If you find yourself feeling ambitious for a fitness challenge in Italy, hike Cinque Terre along the beautiful coast. Somehow I always find myself talked into a grueling hike in Italy. I should have learned my lesson after the Path of Gods hike across the Amalfi Coast. But alas, I did not and I found myself hiking atop another mountain in Italy. Cinque Terre translates directly to “five lands” in english. The five “lands” or towns of Cinque Terre are Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. You can hike Cinque Terre from Riomaggiore to Monterosso or vice versa. There are differing opinions as to which direction is a more challenging hike. I think the terrain is difficult no matter which way you slice it.
We opted for a day trip to hike Cinque Terrre, taking the earliest train at 6:10am from Milan to Monterosso. It is about 2.5 hours, but at sunrise, a beautiful ride. There are plenty of signs pointing you towards the path to hike Cinque Terre when you get off the train in Monterosso al Mare. Side note: the “al mare” part is important in train speak. The entrance is not far from the train station, but follow the signs closely.
We reached the trailhead for the first leg of the hike and noticed quite a few people in hiking gear with walking sticks. I knew we were in for a good, unprepared time in our shorts and running shoes. We purchased our park pass (about 5 euros) and were off on our merry way. The hike essentially takes you up mountains and down into each town. While the hike is difficult, the views are stunning.
Vernazza is the popular, insta-grammable town you’ve most likely seen on social media. The narrow streets are crowded with tourists and hikers. We came across Vernazza early on in our hike and didn’t want to lose momentum or time, so we did a quick walk through and hopped back on the hiking trail.
We finally reached the town of Manarola and pulled up a seat at a seaside Italian restaurant to carb-o-load. Restaurant Marina Piccola sits right on the water and has great seafood and pizza. We savored our lunch before jumping in the cold Mediterranean to cool off. It was refreshing, given that we were covered in sweat from the rigorous terrain and the sun beating down on us. Piece of advice: don’t just bring sunscreen, apply it frequently. You will be very close to the sun on top of the mountains.
Unfortunately we couldn’t hike to Riomaggiore because it was closed due to landslides. There is a ferry boat that runs between each of the towns. We hopped on the ferry from Manarola to Monterosso for fear that we would miss our train back to Milan. It was very special to see, from the water, all that we hiked in a day. Standing on top of a mountain, there is a quiet peace. The view of the ocean and towns below are so surreal. The same feeling rushed over us as we made our way back home on the boat. The ride seemed to move in slow motion as we reflected on the days work.