Back in 2009 when I was exploring Europe by train, I stopped for a few days along the jaw-dropping Cinque Terre, a rugged portion of coast on the Italian Riviera. The coastline is famous for it’s five villages: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore, and the surrounding hillsides are all part of the Cinque Terre National Park and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
I had spend 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 linking the five villages was equally beautiful and had some Italian flavor.
I decided to stay in Riomaggiore, and found a great 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 trail heads out of Riomaggiore past some restaurants and cafes, and eventually enters some tunnels.
As soon as you hit dirt, the trail winds up and down along the rugged coast hills. None of the climbs as very big, and the trail itself is very leisurely and well worn.
By now the sun was Mediterranean sun was beating down and there was little shade providing along the trail–mostly shrubs and small cactus along the trail.
I stopped for a coffee and snack in Vernazza. Then hit the trail again to finish in Monterosso al Mare to catch the train back to Riomaggiore. The whole trip took a 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 views for most the way, and it is really fun to enter into a new village, check it out for a bit, then continue on the trail to the next one!