The Beginner’s Guide to Cinque Terre

With an estimated hike time of 5 hours and 11 kilometers to cover, Cinque Terre sounds more like a workout than a vacation destination. This piece of the Italian Riviera is the most popular and well known in the country. Travelers suffer through the expensive hostels, restaurants and workouts for views unlike any other. To avoid high prices and wearing yourself thin while on vacation, the beginner to the Cinque Terre should follow this guide.

Why is The Area Called The Cinque Terre?

For those unfamiliar with the Italian language, Cinque Terre means the “five lands” in Italian. The area gets its name for five towns carved dramatically along the coast of the Italian Riviera. The fabulous five include Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore.

Go In the Off-Season

There is nothing worse than arriving to the Cinque Terre hike and having to wait in line. In late spring and summer, this area truly fills up with travelers. Going in the off-season is a completely different experience. You will be forced to pay double for hotels and food in some cases. The hike can also be far too crowded to actually enjoy it throughout the crowded summer months.

Book Accommodation Early

Despite the time of year, the Cinque Terre is not a last minute destination you can just book on the fly. Hotels and hostels fill up quickly. It is important to book well in advance to avoid paying too much for sub-par accommodations. If you fail to book early, you might consider staying in towns outside of the classic five along this stretch of coastline such as La Spezia.

Know The Hike Before Setting Out

If you aren’t a very avid hiker, the Cinque Terre hike could seem a bit more than you bargained for on vacation. However if you know the trails and what you are getting into beforehand, you don’t have to take on too much. The trails between each of the five towns vary in intensity. For example, the easiest walk stretches from Manarola to Riomaggiore. The paved path is called the Via dell’Amore for many a couple have traversed this scenic stretch, hand in hand. Much more challenging are the narrow trails in some parts of the Cinque Terre. The hardest hike comes from Monterosso to Vernazza. With steep ascents and descents, you must keep your wits and stamina about you to avoid a misstep.

Non-hiking Alternatives

As any guidebook will tell, the focus of the Cinque Terre is obviously hiking. While the attraction does come through being able to walk from town to town, there are other substitutes to enjoy about this area. Rather than walking, you can also take the train to each town. Each village has its own quiet little piazza where dinners can’t help but seem like a dream. If you aren’t here for exercise, you should be in this location for the views. One of the best views comes at night above Riomaggiore. This view is also rewarding during the day. You just have to hike through town, up quiet the hill to see it all. Another view rivaling that of Riomaggiore comes at the lookout in Corniglia. Almost storybook in appearance, non-hikers can enjoy the views and hop on the train with no damage to the feet.

Be Careful What You Pack

As mentioned, most people are at the Cinque Terre to make the famous hike through the five towns. Packing for the Cinque Terre is a whole other ball of wax. You should have proper hiking and athletic shoes. Flip-flops will not do along some of the more intense stretches. Throw in sunscreen to avoid the classic tourist red lobster color and be sure to drink lots of water. If you are backpacking through the Cinque Terre staying in one town and then moving on to the next, you will want to pack light if you plan on forgoing the train ride for the trail.

 Written by: Suzy Guese

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