If push came to shove, I’d say that the highlight of my trip to the Cinque Terre was the full day that we spent hiking from Manarola to Vernazza, via Volastra and Corniglia. The Cinque Terre is one of those places that looks spellbindingly beautiful whatever the weather, but when the sea glitters and the colourful façades glow in the sunshine, it’s truly other-worldly. Without further ado, let’s pick up where we left off: tracking down the starting point of the trail to Vernazza.
Many of the trails were already closed for the season, and the leg from Corniglia to Vernazza was no exception. Once again, we were told that we could take the higher route at our own risk; once again, we noticed others slipping under the tape and heading off down the trail. Hikers from Vernazza said that the trail was just a little muddy, and as the ranger in the hut by the trailhead wasn’t the slightest bit interested in the fact people were continuing to use the trail, we decided to go ahead. I rather suspect that officials ‘close’ the trails to deter those who aren’t suitably prepared; the coastal trails that were closed due to landslides were properly blocked off.
This leg of the trail was sheltered by trees, so there wasn’t much in the way of panoramic views save for a final glimpse of Corniglia atop a rocky outcrop. Plenty of other enthusiastic hikers, of all different nationalities, were on the trail soaking up the sunshine and enjoying the fresh air. An hour or so later, we rounded the final bend and caught sight of Vernazza, a jumble of towers and colourful abodes skirting a small harbour and stacked on a rocky peninsula that jutted out into the Ligurian Sea.
After making the descent into Vernazza, we promptly scouted out the path we had come in on the previous day and tootled off up the hill for another panoramic view of Vernazza. It wasn’t hard to see why Vernazza is perceived as the jewel in the crown of the Cinque Terre by many a travel writer. (Especially – especially – Rick Steves, a travel writer we had never heard of before, but who seemed to be a travel buzzword in the area. Out of curiosity, we checked out his YouTube spiel on the Cinque Terre when we returned home, only to be disappointed by how he devoted a lot of time to Vernazza and gave only a passing mention to some of the other villages, but I digress.)
Wandering around the village in the late afternoon sun, we couldn’t help but notice how the streets had come to life in the sunshine; the previous day, drizzle had driven away the crowds. Exploring the side streets, we spotted a furry resident lounging in the shade, amongst the flowerpots. I did say I loved taking photos of others’ cats . . .
Even though we had already had a gelato in Corniglia, we couldn’t resist having a second in Vernazza. (Two gelatos in one day was a first for us, but the gelato in Italy was irresistible and someone has to keep the gelaterias in business.) Meandering along the crowded quayside, we spotted a little stall selling tickets for the ferry. Compared to the boat tours operating in the area, this was a much more budget-friendly way of seeing the Cinque Terre from the sea. Luckily, we were able to buy tickets for the last ferry of the day towards Riomaggiore.
If you have the time, it’s well worth squeezing in a trip on the ferry: seeing the tiny multi-coloured dwellings clinging to the cliffs from a distance really gives you a sense of scale that you won’t get on land.
The ride was just long enough for me to get a flavour of the views from the sea without succumbing to the nausea that usually plagues me on boats.
Back in Manarola, we disembarked by the breakwater and made our way towards the main street. Laurence’s stomach was already growling, so he picked up some fried calamari, a local speciality, while I wandered up the main street admiring Manarola in the sunshine for the first time since we’d arrived in the Cinque Terre.
With the sun slowly edging towards the horizon and casting a soft, golden glow over the village, we headed over to the viewpoint to snap that postcard-worthy shot.
After a quick pit-stop at our Airbnb, we headed out for tea at La Scogliera, a no-frills, traditional trattoria. In an effort to walk off some of the carbs we had just consumed, we went for a brisk walk by the harbour to see the village twinkling against a pitch-black sky.
- The trails aren’t strenuous per se, but there are some steep sections which can be somewhat precarious when wet. Wear suitable footwear, and save the flip flips for the beach in Monterosso al Mare.
- For the best views from the ferry, grab a seat on the left hand side of the boat on the top deck; if the boat’s crowded and that’s not an option, there’s standing space on the left hand side of the lower deck.