monterosso you can take a well deserved dip in the sea.


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