October 07, 2014

Exchange travel experience: hiking the Cinque Terre

Hiking Cinque Terre
Okay, this is my new favorite place, topping my bed on a Monday morning and bath at Christmas time.
It's how Laura defines Cinque Terre, the awesome natural reserve on the coast of Liguria, in north-west Italy, that hides five small resorts (Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore) for many years been kept free of massive tourism. But since foreign travelers have discovered the amazing landscape of these little towns and the hikeingpaths along the coast, bad transport services hasn't stopped anymore the crowd of tourists coming and going every weekend.

Oh, sorry, I forgot to say who's Laura, but I loved this Intro and couldn't begin other way! 
Laura O'Donovan is an english student from Exeter who moved to Italy last september to spend a year abroad in Milan, at Bocconi University, and is going to share with us and on her blog Study Abroad - Milano! her favorite travel experience so far: a weekend at Cinque Terre.
Laura and her friends caught the train from Riomaggiore to Monterosso al Mare on the first day of the weekend trip and hiked down to Vernazza. Never before she walked up so many steps and her legs were definitely feeling it! The route itself was only around 3 and a half kilometers but with the majority being vertical, it took around an hour and a half to get to the next town. Slowed down massively by stopping every 5 minutes for photos, the views were just something else! Once they arrived in Vernazza they stopped at a cafe to have a rest. And this is where Laura discovered what she could only describe as "heaven on a plate"… the nutella bagel.
Hiking Cinque Terre

Having refueled on sweets and chocolate, they decided to skip Corniglia because it looked a bit shit on the guide they were given. They then headed to Manarola, which in Laura's opinion is the prettiest of the 5 towns. After exploring the streets they settled on the rocks in the harbor to have a swim around in the sea. Not being able to move from this spot just because of the view, they stuck around until sunset and took some artsy photos to be all cliche n’ that.
Pictures confirm it was a great decision. 
Hiking Cinque Terre

In the end they can confirm (after waiting around for about an hour for a train) that the public transport, comparable with Milan, is a bit rubbish: the train they ended up getting arrived back in Riomaggiore around 9.20pm, with their bus back to the hostel arriving at 9.30, at the other end of the town which also happened to be at the top of a hill. A run to the bus was not what her legs needed after a day of hiking!

But they can also confirm it was worth it! This weekend sort of restored Laura's idea of Italy before coming here. The locals are very nice and friendly, which really does give the place a cosy feel to match the aesthetic cuteness. The slow pace of Cinque Terre is one of the most appealing things about it, and she swears she definitely will be going back there before the end of her year abroad!

A few suggestions by Laura to get the most out of this amazing place:

1. Go off the beaten track. Explore all the alleys in the towns, there are so many little hidden gems!
2. Don’t miss your bus/train. They aren’t frequent at all. The amount of time wasted at the train stations was a bit ridiculous.
3. Read up on the towns. If you know people that have already visited that’s a massive advantage. Friends that have been here previously recommended boat hire, the best place to watch the sunset and the routes to take to see the most beautiful views.

Laura's vote to Cinque Terre:
Undoubtedly a 10/10!

Thanks a lot to Laura for sharing her experience with Gadders! Looking forward to reading about her next trips: Rome and Naples!

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