Studying abroad in Italy brought forth grand adventures and many obstacles to overcome and climb, literally. One of the day trips that my business class made while staying in Bologna was to Monterosso, to climb the Cinque Terre trail.
The Cinque Terre is a trail that connects five villages and in Italian means “five lands.” The mountainous trail connects the villages of Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso. A part of the Cinque Terre National Park, the trail is west of the city of La Spezia and follows the coast of the Italian Riviera and borders the Ligurian Sea. The trail consists of wooden and stone steps, dirt paths and very steep inclines. Along the side of many of the cliffs and forest landscape are terraces that grow limes and abbuoto grapes.
Paths, trains and boats are the only mode of transportation that connect the villages. Our travel group hiked the mountainous trail connecting Monterosso to Vernazza and Vernazza to Corniglia. The path from Monerosso to Vernazza was 3.5 kilometers, or approximately 2.2 miles long, and took the group around an hour and a half to hike. The hike from Vernazza to Corniglia was 4 kilometers, or 2.5 miles long, and took about 2 hours to hike.
I am so glad that I had played three years of soccer and had gone through months of conditioning to prepare me for the physical challenge of climbing up and around two mountains. Steps leading up and through the rugged terrain were not only uneven, but oddly placed and some were higher than what my short legs could stretch. The intensity of the walk in relation to how hot it was had not only our faces burning but our thighs and calves too. Small, foresty areas provided some shade and intimate, little cascading waterfalls and streams provided some cool air and perfect picture opportunities.
Hiking along the side of terraces of abbuoto grapes, one of the specific varieties of grapes that can be used in making wine, was truly surreal. Limes lined another side of the trail, hiding small and beat down cottages and homes that housed caretakers of the terraces. Every so often whenever there was a break in the tall, winding trees and looming cacti, you could see the town that we were climbing to or the town
that we were departing. The view looking behind us onto Monterosso was impeccable. The Ligurian Sea was visible from the top of the mountain trek, and as we trudged across the mountain side, the clarity and rich blue color of the water was breathtaking.
The hike from Vernazza to Corniglia was just as breathtaking. Although longer, it lead to a gorgeous town. The towns were similar in design, bright and vibrant colored houses lined the edge of the cliff, almost as if they were about to jump off. Shops and stores selling authentic foods and handcrafted gifts peaked their heads in between the stone houses and churches. Tiny stone streets allowed a few cars and buses to go through, but hardly any cars traveled the streets.
All in all: Hiking the Cinque Terre trail was an experience that, although it left my legs sore for the next few days, was so worth the pain. Knowing that the trial we were walking on was one of the main connecting trails between all five of the villages, and being so close to vineyards and the Ligurian Sea, was surreal. We were so close to nature, so close and deep within the culture of Italy: we literally hiked through the history and past of “The Five Lands.”
(Kayla Handy is a Clarion University student contributor to VenangoExtra.com & ClarionExtra.com. Email Kayla at firstname.lastname@example.org.)