Italy, Stop 4: Cinque Terre


Next week marks a full year since Drew and I set out for our two-week trek through Italy—and I still have two stops to talk about.

I am the WORST, but please don’t use my procrastination to gauge the amount of fun we had. (Even though Rome is still eh in my book.)

There are just days I don’t feel like writing. And on the days I do, other topics feel a smidgen more relevant.

I’m also kind of dreading the day I no longer have a stop to write about. That would mean the trip and my opportunities to reminisce have officially wrapped.

I don’t know if my heart can handle that.

But I told myself (and maybe you? I can’t remember) I’d recap the entire trip within the year. SO HERE WE ARE.

Cinque Terre

It’s really hard to describe the Five Lands and have people get it.

You can say they’re five seaside towns comprised of brightly colored shops and homes built right into the cliffs, but I doubt the mental image would do them justice.

I mean, look at this.

It’s beyond words. Beyond pictures, even. Especially when you hike so high you can’t even see the town below.

Which is exactly what we did. But let’s back up a little.

If I had to pick one word to describe our visit to Cinque Terre, start to finish, it would be active.

Why? Well, we took a train to Rome, but decided to bus out. And the bus station was considerably farther from our hostel, so of course we ended up “sprinting” to catch our 8:20 a.m. bus.

(I put sprinting in quotes because giant backpacks.)

But catch it we did! And off to La Spezia we went.

This town was definitely the wild card of the trip. We didn’t know anyone who’d been there, so preferred areas, must-sees and to-dos were pretty much nonexistent. We chose it for the sake of being near Cinque Terre without staying in Cinque Terre.

Getting there on a Sunday afternoon did little to boost our spirits.

As soon as we arrived, we set out for food, and I’m not kidding when I say everything was closed. It’s like we showed up the second lunch ended and everyone had hours to kill until dinner.

So we just kept walking. And walking. And walking. And honestly, La Spezia was pretty precious.

There were essentially zero tourists. Can you imagine how refreshing that was after ROME? Amazing.

Eventually, we were able to grab a bite and do a little more strolling (right into a music festival!) before calling it an early night. Day 2 would be the meat and potatoes of this stop: We were going to ferry* to Riomaggiore, the closest of the five lands, and hike the next four.

I did plenty of research the night before and knew there were two separate trails between each—one that takes hikers up into the mountains and descends into the next town, and another that goes right along the coast (for a considerably shorter journey).

We arrived in Riomaggiore the next morning and went straight to the parks office for directions to the trailhead. There we learned the coastal trail was closed from the first town to the third, but the “free” trail was still open.

RED FLAG #1: Free trails are free for a reason.

But being two active individuals, we decided the mountain trail might actually be fun.

Approx. 10 minutes into the ascent, it was decidedly not fun. We were going straight up—peaking at 800 meters above sea level—and coming straight back down. In Chacos.

But it only took about an hour and 15 minutes to reach the second town of Manarola, and several people we met along the way mentioned that the next leg wasn’t much longer, so we kept on keepin’ on.

Someway, somehow we made it to Corniglia where we bought a pass and very clearly asked for directions to the coastal trail.

Approx. 10 minutes into THE ASCENT, we realized we were most definitely not on the coastal trail.

We were on the mountain trail the entire time.

From Riomaggiore to Manarola to Corniglia to Vernazza to Monterrosso.

Would you like to see a fun thing I just found while trying to confirm the distance?

You probably shouldn’t try to do the whole walk in one day; it’s 40 km long and recommended for experienced walkers. The views are superb.


That’s not to say the whole thing was terrible. In fact, we met a very kind man selling delicious homemade lemonade halfway down the fourth and final mountain—and I honestly believe it was that shot of sugar that propelled me into the final town.

Once we’d hobbled to the shore to rinse our toes and marvel at the fact that we’d made it (in just seven hours!), we meandered into the nearest bar for a beer. The following conversation 100 percent happened:

Server: “You two look tired. Long day?”

Drew: “Yeah, we hiked all five towns.”

Server: “You what?”

Drew: “Yeah, we started in Riomaggiore and ended here.”

Server: “…Today?”

And that’s how we learned it’s not a normal thing. But do we regret it? Not one bit.

We hiked all five lands of Cinque Terre in a single day.

How many people can say that?


*Remember the jerks at the airport? We met their cousins on this ferry ride. First, there was the older woman who blatantly cut the line as we boarded. (Bonus points for the cheetah print visor.)

THEN Tweedledee and Tweedledum ended up with seats on the starboard bow and stood the whole time so nobody else could see Riomaggiore as we pulled up.

Don’t. be. those. people.


Find your inner chi through Miley.

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