Destination Guide: Exploring the Five Villages of Cinque Terre

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Back in 2008, while I was exploring Europe by train, I stopped for a few days along the jaw-dropping Cinque Terre, a rugged coastal portion on the Italian Riviera. The coastline is famous for its five villages: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. The surrounding hillsides are all part of the Cinque Terre National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Exploring the trails around Interlaken
Exploring the trails around Interlaken

I had spent the last week hiking and running in Interlaken, Switzerland and decided to head down to the Mediterranean coast to kick back for a few days. As I got closer to Cinque Terre there were many teasing views of the amazing coastline from the train. Exploring the trails high above Interlaken with panoramas filled with jungfrau and the Alps set the bar high, but the Cinque Terre coastline and the trails that linked the five villages was equally beautiful and had some Italian flavor.

The view of Riomaggiore from my room

I decided to stay in Riomaggiore, and found a friendly local renting out a room for 30 euros a night. The best part of the room, which was on the top floor, was the view overlooking the village and the Mediterranean. I dropped my backpack off in my room and spent the rest of the day exploring the small streets and pathways of the village and enjoyed some local pizza at a cafe. My plan the next morning was to run the trails linking the five villages and then return to my room in Riomaggiore.

The start of the trail from Riomaggiore

Hitting the trail out of Riomaggiore you walk past small restaurants and cafes, and eventually leads you to some tunnels.

Amazing views of the Mediterranean coastline from the trail

As soon as you hit dirt, the trail winds up and down along the rugged coast hills. None of the climbs are very big, and the trail itself is very leisurly and well worn.

Coming down the trail into picturesque Vernazza

At this point, the Mediterranean sun was beating down and there was not much shade along the trail–mostly shrubs and small cactus along the trail.

Time for a coffee break in Vernazza before heading off to the last village

I stopped for a coffee and snack in the Vernazza before making my way down the trail again to finish in Monterosso al Mare. In Monterosso al Mare, I planned  to catch the train back to Riomaggiore. The whole trip took around three hours and included running and hiking. At a leisurely pace it should take about five hours depending on what stops you make along the way. The trail is super enjoyable and provides breathtaking views for most the way. Making it to the next village feels like an accomplishment and is really fun to enter into a new village, check it out for a bit, then continue on the trail to the next one!

About The Author

Rand Shoaf

Rand Shoaf

Introduced to traveling at a young age, Rand has since traveled to over 45 countries. Learning how to maximize credit card sign-up bonuses in college has allowed him to earn millions of travel miles and points. Using the same tips and tricks he writes about here has ultimately allowed him to explore the word for pennies on the dollar.

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