I awoke with a start on our first day in the Cinque Terre to what sounded like thunder and torrential rain. This could not be happening. We had only arrived the afternoon before to a glorious sunny day, people relaxing on the rocks and eating gelato by the harbour, and we were all prepared to go off on a hike on our first morning to explore the villages. I jumped out of bed, threw open the Italian shutters of our cute little bed and breakfast, and stuck my head out the window to find that, yes, it was indeed raining. The pastel coloured rooftops were being hammered with water and people on the street below were hurriedly rushing by attempting to cover their soaking heads. Perfect. Our day of hiking suddenly looked rather bleak.
But despite the hiking paths being closed thanks to the stormy weather, we didn’t want to spend the day sat inside hiding from the rain, so we hopped on the train to explore instead and discovered that this part of the Italian Riviera is still a little piece of heaven even in the rain.
After much wine and pasta, we went to bed that evening praying for good weather and the next morning we were greeted with lots of clouds but not a drop of rain was in sight! Hurrah! This made for perfect hiking weather as there was no burning sunshine to make us all hot and sweaty and the paths were no longer slippery and wet from the rain the day before.
After hiking the Inca Trail last year I was all ready and prepared for a challenging trek but the route from Vernazza to the biggest village of Monterosso was super easy in comparison. In fact this was more like a strenuous walk and involved no huffing or puffing whatsoever. The 2-3 hour hike round the cliff edge above the bright turquoise sea, took us through forests, past trickling streams and waterfalls, over cobblestone bridges and along sheer drops. I’m not one for rushing things so we took our time and ambled slowly along, taking lots of photos and stopping often to appreciate the breathtaking views.
Whenever we caught a glimpse of the tiny village of Vernazza in the distance it looked so far away. We couldn’t believe how far we had come in such a short time!
We had brought lunch with us from the Lunch Box in Vernazza, a little deli serving all sorts of goodies to take away. We ate our focaccia stuffed with mozzarella, prosciutto and salad, sitting on the edge of the cliff looking out over the green hillsides.
About half way between the villages we came across some baskets, toys and food set up on the side of the rocks as a home for stray cats, so of course I had to stop for a while to make some new friends.
A while later we came across a little stall where a girl was selling fresh lemonade, and we sipped our refreshingly bitter drinks as we looked out at Monterosso where we would soon be.
As we got closer towards the end of the hike, the sun started to appear which was perfect timing to enjoy some gelato on the beach just as we arrived in Monterosso.A few tips if you’re planning on doing some hiking in the Cinque Terre (or for those people who seem to enjoy making life difficult for themselves):
It’s really not a difficult hike but flip flops are not suitable. There are a lot of rocky paths and steps to climb and with the steep drop that often appeared down the side of the cliff you’ll want to be wearing shoes with a good grip. I didn’t have space to bring my big heavy hiking boots but Converse or trainers worked perfectly well for us.
For families – please, oh please, do not take a buggy on the hike with you. We saw worn out dads lugging pushchairs up the steps and this was only at the very start of the hike. Seriously people! It may not be the toughest hike but it really isn’t suitable for buggies!
Due to the floods a few years ago a lot of the hiking paths are still closed so check before you make any route plans. We loved the hike from Vernazza to Monterosso – it was less busy and there were far less steps to travel up than going in the opposite direction.
For those who don’t fancy the hike, getting between the villages by train is an easy alternative. Each village has its own station and it’s only a couple of minutes travel between each. Grab a day ticket or a cheap single but make sure you check train times in advance as there are often only one or two an hour, and don’t forget to stamp your ticket in the little green machine before boarding.
Another alternative mode of transport is the ferry which stops at every village and offers some great views from a different angle.
But for the most breathtaking views of this lovely part of the Italian coastline, hiking is by far the best way to explore.