Tired of a Dreary Winter? Let Italy's Cinque Terre Brighten Your Day — In Pictures
The colors! The coastline! The calamari!
Since many of us in the Northern Hemisphere are currently shivering through a cold, dreary winter, I thought it might be nice to take you on a virtual walk through the colorful Cinque Terre — that string of five charming villages along the north Italian coast.
Brent and I spent a month there last fall and, thankfully, I took a few thousand photos that will help guide us along the way.
We stayed in the town of Levanto and found it the perfect home-base for this area — something we wrote about in our Cinque Terre tips.
Levanto is located just to the north of Cinque Terre National Park. It’s not quite as photogenic as the villages in the park, but I found plenty to admire.
And Levanto is also the start of a series of famous trails that connect all of the Cinque Terre. This first part is a fantastic hike, with great views of the Ligurian Sea and Monteresso al Mare, the first of the five villages.
Monterosso al Mare
Monterosso — “al Mare” means “by the sea” — is the largest village in the Cinque Terre. But I think it’s the least charming. I suspect it’s so popular because it has the most amenities.
The relative lack of charm may have to do with geography. The other villages are tucked up into sheer valleys or built high up on dramatic bluffs.
But Monterosso does have the Cinque Terre’s best beaches. It’s also known for Convent of the Capuchin Friars, nicely situated on a massive seaside rock in the middle of town. As you can see from the picture below, the friars had a pretty decent view.
Monterosso is also home to Il Gigante, a partially ruined sculpture of Neptune, just above one of the beaches.
Built in 1910, this 14-meter tall concrete colossus was damaged in World War II by Allied bombs, then clobbered by storms in 1966. Today, it stands a lonely watch over the blue sea forever lapping at its feet.
As you head south from Monterosso, you’ll soon reach Vernazza. You can go by boat or train — or even by car, though very few do. But for the purposes of this article, we’re still hiking, on what is now called the Blue Trail — the name of the trail between the five villages.
(Don’t expect all four of the “official” legs of the trail to be open. Farther down the coast, the famous Via dell'Amore, or the Path of Love, has been closed since 2012 due to a mudslide, and repairs are going very slowly. This is Italy, after all. But walking between the villages is very popular, so there will always be some kind of hiking work-around.)
Brent and I were on the Blue Trail from Monterosso, and I still recall how amazed I was when I got my first look at Vernazza’s stunning harbor.
I also loved the famous colored buildings of the Cinque Terre standing watch over the little harbor.
I returned to Vernazza again and again, but my favorite time was at sunrise. I always had the whole town to myself!
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Setting off on the trail for Corniglia, you’re now deep in Cinque Terre National Park, and the incredible views just keep coming.
They’ve been growing and harvesting grapes and olives in these hills for centuries. The work is still hard, but it got a bit easier in the 20th century when farmers installed these simple tracks that hauled the harvest up and down the steep, terraced hillsides.
On the rocky trail, Corniglia soon appears appears in the distance. It’s very unlike the other villages in the Cinque Terre, as it’s located on a promontory above the sea — a 100 meters, to be exact.
This location makes Corniglia the only village of the Cinque Terre not reachable by ferry. The train does stop here, but the station is located down along the water, so you’ll have to walk the 382 steps up the famous Scalinata Lardarina — the Lardarina Staircase.
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