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One of the Best Hikes in the World
Cinque Terre, Italy hiking is simply as good as it gets as a means of exploring and enjoying Mediterranean scenery at its finest. This mythic coastline on the north east side of Italy is awe inspiring and meant to be seen on foot from a trail that gives you all the best vantage points. Plus, the many-fingered trail system there has different routes, some pathways relatively short and easy and some uphill jaunts that will prove to be more strenuous and lengthy. This accommodates persons of varied cardiovascular aptitudes and ambitions.
But the main attraction at any rate is all the little stops you make along the path to see the unique lay of the land and many centuries worth of careful cultivation and good stewardship that went into preserving its enduring charm. Wander some of the best hiking trails in Italy here, ancient paths carved in cliffs that Ulysses might have walked himself had Homer wanted him to.
The trails weave up high along the lushly canopied hillsides for 18 kilometers above the five quaint little towns of Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso. Three main walking trails should be considered once you get there by train which is the best way to not only get to this remote and rocky coastline but to shuttle you back and forth between villages as well for great access to what some consider to be among the best hikes in the world.
The Coast Route (a.k.a.; the blue path or “sentiero azzurro”) is the most popular; beginning in Monterosso thru the three aforementioned villages and ending in Riomaggiore. A straight hike would take between four and six hours but you'll most assuredly rather spend the better part of a day on all the diversions; medieval villages, the hills terraced by the villager’s ancestors, and the breath-taking views once you've climbed to several promontories.
The Sanctuary Route connects the tranquil sanctuaries that each village has above it, higher up the hills that surround them. You have options of ascending and descending into each village. The name is not solely restricted to matters of the Spirit as an abundance of trees will make for a shadier stroll on the hotter days. For the rugged hikers wanting more of a challenge the somewhat dully named High Route is for you. This trail cuts a swath through this particular region and extends beyond it as well. There are also offshoots and excursions abounding. Of course, you’re going to want a trail map no matter what route you decide on and these can be bought at a tourist office or shop.
Olive trees flourish throughout this area as well as small vineyards and lemon trees (hence the world famous Monterosso lemons) so if you plan a trip in September around harvest time you’ll witness some ancient traditions in action rather than what you might find at a hokey, recreated tourist trap.
Make it Happen
To build the anticipation and reap the most satisfaction you can for body, mind, and spirit from any hiking excursion please read A Roundup of the Best Reasons for Hiking. It will give you the motivation you need to sustain hiking as a regular activity and make a trip to the Cinque Terre even more of an enjoyable crowning achievement.
May, June, and September are the best months to go and although the towns will always have a crowd or two, there is a good chance that you’ll have plenty of space, especially on the weekdays. The attractions (well placed breaks) along the way will have gatherings but other people always seem a lot more interesting when you’re on vacation and hikers are all kindred spirits anyway, particularly once the walking releases the endorphins which drop human inhibitions almost as well as alcohol (remember you’re surrounded by vineyards here too). This was by far my favorite region in Italy not just for the views but the refreshingly friendly people and food that is worthy of the gods.