Bring an extra euro or two. Along the path you will encounter a picnic table where some kitties live. There is can of food there if they are hungry you can feed them or give them some of your water. If not leave a euro in the can for the people who take care of them.
We make Manarola our homebase but everyone should visit all 5 towns. The best way is the very old paths between the villages and so the following pictures are all taken along that path. You can easily get to each town by the trains but you will miss so much in between.
The Cinque Terra is well-known for its great hiking opportunities. And deservedly so. But, another great way to take in the surroundings is by horseback! Me and my friend, Grant, booked through the tourist information center at the Manorola train station. It turned out to be a great experience, that really was the crowing moment of the Cinque Terra trip. It takes you along the ridge, high above the hiking trails, and brings you down along the road and dirt paths, with MANY opportunities for great photos.
At first glance Manarola appears to consist of just the one main street running the length of its little valley, and even parts of this might be considered “off the beaten path” as so few visitors seem to bother to explore its higher reaches. But there are some side streets to be discovered too, especially in the higher part of the village, and these are a treasure trove for anyone who likes to seek out the small details that can bring a place to life. Photographers especially will delight in these glimpses of a different, older Manarola. Listen too for the sound of the subterranean river, the Groppo, and follow the sound to the upper part of the village where you will find the river flowing past the old houses (see my Things to Do tip).
The company comes and picks you up at the hostel and then drives you to their ranch in the woods. They match the horses to your size and ability. Yes, you may notice that my horse is a small and slow one. I'm not so experiecned with the things, OK???
If you consider yourself a traveller of a more adventurous sort, you might want to check out this unmarked beach. It's a real trek down through the mountains, pretty demanding physically. The beach itself is rocky and huge wasps stole our food. However, we slept for free just outside of Manarola, and met some...remarkable...people. When we were there, people had set up an extensive camp made of hung sheets, and seemed to have really dug themselves in. I can imagine spending a long time there, if we had the time.
The people range from easygoing to feral and aggressive.
Clothes are optional.
I'm warning you, this is a real off-the-beaten-path location. There are no authorities here to enforce rules.
Follow the footpath towards Riomaggiore. Keep an eye out for beaten dirt trails to your left, just after an olive orchard. It's not far along. Follow the trail downwards. There are a couple of climbs and steep slopes. BE CAREFUL because if you fall you'll just roll all the way down through the cacti. Take plenty of water because the sun beats down on you during the day, and there are no structures with accessible plumbing. Although the beach is rocky, the swimming is rewarding enough after the climb.
As you walk the via dell'amore towards Riomaggiore, you will see how they have to park their fishing boats at the end of the day. Since they have no natural harbor, they hook them to the big crane and raise them up to the parking garage.
When you are leaving the Cinque Terra area look for signs that point you to the medival town of Sarzana. It is slightly off the hightway just south of the La Spezia exit. Sarzana is a charming little village with no tourists. It has charming cafes and a very eastern block looking main square. But this town is wonderful. Ignore the dingy entry into the town, it gets better and you'll be pleasently surprised. Check out my Sarzana page on VT.
Five or six times a day, the green buses make their way up to Volastra, the neighboring village above Manarola. This is part of hike nr. 6 on the Cinque Terre Map. If you take the bus up, you can descend down the tail from Volastra so it makes for a good out of the way excursion if you are staying in Manarola and want to get away from the tourists.
We walked over to the beach at Riomaggiore. it is at the end of the trail. The beach isn't very "beachy" with big boulders and rocks but that is what makes it off the beaten path. We sat on a big rock for an hour eating a snack and watching the waves crash onto the shoreline. The people on the trail would come around the last corner, see the beach, turn around and leave. Great for us!!
There is a shower attached to the wall of the beach area so some people must swim. it was a lttle too cool in early May to do more than dunk a foot or two.
Volastra is a quiet village in the Cinque Terre National Park. You can get to Volastra from Manarola. Following the coast out of Volastra towards Corniglia one walks across the top of the terraced vineyards.
The most notable building in Volastra is Nostra Signora della Salute ("Our Lady of Health"). The church is constructed in the Romanesque style, possibly dating to the twelfth century.
Its a bit of a hike to this beach....which is made up of pebbles mainly...but crystal clear water and a nice spot to get your gear off in the midst of a Cinque Terre hike!
Montana in November is just plain cold, it has not started snowing yet but everything has died and is brown. So one "little " plane ride and a day later I am looking at this!
A little garden near the path to Corniglia. There is a palygound for kids as well. And... the monument for the Goddess of Grapes.