This post is written by Katie, about her travel in Europe after IROS 2015.
Today was a beautiful, sunny day. I took the opportunity to hike from Corniglia to Monterosso on the only section of the blue ‘coastal’ trail that is actually open.
I bought a train+hike Cinque Terre ticket for the day for €12, mainly to give more money to the park. The just hiking pass for €7.50 – which the worker at the park office the previous night had claimed did not exist – is a much better deal unless you plan on hiking and riding a lot of trains in one day.
The trails were not that difficult, and they were indeed scenic and crowded. I can only imagine how miserably crowded they must be in the summer high season. Since I was a bit tired from the previous day’s hike, I took my time and really enjoyed the sights. Some people were rushing through the trails, while other people really seemed to be struggling. I’m not sure how some of the children, people wearing flip flops, or women wearing dresses and carrying purses completed the hike (maybe they turned around).
I explored Vernazza in the middle of my hike. If I had to assign it a label, I would call it the capital of Cinque Terre. It was very inundated with tourists and tourist groups today, which certainly decreased any charm it might normally have. I did the Rick Steve’s walking tour, ate some fish and chips on the breakwater, explored a church, and generally wandered. I saw people swimming in the clear water today and regretted not bringing a swim suit (because I thought it would be too cold to swim). Once I was done wandering, I used the public WC at the train station (a single squat stall as the only public bathroom in the entire town), refilled my water at a tap on the main tourist street, and then began the hike to Monterosso.
The hike to Monterosso was said by Rick Steves to be the most difficult of the four coastal trails connecting the five cities of the Cinque Terre. I did not find it any more difficult than the Corniglia to Vernazza trail. It featured some nice view points, but was super crowded and many parts of it were single track which made hiking with crowds in both directions rather difficult. I ran across a tour group of about 20 French people – the national park should put a limit on hiking tour group size (similar to the limits US national parks put on group sizes) but they I guess they’d have to have rangers to enforce the rules.
The hike ended in Monterosso near the old beach, where even more people were swimming and sunning. This town seemed to be filled with resorts and their tourists. I did not get a pleasant vibe in this town, so I left after walking through the old town and along the beach.
I took the train to Manarola, hoping I would have more time to explore the town. But by the time the train arrived (10 minutes late), I had little time to explore before I remembered that I needed to leave time to buy my train ticket for tomorrow before catching the train back to Corniglia to watch the sunset. I had debated whether to watch the sunset in Manarola or Corniglia, but opted for Corniglia in the end since it would leave me near my hostel without having to wait for one of the 1-per-hour trains.
Once in Corniglia, I took the bus up to the town since it was included in the Cinque Terre hiking + train card. Otherwise it is €2.50, and without luggage the 5 minute shuttle ride was not normally worth it to skip the 377 stairs up to the city. Once in the city I stopped at a bar, bought a spinach and cheese sandwich, chips and white wine made in Levento, and carried it out to the panoramic view point. Many people were already at the viewpoint, but I found a place on the wall to sit and enjoy my meal as the sun set. It was a very nice sunset!
After sunset, I retreated to Ostello Corniglia and worked on my computer in the common area.
Overall, I would recommend the coastal trail (whatever parts, if any, that are open). However, know that it will be crowded and give yourself one, if not two, additional days to explore less-travelled trails. Another girl in my dorm did the Monterosso to Levento trail, and said it was rough but great due to both its scenery and lack of other hikers. She said after the rain there were some river crossing that could be rough without proper footwear.
Out of the towns, I’m so happy I decided to stay in Corniglia. It was quieter and less-touristy than the other towns. Manarola or Riomaggiore would have been my second and third choices, but both seemed to have a lot more tourists but also more services and beaches.