Italy Cinque Terre 2001.07.04 - 07.06

Coastal Towns

The five coastal towns Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore, located between Genoa and La Spezia, make up Cinque Terre. American friends we knew in Singapore recommended that we rent an apartment in one of these towns and enjoy Mediterranean coastal life for a few days. Our Lonely Planet Italy guidebook mentioned a 5-hour hiking trail that connects the 5 towns. Limited to one full day, this is what we planned to do.

The towns of Cinque Terre are packed with American tourists in the summer. Advance reservations for multiple day stays are recommended. Having cancelled our reservations in Vernazza to extend our time in the Dolomites, we decided to stay in Genoa for 2 nights and day trip to Cinque Terre.

The train ride from Genoa to the southern-most Cinque Terre town, Riomaggiore, was about 2 hours. Before commencing the hike, we realized that our expectations were too high. Our friends recommended Cinque Terre as one of the top 3 spots in the world, along with Ihlara Valley in Turkey and Petra in Jordan. Ihlara and Petra were undeniably exceptional. Cinque Terrre, in comparison, was a let down.

The towns were mobbed with tourists being charged unreasonably high tourist prices. The surrounding trail and rolling green terraced hills were ordinary and uninteresting. Most hikers we saw were American. In passing, we quickly changed our greeting from "Buongiorno" to "Hello". The trail markings were confusing, more so because we chose not to buy a topological hiking map. By the time we reached the 4th town, Vernazza, we realized that we somehow bypassed the "prettiest" section of trail according to a signpost in Vernazza. The temperature was wearingly hot, and we were in no mood to backtrack. After a leisurely (expensive but very good) lunch in Vernazza, we also decided we had enough of the Cinque Terre hike and caught a train back to Genoa.

We think Vernazza is the prettiest of the 5 Cinque Terre towns. Our guidebook says the towns are packed with foreign tourists between April and October. If we return, it won't be between these months.

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