The Cinque Terre are five famous villages that cling to the rugged cliffs of the Ligurian coast. The villages are accessible by railway, but most tourists choose to take the Sentiero Azzurro, the hiking trails that link these picturesque little villages.
We paid our €5 and started our walk along the Via dell’Amore (the first section of the Sentiero Azzurro) from Riomaggiore to the next village, Manarola. The spectacular views that we were promised did not let us down. No, what let us down was the fact that 4 months prior to our arrival in the Cinque Terre there was huge flooding and landslides that had closed the Sentiero Azzurro beyond Manarola, meaning we could not walk the coastal path to visit all five villages after all.
Inspired by the rage of paying 5 euros to walk just 700m of the 12km track before we were told it was closed (why they didn’t just tell us before we paid, I don’t know, but there were a number of very angry tourists around), we decided to climb and hike the hills behind the Cinque Terre. I certainly got over my bitterness quickly as I had to focus all my energy on climbing about 1km straight up a hill.
Although at times I feared for my life (such as where the path had collapsed or when I was crawling backwards down a hill with nothing to hold onto except for rocks that were moving faster downhill than I was), it was one of those situations where you’re glad things didn’t work out the way you’d planned. It’s not a walk for those with a fear of heights, without good footwear, overweight, with children, over 60 or just out for a leisurely stroll, but is worth it if you don’t mind getting off the beaten track – quite literally.
The bird’s-eye views of these villages nestled amongst the cliffs more than made up for our earlier disappointment. We didn’t get to visit all the villages (when it means descending 1km and then climbing 1km back up again to get to the next village it’s an easy decision to not visit them all), but that just means I’ll have to go back again someday.