We arrived in Riomaggiore, the southern most town in the group of 5 towns that make up the 'Cinque Terre', and were immediately amazed by the bella vista that was in front of us.
We walked through the center of town to find the accommodation office. After a short discussion with the office lady we were off - winding our way through tiny streets and up stairs, to reach our apartment some 300m away and 120 steps up the hill side.
The houses here are all built into the side of the cliff faces that front onto the ocean, and the town spills back up the hill side connected by many narrow winding paths and stairways.
With our Cinque Terre Card in hand, we headed off early on the second morning to walk the path between the 5 towns, a 5 hour, 9km trek.
When we initially saw that it was going to take 5 hours to walk 9km, we didn't believe the sign. Starting off from Riomaggiore also did nothing for us believing the stated time. The first stage of the track is called 'Lovers Lane', and is quite nicely maintained, and a very simple walk.
The next stage of the track degrades somewhat, but remains a simple walk. By the time we reached the third town however, the track had degraded to a very simple track that leads around the hillsides. This stage is a killer, with many long climbs up and down large sets of stone stairs for the 4km that makes up this stage.
The final stage, all 3km of it, is the worst. By the time you get to this stage you are pretty buggered, and your legs are not wanting to propel you forward up and down the never ending stairways. This stage also has some of the poorest, and narrowest parts of the trail, which can become tricky to navigate if you encounter someone coming in the other direction.
Overall, the trek is well worth the hard work – with heaps of beautiful scenery along the way (providing you find the time to look up from looking where your going to make your next step!).
It took us 4.5 hours, so the signs weren't too far out in that respect. At the end, we were pretty buggered, and sore, but enjoyed it.
As a couple of pointers – defiantly leave early. This will help to avoid the heat of the day. We left pretty early, and it was hot by the end. Also you avoid many of the other tourists who walk along the track between the towns as well. A lot of water is also a must. We drank over 3 liters on the trip, and were still a little dehydrated by the end.
The swimming here is also a great relief from the Italian summer heat – although most of the beaches are made up of big (and hot) rocks and pebbles. For sandy beaches, you have to head to the the northern most towns in the Cinque Terre, although these are black sand, and crawling with tourists – so in a way, the rocky beaches are almost better, as they are not as crowded (the waters all the same!).