Saturday, October 10, 2015

Trekking in Cinque Terre

People come to Cinque Terre for two reasons. Most come for the simple beauty of the landscape and the small cliff side villages. Others come also for the excellent trail network that has connected the villages for hundreds of years. These trails are a marvelous feat of engineering, but that does not mean they are in any way easy hikes. One must climb hundreds of feet and then descend those same hundreds of feet into the next town. The only exceptions to this are water side trails between the three villages to the southeast, Riomaggiore, Manarola, and Corniglia. Unfortunately, these were washed out by landslides and have not yet reopened. The first part was supposed to be open this summer. The other is not scheduled to be finished for two more years.

Hiking the entire way from one end to the other takes a good hiker about 5 hours to travel the 11 kilometers. Each individual section is about 1.5 hours unless you can take the beach side trails that are now closed.

Picnicking on the trail
Linda told you about our experience trekking from Vernazza to Corniglia. Steve, Patti, and I also traveled the more difficult trail from Vernazza to Monterosso and another trail up from Vernazza to Nostra Signora di Reggio, one of a series of sanctuaries along the ridgetop dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
This table is for the cats
The main trail from Vernazza to Monterosso is considered the most difficult. Certainly it was more difficult that to trail to Corniglia. It is a bit longer, but the real extra difficulty comes from the increase in climbing necessary and the narrowness of the trail in many places. Most of the climbing is done on stair steps carved out of the rocks or created ages ago by laying the rocks in a stair step fashion. It would be hard enough if the steps were uniform, but the method of building means that they are inconsistent and include some steps that are double a normal step in the US.

Where the trail is more or less flat, you are still walking on flat stones that make for an uneven trail. So even if the trail is flat it is still hard on the feet and legs. The Monterosso trail ends with a long descent of over 600 narrow steps. Fortunately for us the crowds had thinned by the time we reached them and we did not have to negotiate them while waiting for hikers coming up.

We were amazed at the number of hikers we met each day, easily in the hundreds. In many spots one group would have to wait for the oncoming hikers to negotiate the portions of the trail too narrow for two people to pass. Of course, some hikers don’t get the idea of sharing the trail and just barge ahead making for some interesting passages. Fortunately, this type is pretty rare.

Orange juice stand
 We had several interesting encounters along the trail. Two young ladies out in their party dresses. It’s hard to imagine what they were thinking. A few picnic tables create nice rest stops. One of them was set aside for some feral cats. As we neared Monterosso, we met one man selling his beautiful jewelry. Another man set up an orange juice stand using whole oranges. Another played his saxophone loud enough that we listened for about half an hour.

Musical entertainment
When we arrived in Monterosso, we stopped at a restaurant for drinks and lunch. Linda joined us from the train before we began to explore the town.

The trail into Monterosso is flat, sort of.
Our walk up the hill to the sanctuary was much less eventful. This trail is just one long uphill walk. No stairs, just a stone path with small alters along the way. We thought they might be stations of the cross, but some were so violent that we could not be sure. We only met half a dozen other hikers on this trail including one couple who had taken the long way from Monterosso to Vernazza. 

Trail to the Sanctuary
One of the alters to mark the way
Alter close-up
A small chapel about half way to the Sanctuary
The reward at the sanctuary was definitely worth the hike as the church has the most beautiful interior of any we saw in the five villages. A self-service food and drink stand is also a nice feature. The hike back down was much easier. 

Small fountain near the Sanctuary

The Sanctuary from below

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