So we set off at about 8:20am to do the 50 minute drive down the mountain to the coast.
There are a lot of choices as to how you arrive at the park, and where you start or finish your walk. So first, you need to look at a map!
Cinque Terre National Park.
There are five main villages in the park along the coast. But not all villages are easily accessible by car. They all have railway stations though, and a train runs through tunnels between the villages.
I found a free parking possibility near the northernmost town of Monterosso, so we went to check that out first. Sure enough, there is free parking is available at GPS 44.145232, 9.664653 and from this location we could easily connect to the main coastal trail. Not many spots though, so better to arrive early...especially as busy season approaches. Otherwise, there is pay parking available in Monterosso.
We set out heading south towards the town of Vernazza.
Looking south towards Vernazza.
Unfortunately there was no sign of the sun! The photos would have been so much better with blue sky and sunshine, but it wasn't meant to be.
The trail wasn't very busy...yet. It was 9:20am when we started out. Our plan was to walk through the four villages to the south and end up at Riomaggiore and then take the train back to Monterosso and hike back up to the car.
Looking back towards Monterosso.
Ruth on the trail.
Kevin on the trail.
There are certainly some nice views!
Arriving at the village of Vernazza.
We arrived at Vernazza at 10:20am so it took us an hour from where the car was parked. The villages themselves are pretty from a distance, but they don't have a lot to offer except for the standard tourist fare...trinket shops, bars and restaurants, and outdoor patios.
The train tunnel at Vernazza.
It was pretty quiet...until the train arrived!
It got a little busier.
Many people take the train to Vernazza and hike only one section of the trail, to either Monterosso to the north, or Corniglia to the south. We've heard that these are the best parts of the trail system.
We wandered around the town for a bit, then carried on towards Corniglia.
Us, on the trail!
You can clearly see the trail on the mountain looking back towards Monterosso.
Lots of steps!
Our first sighting of Corniglia, with Manarola in the distance.
Made it to Corniglia at about 12 noon. The trail was getting busier, with people in both directions, but not too bad. We would NOT want to be here in busy season though. What a zoo it must be!
View from where we sat and had our lunch.
We had been having an instant messenger conversation with Dwayne and Lyd...the Canadian couple we met in Torrevieja last month. It turned out that they were also checking out Cinque Terre yesterday and we were trying to see if our paths would cross at any time. They said they were taking the train to Corniglia, so we set off down the stairs to find them.
Looking down the steps to the train station.
We were also trying to figure out our own plan. The coastal trail from Corniglia to Manarola remains closed from a landslide that happened in 2012. Apparently two levels of government are involved and they can't agree on who should pay for the repairs. In the meantime, the whole region suffers due to the closure. And it turns out that the section between Manarola and Riomaggiore is also closed for repairs!
There are alternate routes available, but I had read that they are not very scenic, and they add a lot of distance. In fact, to get from Corniglia to Manarola was going to be 5.5 kms (3.4 miles).
So we changed our plan. We would hike all the way back to Monterosso and not take the train at all. That would save us some money, plus we would see it in another direction.
We did go down the 381 steps to the train station, and walked along the path, passing the signs that said the trail was closed. There were no barricades, but you can only get so far because there really is a landslide that you can't cross. We made it as far as you can go, the turned around.
And headed back up those 381 steps! Oh well...we needed the exercise!
And there, we bumped into Dwayne and Lyd.
We set off heading north on the trail with Dwayne and Lyd. And what do you know, the sun appeared for about an hour!
Actual blue sky!
Looking back at Corniglia.
There are some pretty spots on the trail.
Back at Vernazza.
Dwayne and Lyd were hopping on the train at Vernazza, but we continued hiking on to Monterosso. The sun had disappeared once again, so I didn't bother taking any more photos of that section.
From where the car was parked, we continued on down to Monterosso....down a whole bunch more steps that we were going to have to climb up again...all so that we could have some gelato!
Creamy smooth gelato. Yummy.
€2 ($2.90 CAD, $2.20 USD) each.
And that's all the money we spent for the entire day. Oh, and I should mention...normally there are "toll booths" where you have to purchase a pass to hike the trails. And, we expected to have to pay. But the booths were all closed up, and we're guessing they only open during busy season, which we're likely starts April 1st along with the ferry boats that go between the villages.
Back where we started.
We arrived back at the car at 5:20pm. We had been gone for eight hours, and had hiked 19 kms (11.8 miles)!
We were beat. And then we had a 50 minute drive to get back home.
So, final impressions on the Cinque Terre hike?
It's got a couple of really nice post card style viewpoints. Not as many as I thought there might have been though. The trail is well maintained, and considering the number of people who use it, it needs a lot of maintenance to be kept up that well.
It's become far to popular though. Considering it's popularity, I honestly expected the hike to be better than it was. Don't get me wrong...it's definitely a good hike, and we enjoyed it. But I guess I had my expectations set too high and thought it was going to be something really exceptional.
No way I would want to do it during the busy season. Can't see it being enjoyable fighting through the people on the sections where it's too narrow for people to pass each other.
Really disappointed by the two closed sections. Shame they can't get their act together on getting it fixed.
Overall, a good hike and we enjoyed our day!
Good deal on a highly rated electric razor...