If you like dramatic coastlines, colorful villages snuggled into a rocky hillside, and exceptional Italian food then you will certainly like traveling to Cinque Terre. However Cinque Terre is best suited for those who love to hike and climb.
The most spectacular views and in-depth understanding of the 5 villages, history and discovery of flora and fauna is with a custom travel guide. Our guide Britta met us at the Corniglia train station and very quickly we were at the foot of a 384 staircase. That was the easy part–from there we wandered through the village of Corniglia stopping here and there for tidbits of information. Then we began the trek up the mountain. For the next 2 hours we climbed–UP–one step after the next mostly over rocky terrain and sometimes shale and others stone steps. It is best if you do not look ahead. Observant Britta stopped often to have us identify the local plants. She would have us sniff the leaves — she called it “smell training” Mostly these stops were to give us time to catch our breath and then off we went. The vistas from the path were breathtaking and shared with just a few other hikers–all ages and sizes, passing us by–still we trekked on. Respite was found at a switchback with a clear pond of cool water and more from Britta. The highlight was the mostly level walk through the vineyards; steeply terraced–and high above the sea the different grapes were identified and the methods (old and new) of harvesting shared with 5 women in the heart of Italy’s 5 lands–Cinque Terre.
The carrot at the end of the trek was a lovely table, an assortment of tasty nibbles, a bottle of local wine and the smiling face of the winemaker himself.
In about 6 hours we walked from the train station in Corniglia through the village, up the mountain, across the pass, and down to the village of Manarola. Britta told us about the people, church architecture, wild herbs, mushrooms–we even talked trash. We know why and when the houses were colorfully painted, about the pirates and what they were looking for. We talked a bit about philosophy and almost nothing of politics.
I can say for certain that I am not a climber or a hiker. The hike, we were told, was rated #3 out of #5 for difficulty, and, while I likely would not tackle this climb again, I can say with certainty that it was the highlight of my trip. I accomplished something I would never have done and now I feel I can do anything. Never say never! Especially to custom travel!