The Cinque Terre Trail minus Monterosso

Two glorious Spring days in Cinque Terre, but we only spent a couple of hours in Monterosso and that was mainly at the station as we waited for the next train to Vernazza. The station was noisy, bells ringing so loud that we couldn’t hear the announcements and the large crowds waiting for trains didn’t help. Eventually our train arrived and we squeezed ourselves and our luggage into the carriage, standing room only was not a problem for us, it wasn’t long before we were getting off the train at Vernazza.

We spend our first afternoon wandering around Vernazza, taking a break to sit every now and then to watch the boats come in or just to enjoy the view. The next day will be a big day for us, we plan to buy a Cinque Terre card tomorrow and explore some of the other villages that make up the Cinque Terre: Riomaggiore, Manarola and Corniglia. The Cinque Terre Card is not expensive (10 euros), it is one ticket that includes train travel and entry to the Cinque Terre trail which is National Park.

Chapel of Santa Marta, Vernazza
Chapel of Santa Marta, Vernazza

We started our day by catching a train to Riomaggiore, along with many others, the platform was packed with people and all of them seemed to have the same idea as us. The weather was perfect, blue skies and balmy temperatures, great for enjoying a day outdoors. In our bags were bottles of water, fresh bread, pesto, cheese and salami, a picnic lunch the choice of budget travellers everywhere and with such delicious ingredients available why would you choose anything else.

Blue skies and blue water of Riomaggiore
Blue skies and blue water of Riomaggiore

Riomaggiore sits on a cliff beside the sea, the houses look like they could tumble into the water at any moment, the water is deep blue green and Marty is itching to go for a swim. Access to town is via a tunnel from the station, the views of houses, gardens and playgrounds are delightful and I take many photos. While Marty takes the chance to sit and watch passersby, I head down into the town via narrow streets and tiny stairs until I find a spot to take photos of the marina and a couple of playful seagulls. It would be nice to spend the whole day exploring the town, but the Via dell’Amore calls and we make our way back towards the station.

Colourful houses of Riomaggiore
Colourful houses of Riomaggiore
From Riomaggiore to the sea
From Riomaggiore to the sea
Riomaggiore's marina
Riomaggiore's marina
Via dell'Amore, connecting Riomaggiore with Manarola
Via dell'Amore, connecting Riomaggiore with Manarola

We run into two Queenslanders, Kristy and Elias as we start the Via dell’Amore walk, we had met them on the train from Milan to Monterosso and being such a friendly couple we joined them for the walk. Via dell’Amore is the shortest and easiest walk on the entire trail, it is also the only time we walk between two villages of the Cinque Terre, opting to use the trains for the rest of the day. Along the way we stop to listen to a busker and take in the spectacular views of the coast line, messages of love are carved into the different surfaces and padlocks are attached to fences.

Lovers seat, Via dell'Amore
Lovers seat, Via dell'Amore
Manarola Station
Great view from Manarola Station
Padlock of love, Manarola
Padlock of love, Manarola

We say goodbye to Kristy and Elias, they are planning to walk to Corniglia however we want to see more of Manarola and find a shady spot to eat our lunch. The streets are filled with people and we follow the scent of fried fish down to the water front, the water is a deep blue green and looks extremely inviting. Marty finds his way down to where the boats come in, the breeze is refreshing after walking in the sun. One of the more amusing sights we see is a woman carrying a rather large labrador pup, he must have tired of walking and given his owner the look that no dog owner can resist. We find a shady spot under the balcony of a restaurant, it is closed and yet there are tables and chairs for people to sit on, a lucky find.

Streets of Manarola
Streets of Manarola
Manarola's Harbour
Manarola's Harbour
Shopfront in Manarola
Shopfront in Manarola

The train to Corniglia is packed, lots of smelly sweaty bodies crammed into each carriage, we meet a Kiwi couple who tell us that the path between Manarola and Corniglia is closed hence the heavy use of the train. There are a couple of options for getting from Corniglia station to the town, walk up the 365 stairs or catch a connecting bus, we choose the less energetic option. Corniglia is the only town not on the edge of the sea, it is up in the hills and surrounded by vineyards. It is a small town, with narrow winding streets and a lookout that provides you with a view of the vineyards on one side and Manarola and the sea on the other side. The gelati here is sublime, it is difficult for me to choose a flavour, Marty always goes for the hazelnut or coffee flavours. To get back to the station we take the stairs, it is a pleasant walk, cloud cover has taken the heat out of the day and the stairs are shaded in various places.

Corniglia street
Corniglia street
Vineyards on the hills around Corniglia
Vineyards on the hills around Corniglia
The many steps leading to Corniglia
The many steps leading to Corniglia

Once back in Vernazza Marty decides to walk around town and maybe go for a swim, I take a walk along the trail behind Vernazza, as though I was heading towards Monterosso. The sun has not yet set and many people are walking along the trail, heading towards a point on the track where you can stop and look back towards Vernazza and it’s beautiful harbour. The track runs alongside vineyards and vegetable gardens, bright red poppies contrast with the lush green of the grassy hills, some parts of the track are paved both most of it is gravel and rock. The view of Vernazza really is special, the setting sun provides a warmth and a glow that soaks the village in wonderful colour. I stand there wishing we never had to leave. Back in town Marty has been shopping, he has bought Mortadella, cheese, pesto and panini for our train trip to Florence the next day, however he is still yet to go for a swim, perhaps he will when we reach Sorrento.

Vernazza's harbour as the sun sets
Vernazza's harbour as the sun sets
Strolling down Via Roma, Vernazza
Strolling down Via Roma, Vernazza