Arrive in Riomaggiore at any time. There are no planned activities, so check into the B&B (check-in time is approx 3pm) and enjoy the town. In the evening meet your fellow group members to go over the details of your trip. Check the notice board or ask reception for the exact time and location of this group meeting. After the meeting, you might like to take the option of heading out for a meal in a nearby local restaurant to further get to know your CEO and travelling companions. Please make every effort to arrive on time for this important meeting. If you are delayed, please contact one of the numbers on your trip notes and advise us. The leader will leave you a message with the Pension, advising you where and when to meet The Cinque Terre consists of five coastal villages: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore, part of a national park of the same name, as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Over the course of eighteen kilometres of sheer rocky coastline, terraced hills and vineyards slope steeply down to the sea. Five little villages are built into the rocks between the beach and the hills, connected by centuries-old footpaths and mule tracks that hug the coastline 500 to 1000 feet above the sea. The extensive network of footpaths lead through olive groves and vineyards, orchards and chestnut woods, and each village has its own unique character; it is almost unfair how much intense beauty, mouthwatering cuisine and fabulous aromas are packed into one small area of the country. La Spezia is the nearest town of any size to the Cinque Terre and has very easy access to the area by train. It also has good onward connections to the rest of Italy.
Today we will head out into the Cinque Terre National Park to walk the original coastal trail from Riomaggiore to Monterosso enjoying spectacular views, passing through all five of the beautiful Cinque Terre villages. The walking trails connecting each village to its neighbours are well-marked and provide spectacular views of the National Park and the Ligurian Sea. The picturesque coastal trail winds along the shore, varying in nature and difficulty from an easy stroll to a rough and on occasion physically challenging hike. We begin with the easy, concreted path from Riomaggiore to Manarola (1km/20mins), known as the Via Dell'Amore (or, "Lovers Walk"). **Please note: this section is currently under repair so we are using alternative routes by bus or train to go around this section and will continue the walk starting from Manarola. The stretch from Manarola to Corniglia (2km/1hour) is an easy hike for the most part. To reach the village of Corniglia, which sits spectacularly on a cliff-top overlooking the azure Mediterranean, there is a stairway of over 360 steps. Don't worry though, because if you prefer, you can catch the small green shuttle-bus up the hill instead! From Corniglia to Vernazza (4km, 1.5hours) the trail becomes more challenging, with more ascent and descent and some tricky narrow trails. The trail from Vernazza to Monterosso (5km/2hours) is the steepest - it winds through olive orchards and vineyards and is rocky in places, but offers superb views of the bay. The trail is steep at certain points, similar to the previous section. We will allow plenty of time to stop-off en route and explore each village, taste some fresh seafood and local specialities at lunchtime, and perhaps round off the afternoon with a glass of local limoncino, or wine straight from the vineyards we’ve walked through along the route.
On Day 3 we will venture onto one of the inland and rather higher trails, which winds for much of the route through cool and shady woodland. The views are not constant, owing to the trees, but where you come across a vantage point the panorama is truly breathtaking. Fewer tourists venture up here so the villages are unspoiled and there is a lovely sense of tranquility. We hike for approximately 8 hours, stopping for a picnic lunch en route.
Today is a free day for you to enjoy the Cinque Terre National Park further, with the help of your CEO. There are countless optional activities on offer to suit all interests - hiking, biking, boat trips, diving, relaxing on the beach or perhaps a cooking class in typical Ligurian cuisine. There are also opportunities to hop on a boat to Palmaria Island in the Gulf of La Spezia or "Gulf of Poets", as it is known; and Portovenere, the pretty town at the end of the Cinque Terre Peninsula. There are lovely hiking trails on the island and plenty to see in attractive Portovenere. Palmaria Island is located at the westernmost end of the Gulf of La Spezia and is the largest island of an archipelago of three closely spaced islands jutting out south from the mainland at Portovenere. In 1997, the archipelago, together with Portovenere and the Cinque Terre, was designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The ancient Portus Veneris, today Portovenere, is believed to date back to at least the middle of the 1st Century B.C. It has been said that the name refers to a temple to the goddess Venus which was situated on the promontory where the church of Peter the Apostle now stands. The National Park has much to offer. Take an optional guided excursion within the park: try diving in the Puntamesco Marine Reserve, cruise by traditional boat, or perhaps a trip to Portofino for a walk to the beautiful nearby San Fruttuoso Sanctuary. Why not take a day trip by train to one of Central Italy's renowned cultural centres: Florence, Lucca or Genoa. Or, perhaps you fancy a day's cooking course, learning about Ligurian cuisine. And then, there’s always the beach…
You are free to depart at any time on Day 5.