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Hiking Italy's Cinque Terre: Old World Charm, Dramatic Views

The Dykman family from Stoughton, Wisconsin recommends hiking Italy’s Cinque Terre National Park for its old world, colorful villages; dramatic Riviera coastline views; and delicious food. They decided to travel during the shoulder season of late March/early April this past year to avoid crowds and to enjoy temperatures in the 60s and 70s.

“We wanted to take a vacation that focussed on the outdoors and we love hiking,” Suzy Dykman said. “It proved to be a fantastic trip; the scenery is gorgeous!”

All ages can enjoy hiking between the five villages of Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. Clearly marked paths often pass through vineyards and span all five villages. Breathtaking vistas are to be expected on every trail.

The Cinque Terre National Park is a part of the UNESCO World Heritage List and fees are charged for hiking the designated trails. Ally Dykman, 21, discovered an important tip from a local.

“We learned that even if it says the trails aren’t open, they probably are,” she said. “They don't have enough people to man the ticket booths.”

She also suggests, “Don't take the train to every town. The trails are all do-able. Vernazza to Monterosso was the easiest of the walks. Manarola to Corniglia was the most difficult, with steep and narrow paths." 

One of Ally’s favorite memories is her family's welcome to Riomaggiore and their Airbnb. “There was this tiny old woman waving to us at the top of a hill,” she said. “You could tell that she was excited. She led us up several steep steps to our apartment, which was old on the outside but very modern inside.”

These are the villages of Cinque Terre at a glance: Corniglia, at 330 feet above sea level, is completely surrounded by rocky terrain with a short walk to a glittering white beach. Built in the 14th Century, Manarola is known for its colorful houses, wineries, the famous Love’s Trail, and beaches. The Dykmans recommend Manarola’s Trattoria dal Billy restaurant for seafood and regional wines. Riomaggiore is noted for Riomaggiore wine, colorful fishing boats, whales, dolphins, and kayaks. Vernazza is an automobile-free fishing village and produces one of the best tasting olive oils in the country. Make sure to visit the Santa Margherita d’Antichia church, built in 1318 on a cliff overlooking the sea. The bell tower measures 40 meters high.  Monterosso al Mare is best known for its beautiful beaches.

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