I Sentieri

I Sentieri

Ever since our daughter told us about the Cinque Terre trails (sentieri) after her visit here about 10 years ago, we’ve been wanting to hike them ourselves, so this was a big reason for our choosing to come here. In this post, we’ll write about each of the hikes we’ve taken, to give you a flavor for what they’re like…

Trails highlighted which we hiked

Trails highlighted which we hiked

We picked up a trail map at the Park Office in Manarola, which we used as our reference all week. I’ve highlighted the trails we hiked, so as you can see, we barely scratched the surface, but we still very much enjoyed it! The entire 5 villages of Cinque Terre are contained within a national park, so all the trails are maintained (quite well, considering the conditions) by the park service and volunteers. They’re very well marked, and it’s fairly easy to find the trailhead in each town. As the website says, they really are all mountain-type trails, not to be ventured in flip-flops – though we did see that, and little pet dogs, too. But I would have to say they shouldn’t be ūüôā

 

 

Manarola to Corniglia (Trail #s 506, 586, 587 – approx. 4 mi – hiked Oct 19): The coastal trail between Manarola and Corniglia (the blue line) is currently closed due to landslides, so this is the next nearest route. It’s actually quite a nice hike, which took us about 3 hours including a lunch stop. It starts near the switchback in Manarola (about 100 ft from our apartment), and quickly climbs stone stairs through terraced vineyards. These aren’t vineyards like we’ve seen in the US and other countries, but rather are very small, individually tended grape arbors, whose grapes (as I understand it) are generally sold to a local co-operative at a very subsidized rate. The idea of the subsidy is that tending and harvesting grapes grown this way can only be done with an enormous amount of manual labor, but the government wants to keep these vineyards maintained¬†as¬†the¬†miles upon miles of dry-laid¬†stone terraces are¬†one of the main draws for tourism to Cinque Terre. Unfortunately, I can’t find now where I was reading about that… At a higher altitude than the vineyards are the groves of olive trees, particularly around Volastra, whose name is derived from “Village of olives”. We stopped at Gli Ulivi for cold beer and focaccia, yum! From there we got on trail 586, which ran along the hillside with beautiful sea views, sometimes¬†pretty close to the edge. There was a very cool (literally) part which went up a river valley into a wooded area which was quite different than the exposed vineyards. Then we switched to trail 587 at a T, and headed down the hill to Corniglia.

Riomaggiore to Manarola¬†(Trail #531 – approx.¬†1 mi in about 1 hour – hiked Oct 20): The coastal trail here¬†(the famed Via dell’Amore) between Riomaggiore and Manarola¬†(the blue line) is also currently closed due to landslides, so this is the next nearest route. Apparently there have been proposals and funding to reconstruct the via dell’Amore over the past few years, but they’ve only gotten as far as what appears to be preventive maintenance on the first 200 yards from the Manarola end, so who knows if it’ll ever re-open. Meanwhile, you can hike, if you dare, the half mile straight up and half mile straight down. Seriously… this is not a trail for the faint of heart, either figuratively or physically. But there were a lot of people hiking it the day we were there, which meant a good bit of allowing people to go by, as the trail is pretty narrow in a lot of places. Up up up through vineyards, then down down down into Manarola. There are a few nods to safety in the form of handrails now and then, but also often not. But still, it was a great hike, worth the effort for the breathtaking views and the ability to say “I did that”…

Manarola loop¬†(Trail #s 506, 502, 585, 506 again¬†– approx.¬†5 mi in about¬†3 hours – hiked Oct 22): This hike took us up into the mountain above Manarola, which gave us some really different terrain and views.¬†We started¬†by picking up trail¬†506 eastward¬†about where the pedestrian-only part of the main street ends at the top of Manarola.¬†The trail ran along the road a while, through people’s gardens almost, but then took off¬†up the hill on trail 502. And up the hill, and up some more. Not as steep as some of the other trails, but really quite steadily up, until we were at a higher elevation than we’d been so far.¬†After crossing a¬†road, the path entered a¬†forest¬†of pine¬†and chestnut trees.¬†Ripe chestnuts littered the path, and Al gathered a pocketful for roasting later. We saw a number of game trails, which we guessed to be maybe wild boars, so we¬†kept a¬†wary eye open. We also heard a good bit of shooting around the intersection with trail 585,¬†so we¬†tried hard not to come¬†upon a hunter by surprise.¬†We didn’t see any other hikers on this whole trail, until we got near Volastra.¬†We turned left at the T with trail 506, and started down the hill toward Volastra, where we again stopped at Gli Ulivi for beers (and a caprese platter this time). If I owned a restaurant called Gli Ulivi in the middle of a bunch of olive groves, I think I would have a few olive-based dishes on the menu – just saying ūüėȬ† Then we took what seemed by then to be an easy descent down into Manarola, the same trail we’d come up a few days before.

Vernazza to¬†Corniglia¬†(Trail #592 – approx.¬†1.75 mi¬†round trip¬†– hiked Oct 24): We only did a portion of this trail before turning around, as¬†it was already afternoon when we started (after settling into new digs in Vernazza), and also we got a little impatient with the crowds. Not sure if it’s just such a more popular trail, or if it was because it’s the weekend. This trail begins just up the hill from the train station, to the right. We got some decent views of Vernazza, but otherwise not terribly exciting. But it’s likely that there are some great views and interesting stretches of trail that we missed out on ūüôā This was the first trail we were on which required¬†all hikers to have¬†a Cinque Terre card (pass), and there¬†was a little pass control hut at the beginning where they were checking. We¬†knew of this, though, so we had purchased a 2-day pass (‚ā¨14.50 each) at the Vernazza train station’s park office.

Vernazza to¬†Monterosso al Mare¬†(Trail #592 – approx.¬†2.5 mi¬†in about 2 hours¬†– hiked Oct 25): Here’s where you get the best view of Vernazza, from the hillside just outside of town. This trail begins by entering one of the back stair/alley streets in the northwestern corner of the main piazza, and takes you up the hillside pretty quickly, but without the steep stairs of some of the other trails. There’s a pass control hut on either end of this trail. There are lots of pretty stretches and great views back toward the Cinque Terre towns. This trail was also quite crowded, full of people speaking Italian, English, French, German, and Chinese – so there were a lot of pauses to let others pass, as there are a lot of narrow spots. After the high point of the trail, it went up a couple of cool stream valleys before truly turning downhill. Coming down into Monterosso, the stairs became quite substantial, but then turned back into a narrow stony path, sort of odd.

 

Vacanza

Vacanza

I think what I’ll do is give here a general outline of our week’s vacation in Manarola, and then fill in with other posts about different aspects of our time here in the Cinque Terre…

Upon arriving in a grey drizzly Manarola around 4pm on Sunday via the regional train, which was full of tourists and trekkers, we made our way up the steep main street to our apartment, Casa Capellini. We knew from a map our hosts had emailed to us, that the apartment was somewhere above the switchback, near the church. But we hadn’t yet realized that a via (street) in Cinque Terre villages can be anything from a roadway navigable by small Italian delivery vans, to a narrow set of stairs between 4-story houses, so it took a bit of searching to¬†find that we needed to turn down an alley from the church piazza to find the correct door.

Outside our apartment

Outside our apartment

We rang the bell, and were greeted by a “Ciao” from our hostess Franca up on a balcony above our heads. After introductions, she came down and let us in, and led us up the 36 narrow marble steps to our fourth floor apartment, where we were able to communicate with each other in Ital-English about keys, WiFi, and whatnot.

Beautiful even when rainy!

Beautiful even when rainy!

We decided this view from our balcony was well worth all the climbing…

After settling in a bit, we trekked back down the hill for a nice dinner at Il Porticciolo¬†(we’ll do another post about eating and drinking here), and then stopped for some breakfast groceries on the way back up the hill. There was a lot of going up and down the hill all week…

Monday promised to be a beautiful day, weather-wise, so we set out on our first hike on one of the many sentieri (paths) in the 5terre (as it’s often referred to on signs etc).

Typical section of a sentiero

Typical section of a sentiero

This had been one of the main reasons we chose to come here: the paths between the villages, through terraced vineyards and olive groves, and along seaside cliffs. We also posted about all the hikes we took.

Today’s hike was from Manarola to Corniglia, which took about 3 hours with stops. The coastal trail has been closed for a few years due to a landslide, so we had to take the hillier route through Volastra, where luckily there was a cold beer with our name on it. We wandered around Corniglia a bit, which is a very small and stony village – again, there’ll be more on the individual villages in a later post – and then took the short train ride back to Manarola. After an afternoon riposo in the sunshine on our balcony (which became a daily habit), we had dinner down by the waterfront at Marina Piccola.

On Tuesday, we went the other direction and took the train to Riomaggiore, which takes all of about ¬†60 seconds after waiting for half an hour ūüôā

View at and from A Pie' de Ma'

View at and from A Pie’ de Ma’

We had coffees and pastries on the main street, and then after finally finding a Bancomat (ATM) that would work with our card, we did a bit of exploring, and found a wonderful lunch spot (A Pie’ de Ma’) right near the entrance to the now-closed Via dell’Amore (another landslide victim).

Don't look down!

Don’t look down!

After lunch, we hiked back to Manarola via the fairly heart-stopping trail over the hill, which really did take about an hour as the sign said, though it felt longer. After a post-hike rest, we had a delicious sunset dinner at Trattoria dal Billy, in one of the back alleyways of Manarola.

Wednesday was Al’s birthday, another reason for this particular week and location for our vacation. We spent the day just exploring Manarola more thoroughly, including the harbor and another cliff-side restaurant, before having a home-cooked (by Sandy) birthday pasta dinner on our balcony.

 

On Thursday, we decided to hike up into the mountains on a 6-mile loop, which took us into a completely different microclimate, with pine and chestnut forests.  Apparently it was hunting season for something as we saw and heard some cacciatori (hunters) blasting away around us.

Volastra and Groppo

Volastra and Groppo

Somehow we ended up back in Volastra for beers again before heading back down the hill into Manarola – funny how that happens…¬† Dinner was fried seafood from a take-away stand in the middle of Manarola, and gelato for dessert.

We watched the ferry coming in, and wondered how the pilot would land it in the crashing waves, and then it pulled back away and went on to the next town instead

We watched the ferry coming in, and wondered how the pilot would land it in the crashing waves, and then it pulled back away and went on to the next town instead

Friday we decided to go back to Riomaggiore (by train both ways this time), and explored a bit more, including the harbor and waterfront area, which we hadn’t even spotted our first time there. The seas were pretty rough, so while it was cool for us to watch the waves crashing against the rocks, it wasn’t so cool for the people who’d bought ferry tickets, since the ferry was unable to stop in Riomaggiore at all that day. We had lunch again at A Pie’ de Ma’, which was much more crowded this time (apparently a lot of tourists coming in for the weekend).

Friday evening was our last night in Manarola before leaving for an apartment in Vernazza on Saturday. From Nessun Dorma we watched a gorgeous sunset over il mare and then a beautiful moonrise over Manarola… Arrivederci!

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