The Cinque Terre, or ‘Five Lands’, is famous for its hiking trails carved into towering cliffs, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. The Blue Route takes you past colourful stacked villages, lush green vineyards and beaches surrounded by striking volcanic rock formations.
If you’ve only got one day to see it all, you’ll probably want to squeeze as much into your trip as you can. If you’re going at a brisk pace, you can cover the whole hike in a day. But sometimes you’ve just got to put your feet up and give your pins a rest, so it might mean substituting some of the hiking for a train or boat ride.
I was only able to visit three out of the five villages, as torrential downpours earlier in the year meant that part of the path had to be closed. But three out of five’s not bad.
If you’ve got enough energy left after all the hiking, here are few things you can do in between scaling the mountain paths and admiring the stunning views.
Climb the Rock
Monterosso is the largest and most touristic of the five stops along the hike, with lots of beach bars and restaurants, but it also has the most attractions to visit. There are historical churches, the Aurora Tower plus an intriguing 14-metre statue of a giant carved into the cliff. Then there’s the dramatic rock rising from the sea along the shoreline of the beach. The jagged surface acts like steps so you can climb up to the top and take in the whole beach from here.
Conquer the Castle
The village of Vernazza is centred around a tiny town square lined with colourful buildings and balconies which look out onto the natural harbour lined with little fishing boats. The narrow maze is watched over by Doria Castle, perched on the top of a hill. You can climb up to the top of the castle’s Belforte Tower and get views for days from up here.
Suck on Lemons
You’ll pass marble quarries at the foot of the mountains as you arrive in Cinque Terre, as well as lots of vineyards tiered into the hills along the coast. It’s also known for its delicious lemons which are transformed into fresh gelato, homemade cakes at the local bakeries, beauty products sold in the boutiques and, of course, limoncello. Saluti!
Go scuba diving or snorkel around the Marine Protected Area at the foot of the Cinque Terre mountains. The one and only dive centre can be found at Riomaggiore and is your gateway to getting a glimpse of the fish and other deep sea creatures that swim around this rocky underwater zone. You’ve also got the option to rent a canoe here if you want to see the villages by sea without jumping in.
End a long day of hiking with a well-deserved beach flop. Corniglia hides two secluded coves and there’s a pair of larger beaches to choose from at Monterosso. Part of the larger beach, Fegina, is reserved for beach bar customers only. The rest of this beach is more open and as well as golden sandy stretches, you’ll also find it sprinkled with glistening multi-coloured pebbles of luxurious Ligurian marble.