Sunday, July 27, 2008

Cinqueterre (5)

The 5 towns along the northwest coast of Italy begins with the northern most town of Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. Together they are known as Cinqueterre (Five Towns). Each of the towns are within a few minutes ride by train, but they are also linked by foot paths between each town. The foot paths were once the original connection between the towns. It has now been recognized as a National Park and is protected under the UNESCO heritage site list.

I took the pleasure of taking the train up to Monterosso and started my 10km hike to the southern town of Riomaggiore. My total journey hike with stops between the towns of Vernazza, Corniglia and Manarola was 6 hours. (The stops at Monterosso and Riomaggiore are not included in the total journey) Each town has its own characteristic and are very different from each other. Monterosso seems to be the largest town (probably because of the sandy beach) and Corniglia is probably the smallest (also possibly because the beach is difficult to reach as you have to hike down). However, my favorite town between the five is probably Corniglia. It may not have the best looking architecture, but it is charming in its own little way. It is also the only town that sits on top of a hill rather than perching on a cliff like the other towns. The path from Vernazza - Corniglia path is also one of the most scenic, but it is also one of the hardest trail to tackle as the path are rocky and dangerous during wet weather.

Interestingly enough, I was lucky to experience some Mediterranean rain shower while walking along the path from Vernazza to Corniglia. The Vernazza - Corniglia path is also the longest followed by the Monterosso - Vernazza route (only about a few kilometers shorter but it takes the longest because of its high altitude hike). The shortest path is between the town of Manarola and Riomaggiore, better known as the Via dell' Amore (path of love).

The five towns are not difficult to reach (about an hour train ride from Pisa Centrale) and I highly recommend a visit as well as taking a hike between the five towns. It is also advisable to bring comfortable shoes and be cautious when hiking as some path are really narrow. It has been quite a rewarding day being able to enjoy and experience a natural and man-made wonder.

(Picture above is the town of Manarola)

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