Last month Budget Travel highlighted breathtaking treks from around the world in their article “12 Most Beautiful Paths – No Car Required.” It brought a huge smile to my face to see the walking paths of the Cinque Terre (Italy) make the list.
This distinction is truly no surprise though to me, my husband, and the family and friends that visited this Italian Riviera gem almost a year ago for my and Wes’ wedding in Vernazza. Vernazza is one of five seaside villages that make up the area known as the Cinque Terre. Each village is connected to its neighbor by cliff-side walking trails. Running east to west, the seven-mile trail begins in the village of Riomaggiore. This section of the trail, named Via dell’Amore (Pathway of Love) is the only paved section. The trail continues to Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and then Monterosso.
The trail is a must-do when visiting this area. It’s such a unique way to discover the Cinque Terre. At the end of each section of the trail appears a town with colorful buildings, inviting people and medieval churches. It’s a unique experience that can not be matched from any of my other travels. We walked among vineyards, olive groves and lemon orchards. We walked narrow sections with no railing — viewing the sea waves splashing over rocks below us. We climbed steep steps in the rocky landscape, including the 382-step staircase from Manarola to Corniglia. My sister, Danielle, even discovered a man selling limoncello through a fence in his orchard.
We also found that getting around each town by foot was no problem since it took an average of five minutes to get from the top of town to the bottom. Though there are small parking lots at the top of each town, you won’t find cars traveling up and down the narrow streets. Even deliveries are made by hand trucks.
When we preferred to give our feet a rest, or were crunched for time, we village-hopped with the local train serving the five towns. Town stations are only minutes apart on the train line. When we rode from the easternmost village, Riomaggiore, to the westernmost, Monterosso, it took about five minutes.
Today, sections of the seven-mile trail remain closed after massive flooding and mudslides on October 25, 2011 completely devastated Vernazza and Monterosso. The path from Manarola to Corniglia as well as the path from Corniglia to Vernazza are closed and undergoing repair.
Both towns are quickly recovering and opening their doors to residents and visitors. Wes and I are heading back in August to celebrate our one year wedding anniversary (June 29). It was our first trip to the Cinque Terre in 2009 and our stay in Riomaggiore that made us fall in love with this tiny part of the world. Now, it’s the people, landscape and memories that keep bringing us back.