Up bright and early I’ve lost my three walking mates as the previous day’s excursion from Colle del Telegrafo near Riomaggiore to Portovenere has exhausted them! Twelve kilometres of rugged terrain to a height of 500 metres was even strenuous for me.
They decided to have a rest day and have the caught the train to Monterosso, the last of the Cinque Terre villages. I will walk the coastal walk approximately 12 km and meet them there.
The coastal walk takes you through all five villages, but it’s almost too long to do in one go.
The decision to only walk part of the coastal walk was made easy for me. Rocks had recently fallen on the trail, closing part of it so I could only walk from Corniglia to Monterosso passing through the village of Vernazza – it’s still a good three and a half hour walk.
I caught the train from Riomaggiore to Corniglia. It’s the only one of the five villages not at sea level so before starting the walk there were 400 steps to climb from the train station to the village.
Once at the top of the village the streets are narrow and a church is at the centre of the community. It’s more touristy than Riomaggoiore but it’s still a real village with families living in the multi-storied coloured houses.
The walk from Vernazza to Monterosso was even more challenging than Corniglia to Vernazza with narrow walkways and plenty of steps.
Walking is the best way to enjoy and appreciate this unique landscape. Over hundreds of years locals in the region have shaped the natural environment, terracing the steep slopes to produce land for farming. The plots of land called ‘cian’ are contained by 7000 kilometres stone walls, the equivalent length of the Great Wall of China.
Until last century the trails between the two villages was the only connection and part of a network that allowed the harvested produce whether it be olives, wine, vegetables or other fruits to be taken off the slopes.
Arriving into Monterosso the village is quite different from the others. It has two bays connected by a tunnel, both with great swimming beaches. The northern most town is more modern than the old town with hotels as opposed to the more rustic B&B in the other villages.
The sea was beckoning me after a long walk in the heat of the day and my legs were aching. I found my friends on loungers, relaxed at the seaside with beer in hand!
Things you need to know
The trains go regularly along the coast between the five villages – great for just getting from one village to the next or to get home after a walk.
Many of the hilltop walks start well above the villages so the only way to get to these starting points are on the small local buses. The buses are mini vans (as they need to be small enough to get into the villages) but the bus stops and timetables are not always obvious so ask a local or the tourism office.
It cost to walk the coastal walk
For the coastal walks between the five villages you need a Cinque Terre pass. These can be purchased for one or multiple days from the tourism offices.