Cinque Terre (five lands) was my final stop in Italy before moving on to Lugano in Switzerland. Cinque Terre is both a national park and a UNESCO world heritage site along the rugged Ligurian coast that is probably the most known for the terraces covering the steep hills that drop into the water, five lands referring to the five villages of Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore that are spread along the cost of the park. There does appear to be another village inland but still within the park but it doesn’t seem to be considered one of “the” Cinque Terre towns.
Coming into nearby La Spezia my train from Rome was late and so I missed my connecting train to Corniglia where I was going to stay in a hostel. I wasn’t able to get on a later train for over an hour, it was now after 11pm, and when I did I ended up missing the stop for Corniglia. Not knowing where I could stay now I just decided to stay on until Monterosso al Mare, the northern most CInque Terre village, because I knew it was the largest and most touristy so I hoped to see some place to stay. I arrived there close to midnight and everything was shut down for the night, giving up on trying to find a bed, I attempted to sleep on a bench in a shelter on the town’s train platform. It being a small town station, no trains stop there through the night, and the place was empty of people. It does have trains in transit going through it though, so every ten or fifteen minutes a train would come roaring through, blowing the door on the shelter open, which would then slam shut again. It would suffice to say, I didn’t sleep at all. Early in the morning, I left on the first train I could take to go to Corniglia and went to the hostel to secure a room for the night. I enjoyed being up and around in the early morning despite the rough night because the place was quite beautiful and tranquil before the all the day trippers came into the towns.
So on no sleep, I partook in one of the Cinque Terre’s most popular activities: walking the trails that connect the five villages. The walk started out with an short stint along a gentle paved trail connecting Riomaggore to Manarola. But the fun really started on the walk from Manarola to Corniglia. The main path that is lower down and closer to the sea was closed so I had to take a longer route that went up and around, through the famous terraces where the locals grow grapes and olives predominantly to produce the wines and oils the area is known for, as well as other fruits and vegetables for personal consumption. This portion of the hike was great, the views were amazing and there were few people out due to the early hour and the fact that I was on a secondary trail because the main one was closed. I stopped for lunch in Corniglia where I ate a freshly made pizza marinara in the town square. Despite being on a bench in a busy town square I was so tired I kept falling asleep and knocking my head against the concrete wall behind me every time I would nod off. Despite this, I continued on to Vernazza, but this leg of the hike was not as enjoyable because I returned to the main trail which by that hour was packed with people. I didn’t bother walking to Monterosso because I had seen it already and it didn’t have the quaint feel of the other towns. And I was really tired.
I returned to Corniglia by train, and just hung around the village for the rest of the evening. Mornings and evenings were definitely the most enjoyable times to be there as mid day there are a lot of day trippers that come in on boats, meaning the small streets of the towns and surrounding trails are packed with people. But in the evening most leave, making the village feel much more relaxed and letting one wind down and enjoy the surroundings. Overall, despite the rough first night Cinque Terre was an enjoyable stop and well worth it.