Written by Ryan Schaller, Men's Technical
Inevitably, when Americans think of Italy, they first think of pasta, Rome, and maybe even Julia Roberts in Eat, Pray, Love. Italy, however, has so much more to offer. Hidden among the Italian Riviera, along the western coast, lies the Cinque Terre, a UNESCO world heritage site. Cinque Terre is made up of five small fishing villages set up high into the cliffside. Last July, I was privileged enough to hike through some of the Cinque Terre trails and its imagery still remains indelible in my memory.
I chose to stay in La Spezia, a smaller urban area near Pisa, but also close to Cinque Terre. There, I was easily able to rent a relatively inexpensive Airbnb for the week. The small city of La Spezia was a great home base complete with fantastic calzones, shopping, and even a large harbor. From La Spezia, I was able to take a train to the first village of the Cinque Terre chain: Riomaggiore. The train takes roughly 10-15 minutes and once in Riomaggiore, it’s extremely easy to transfer between the other villages of Manarola, Carniglia, Vernazza, and Monterrosso. The villages are linked together by both hiking trails and a train. The hikes themselves were relatively challenging, but being able to stop and relax in each village was a huge bonus. I started the day off around 9:00 a.m. and was able to get through all the trails save for two, opting to take the train between Carniglia and Vernazza, and from Vernazza to Monterrosso. Because of the fact that the hiking trails are set up high on the cliffside, some trails close with the seasons due to debris, landslides, etc. and when I went, I was unable to go through several trails. Nevertheless, I was extremely happy to find that it wasn’t necessary to get a guide, since the trails are full of signs and usually crowded with other hikers and tourists. A tip for future travelers: bring lots of water and plenty of sunscreen! These are two things I didn’t purchase enough of beforehand, and the consequences were brutal, especially under the Italian summer sun. Regardless, the trails offer periodic stops where hikers can beach and swim at the lower points to cool off. The villages too provided much rest and relaxation in between hikes.
Focaccia bread, white wine, and pesto. These were my three staples throughout the trip. After finishing the day in Monterrosso, I headed to a beachside restaurant called Cantina. I ordered the pesto pasta, and although the meal was expensive for the portion I received, the quality of the food was well worth it. Earlier on in the day I also snacked on Italian prosciutto and focaccia bread, both of which were fantastic. Finally, I ended up finishing the day by watching the sun set over the Mediterranean with calamari in hand. I subsequently took the train back to my Airbnb in La Spezia that night with many hopes to return to Cinque Terre in the future. A presto Italia!