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Hiking the Cinque Terre and Mount Portofino Park

Eastern Riviera, Italy

Author: Francesco Grilli

Participants: Tianshu Li, Francesco Grilli, Simone Gabellani, Eva Trasforini.

Reference Websites: Cinque Terre, Park of Portofino

The Cinque Terre (“Five Lands”) and Portofino are probably the best-known spots of the Eastern Riviera, the stretch of Mediterranean seacoast east of Genoa in northwestern Italy.  I recommend this region of Italy, especially to the numerous tourists spending time in Florence and Tuscany.

The Cinque Terre are five historical villages with colorful houses on the coast surrounded by steep vineyards, the best product of which is the dessert wine "Sciacchetrà".  A network of trails connects the villages.  We have hiked east to west the most famous (Trail n.2), which runs close to sea level most of the times.  The starting point is Riomaggiore, easily reachable by train both from Genoa and Tuscany.

The typical coastline of Cinque Terre.

From Riomaggiore, the easy and paved “Walk of love” leads to Manarola.  Next is Corniglia, which can be reached after a series of a few hundred steps.  Before Corniglia, the trail passes by a beach, where a refreshing swim can be taken in summer.  But don’t expect smooth white sandy beaches here; instead, pebbles rounded by the sea or simply big rocks abound.  The water is crystal clear and deep.  After Corniglia is Vernazza, probably the best looking of the five lands, with its typical old defense tower, which makes it immediately recognizable among the others.  From Vernazza, there is the final long stretch to Monterosso: the final part of the hike is also the most demanding, with a steep climb up, followed by an equally steep downhill, always on a narrow and stepped trail, immersed in the olive trees cultures.

This complete hike, 7-8 miles long, takes about 5 hours.

The village of Vernazza, with an old tower as its landmark.

Similarly to Cinque Terre, the Park of the Mount of Portofino is characterized by a dense network of trails.  The trail with probably the best views is that running on the south side of the peninsula, from Camogli to S. Fruttuoso.  The hike can be extended to the trendy (and very expensive!) village of Portofino, either in order to see some famous actor harboring there with a big boat or, as it happened to us, to avoid being stuck in S. Fruttuoso in case of stormy sea (S. Fruttuoso can be reached only by boat or on foot, and in case of bad weather the boat service is cancelled).

The medieval abbey of S. Fruttuoso di Camogli.

The hike starts from Camogli, which can be easily reached by train from Genoa.  The trail, marked with two red full circles, climbs up in half an hour to the village of S. Rocco, which offers beautiful views of the coast; then it descends to some abandoned fortifications and continues on the south side of the mountain.  Metallic chains help pass some exposed passages.  A steep uphill followed by a downhill leads to S. Fruttuoso of Camogli, a tiny village in a narrow gulf, characterized by a medieval abbey.  If the weather allows, boats can be taken back to Camogli or to Portofino and S. Margherita Ligure (where there is the train).  As mentioned the hike can be extended to Portofino, where one can reach S. Margherita Ligure by bus or by boat.

This complete hike takes about 5 hours (3 and half hours for S. Fruttuoso)

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