I have always wanted to go to the Cinque Terre, having seen the photos, watched videos, and heard Rick Steves talk about these five villages built into the cliffs along the sea in northern Italy, in the region known as Liguria.
Although there is a regional train that runs along the coast, connecting one village to another, the beauty and charm of the Cinque Terre lies in hiking along the trail from one village to another.
Even though I had read that the two longest sections of the trail were challenging, and could be dangerous, I don’t think I realized that this was really a trek for serious hikers. The numbers of people with walking sticks, hiking boots and backpacks should have been my first clue. The Germans were the serious hikers and they came prepared.
Monica opted to take the day off so it was my brother and me, and as an unplanned warm-up, we took the long way around to the train station, (in other words we got lost). We started on the hardest hike from Monterrosso to Vernazza and supposedly it was a ninety minute hike. Initially it did not seem too hard, but it definitely lived up to the warnings of being very challenging, steep and at some points dangerous. After three hours we finally arrived at Vernazza, and my feet were feeling it.
There were many points on the trail where my brother had to wait for me to catch up, and I was definitely regretting not being in better shape for this. I have to add that my brother Rick is in excellent shape, and cycles between 40 and 60 miles almost every day after walking at least five miles. It was not so much the inclines, but the numerous staircases in both directions on uneven pieces of rock that made it such a challenging climb.
The good thing was that all the way along the trail, the scenery was beautiful. We were either along the sea or in a shaded forest area. On this section alone, which was supposedly 4km, we hiked from sea level to the highest point of 720 feet, but since the hike was up and down multiple times, the ascent was measured at more than 1500 feet, and the same for the descent.
I was so happy to get to Vernazza which was very picturesque and charming. We had a wonderful lunch there, and I was mentally preparing myself for the next section of the hike. When Rick told me that he would not be disappointed if I did not want to do anymore, you can believe that it did not take too long for me to decide that I was content to walk around Vernazza instead.
After that we took the train to the hilltop town of Corniglia, with a population of just 540, and walked around for awhile, the took the train back to Levanto and met Monica for dinner. I really enjoyed the Cinque Terre and it is OK that I did not hike the entire trail. The entire area is just beautiful, including Levanto, which was our base.