A little R&R along the Sentiero Azzuro
The classic hike through Cinque Terre National Park in Italy along the Sentiero Azzuro is unforgettable. The trail takes you through the five tiny villages of Cinque Terre, which dot the Ligurian Coast in northwestern Italy. No roads reach these villages directly, and residents and travelers alike arrive by train and trail.
The Sentiero Azzuro runs about 11 km between Monterosso and Riomaggiore. While there are a few steep hills, the trail stays mostly flat as it crosses through olive groves and terraced farm fields high above the coastline. We did the hike leisurely in one day, making sure to take in the sights by resting in each village (such as Vernazza, pictured) and partaking in plenty of gelato and paninis. Because there is a train stop in each of the villages, it is easy to head to Cinque Terre from Florence or Pisa and do a one-way day hike or even limit yourself to a smaller segment. Many hikers prefer to start in Riomaggiore and end in Monterosso, where there are two gorgeous beaches for relaxing. There are also quite a few small hotels and bed and breakfasts available for those who want to stay and enjoy the rustic village atmosphere.
While quaint, Cinque Terre is not entirely off the beaten track, so if you visit, there will undoubtedly be plenty of daytripping tourists around to keep you company. Nevertheless, the hike remains a classic and still counts among my favorite Italy experiences.