After a lot of questions, concerns, and research aka blood, sweat, and tears online, we decided to stay in Manarola during our Cinque Terre trip. Literally meaning “five lands,” Cinque Terre is comprised of five towns: Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore.
The town we stayed in is only important because of its hiking accessibility – or, inaccessibility. In 2011 Cinque Terre experienced a terrible flood and the area still hasn’t fully recovered. The towns have been rebuilt and many of the trails as well, but the two main trails leading out of Manarola – to Corniglia in the north and Riomaggiore in the south – have yet to be finished.
This was a concern of ours, but also a draw. We hoped it might mean that Manarola would be quieter, a little less touristed and we were right: It ended up being our favorite town.
And just because the main trails are closed, it doesn’t mean you can’t hike out of Manarola at all. There are still inland trails you can take up to Volastra and then to Corniglia. The key word in that sentence being “up.”
The two main trails leading out of Manarola used to be the easiest hikes in Cinque Terre, everything that’s left is a little more intense. I say that at the beginning of this post because I did a lot of hiking in Switzerland this summer – and most of it in my sandals – but these trails aren’t as well maintained. And while I successfully completed all our hikes in Cinque Terre, I definitely should have traded my sandals in for my converse.
Our hike began with a train ride from Manarola to Corniglia. We wanted to do the two traditional trails that are currently open – the one between Corniglia and Vernazza, follwed by Vernazza to Monterosso.
Trains are easy in Cinque Terre in the sense that you can combine your National Park pass with a train pass. For 29 euros a person, we had access to all the paths, trains, buses, and bathrooms between Levanto and La Spezia – for two days.
The first thing you do upon arriving in Corniglia is make your way to the stairs that lead you up into the town. It wasn’t until our second day that we realized that just outside the train station is a bus that takes you to and from the town as well! But since this was the beginning of our hike, I’m glad I didn’t know about the bus.
The first thing we noticed on the staircase was how lovely everything looked below – plus we could see Manarola in the distance!
We arrived at the top – already sweaty, thanks to the heat! And quickly found the markers that we would be following for the rest of the day:
Instead of signs, the paths in Cinque Terre are marked with intermittent paint along the way. After a few false starts, we were out of Corniglia and on our way to Vernazza.
Parts of the trails reminded us of Switzerland. Especially walking through the terraced vineyards (Cinque Terre has their own DOC wine) and the provincial lifestyle we encountered.
Obviously, Cinque Terre is famous for the towns’ colored façades. But we had no idea how luxuriously rich and varied the landscape would be. It felt like a verifiable jungle at times.