CONTRIBUTED BY EMMA R
Before arriving in Europe I joined pinterest for a short, brief period. I mainly joined to look at all of the different wanderlust photos that people posted up and to be fair, most of those gorgeous places were already on my list. One place that wasn’t yet on the list that kept showing up was Cinque Terre. The beautiful colorful Italian homes perched precariously on the side of the cliffs were a must-see and it was promptly placed on the bucket list.
The Cinque Terre is a national park area that includes five towns along the coast of Italy. The towns from top to bottom are Monterosso al-Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. The area is easily accessible from Frankfurt and to save on time in order to fit the trip into an extended long weekend, we chose to fly. Ryan Air flies to Pisa with a flight time of a little over an hour and we traveled for around $60 each, return.
From Pisa airport we took the train to Pisa Centrale station, where we opted for a photo opportunity at the Leaning Tower of Pisa (much smaller than we imagined!), however you can head straight to the Cinque Terre without stopping. We took the bus from the airport straight to the area beside the Leaning Tower and tickets cost about €2 on board.
Trains to the Cinque Terre are bookable in advance online. There are direct trains to the town we stayed in, Monterosso. It is also possible to reach Monterosso by trains that first stop in La Spezia and then connect to trains that are local from La Spezia through the five towns. Tickets for the direct train cost around 19 euro booked a week beforehand – as with most things in Europe, the further in advance you book, the cheaper they are.
Our main reason for travelling to the Cinque Terre was to hike the trails. Straddled across the cliffs between the towns there are several trails. The trails that are looked after by the local conservation societies have a fee in the form of day passes. The paid-for trail is called the blue, number two trail and you will know you are on it as there is a hut with a man checking tickets as you begin the trail. We purchased our ticket directly from him and that cost around €10 each and apparently included access to toilets and wifi, however we never saw a toilet. Maps aren’t required for this trail, as it is well marked, but if you chose to hike the free trails then a map would be needed and can be purchased at many stores locally.
We hiked from Monterosso to Vernazza. The hike took us around two hours but we had several picture/water/admire the beauty stops. It was challenging at times and it was a little perilous in areas.
We did see some people baby wearing on the walk and there were a couple of families with older children. There are no barriers though, and at points there were sheer drops down the sides of cliffs. If in doubt, do some research into the trails and what to expect. The views were incredible and definitely worth the effort of the initial uphill ascent.
It is recommended to pack a small daypack. We chose to pack a bottle of water each, sunscreen, a snack each and a small towel. All came in handy! In early September the weather wasn’t too overly warm, however we went through all of our water by the end of the two hours, so I would recommend carrying more water if hiking in the peak of summer. There was only one man selling anything along the trail –a local who lived perched above it, selling fresh orange juice to those who forgot to pack essentials!
Once we had enjoyed the sights of Vernazza we were able to take the train back to Monterosso rather than hike back over. The train back was less than five minutes through a tunnel shortcut – this was definitely appreciated by all of the other hikers with wobbly legs! The train cost around €0,90 – definitely money well spent.
One thing to note is before travelling to the Cinque Terre region; do check to see which trails are open. In 2011 there was devastating flooding to the region that badly damaged the trails between villages. The next day we took the train to Riomaggiore with the intent of hiking to see the other two towns by foot but the trails have not yet reopened. It is still possible to hike between the towns on the free hiking paths.
The Cinque Terre area did not disappoint and I definitely want to go back again as not only are the views spectacular, but the food was incredible! I would highly recommend booking the area for any three or four day weekend.