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In our ongoing running reviews, we'll be checking out some of our most-loved running tracks and jogging trails. This week, Anita McCrystal recollects her 2012 trip to Italy to review the scenic Cinque Terre trail.
We’ll consider the nature of the workout, any interesting features, and a range of other notes and thoughts that we find worthwhile. Let’s go!
Track: Cinque Terre (The Five Lands)
Location: Cinque Terre, Italy
If you’re making the trip to Italy – hiking in the Cinque Terre is the perfect opportunity to sneak in exercise while enjoying the scenery. Cinque Terre translates to the ‘Five Lands’, and refers to the five seaside villages near the city of La Sepzia on the Italian Riviera. In between bowls of pasta, consider trying one of the hikes spread across the gorgeous Italian coast.
The five towns include Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. The ‘Five Lands’ are part of the Cinque Terre National Park which is considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
If you are visiting Cinque Terre in summer, it’s best to head out early in order to avoid the midday heat. In the warmer months, some of the trails are extremely crowded – especially along narrower hiking paths.
We recommend visiting the area in April, May, September or October. These milder seasons make for comfortable hiking compared to during the European summer. The cooler months also mean fewer tourists – so skip the crowds and visit on the off-season!
Visiting Cinque Terre in winter is great for the reasons above, but it’s not uncommon for other extreme weather conditions to prevail. Heavy rainfall can cause landslides and unsafe conditions for hiking. Devastating rains in October 2011 caused floods and mud-slides, which left some of the towns badly damaged. This happened again in 2013/2014, with large sections of the trails being closed due to rockslides and washouts. For this reason, it’s important to keep an eye on the forecast during the winter months.
If you’re staying within La Spezia, the trains are a great option to get to some of the different trails on offer. There are many handy guides that outline how to use the Cinque Terre trains on your way to/ or from a hike. Some of the trails you can visit Include:
Sentiero Azzuro Walk – The ‘Blue Trail’ is a six-hour trek made up of four paths along the coastline. It is used to connect the five towns. You can do the six hours all at once, or choose to spread it out over a few days in order to explore the delicacies of each town along the way. It’s possible to start the track from either end (Monterosso, towards the south vs. Riomaggiore, towards the north).
Riomaggiore to Manarola – The Via dell’ Amore or ‘The Love Walk’ is a short 2km trek, with paved paths leading to the famous kissing statue. It’s popular among lovers hoping to seal their love forever, seen in the hundreds of padlocks attached along the path fence.
Manarola to Corniglia – If you’re not in the mood for a strenuous hike, you can make light work of this 2km path. This section of Cinque Terre is stunning, with sea views by the coast, and garden scenes along the other side of the trail.
Corniglia to Vernazza – For more of a hike, this path climbs to the highest point of the ‘Five Lands’, with spectacular views and foliage to view along the way. Take care when walking this path, as it is considered to be of medium difficulty, with steep and uneven steps. The 4km length isn’t challenging in itself, but the incline is strenuous.
Vernazza to Monterosso – If you’re up for the challenge, this is the hike to try! This trail is notorious for its staircases and narrow throughways. For this trail, it might be worthwhile considering the use of a trekking pole or walking stick. While it may the most difficult – it’s also the most rewarding. It offers a panoramic view of all ‘Five Lands’, and is considered by many to be the highlight of Cinque Terre.
Additional tips for any of the outlined hikes include:
Wearing appropriate footwear for the hike. Comfortable sneakers can work well for the shorter paved paths, but any trail with an incline requires supportive hiking boots.
Ensure that you have a lightweight backpack or bag with all the essentials. Some train stations offer lockers for suitcases if you’re staying in different towns between hikes.
Bring enough water. If you’re visiting Cinque Terre in summer, the sweltering heat means constant hydration. It’s also worthwhile packing some sunscreen to avoid getting sunburnt.
On the flipside, if you’re visiting during cooler months – ensure that you wear layers. Breathable fabric can help you stay cool without exposing you to the elements.
The additional benefits.
Cinque Terre is the ultimate place for exercise with a view. But it’s not just the beauty of the area – it’s the entire atmosphere of holidaymakers and sunshine.
Each town along this trail provides a perfect pit stop for a dip in the ocean and a taste of the Ligurian coast’s best wine!
Due to the diverse range of trails available, there’s something for every fitness level and ability. While these hikes are a workout – it’s all about taking in the scenery of the vineyards, farmland and breathtaking coastlines.
The area is made captivating by the countless colourful houses and shops atop one another in each town.
I loved this walking track and highly recommend it to anyone visiting Italy. The hikes along the Cinque Terre are all part of getting acquainted with the towns’ scenery – with the bonus of a great workout!
Be sure to watch this space. We’ll be back soon with another running review, to give you the facts on our favourite tracks.