What you'll see hiking the Cinque Terre

Poppies by the trial, What you'll see hiking the Cinque Terre, Cinque Terre, Italy (Photo by Massimilianogalardi)
Poppies by the trial

The trails linking the five villages—especially the rugged Vernazza-Monterosso section—offer a wonderful and rewarding mix of environments and scenery

Nearest the towns, kitchen gardens that feed the local markets overflow with long striped squashes tipped with orange flowers destined to be filled with ricotta and an anchovy, batter fried, and served as an appetizer.

Lemons bob on breeze-tickled tree branches. Vines dangle tomatoes, and red, green, and yellow pepper bells hang like Christmas ornaments. 

Then come terraces regimented with DOC grape vines or gnarled old olive trees that flicker dusty silver and waxy green whenever a slight wind kicks up their leaves. When the grape harvest of September gives over to the olive raccolta of October, green, white, and orange netting is stretched between tree trunks to create a vast safety net for any olives that might slip through the gatherer's fingers. If they hit the ground, they'll bruise. If they bruise, it'll raise the acidity level of the resulting oil. Only oil less than 1% acidic can be called "extra virgin." 

Once you rise above the houses and fields, the wilder growth takes over.

Miniature twisted trees called arboreal euphorbia. Ruffle-necked palms lord over pointy bursts of punk hairdo yucca. Lonely Aleppo pines rise above heather and scrubby macchia bushes.

Twelve-foot lances of agave cactus thrust at crazy angles out from cliff edges, destined to flower once, then die (I can't seem to convince the locals to try to turn the things into Italian tequila). Short prickly pears scrabble along rocky hillsides to proffer dark purple fruits at the ends of spiny green paddles.

Overall, it all seems harsh, green and brown—until you stop to look closely. 

Then, wall vines dangle small grappole bunches of ruby red berries and tiny violets grow in the ancient cracks of walls.

Overhanging bushes are frosted with tiny lavender bells; ankle-high stalks wave their little pink, yellow, or red fireworks invitingly to the bees.

Various cornflowers sprout as little yellow-tipped shoots or clusters of pink sea urchins. Canterbury bluebells dance on the trail's edge, and Ligurian lavender cotton sprouts pale lemon puffs along the tops of walls. 

And always in the other direction sparkles the sea, in turquoise and green washing in hoary wave lines over tan and pale gray underwater shoals, the all of it shading into a deeper blue as the waters stretch out toward distant Corsica.

Photo gallery
  • Poppies by the trial, What you'll see hiking the Cinque Terre, Italy (Photo by Massimilianogalardi)
  • A rocky cove, What you'll see hiking the Cinque Terre, Italy (Photo by Massimilianogalardi)
  • Prickly pear cacti, What you'll see hiking the Cinque Terre, Italy (Photo by Massimilianogalardi)
  • Fig trees, What you'll see hiking the Cinque Terre, Italy (Photo by Massimilianogalardi)
  • Local vintners use cute monorail systems to collect grapes from the terraced vineyards, What you'll see hiking the Cinque Terre, Italy (Photo by burnto)
  • Terraced vineyards, What you'll see hiking the Cinque Terre, Italy (Photo by Gruenemann)
  • , What you'll see hiking the Cinque Terre, Italy (Photo by Massimilianogalardi)
  • Sunbathing on the rocks, What you'll see hiking the Cinque Terre, Italy (Photo by Massimilianogalardi)
  • A cove, What you'll see hiking the Cinque Terre, Italy (Photo by Massimilianogalardi)
  • Cacti by the trail near Manarola, What you'll see hiking the Cinque Terre, Italy (Photo by Twice25 & Rinina25)
  • Hauling grapes from the harvest, What you'll see hiking the Cinque Terre, Italy (Photo by Adam Kahtava)
  • , What you'll see hiking the Cinque Terre, Italy (Photo by Massimilianogalardi)
  • Lemon trees, What you'll see hiking the Cinque Terre, Italy (Photo by Fabio A. Locati)
  • Vineyards, What you'll see hiking the Cinque Terre, Italy (Photo by Massimilianogalardi)
  • Cacti by the trail near Riomaggiore, What you'll see hiking the Cinque Terre, Italy (Photo by Twice25 & Rinina25)
  • Flowers, What you'll see hiking the Cinque Terre, Italy (Photo by Massimilianogalardi)
  • A view across the vineyards to the coast, What you'll see hiking the Cinque Terre, Italy (Photo by Shyamal)
  • Vine covered slopes, What you'll see hiking the Cinque Terre, Italy (Photo by John W. Schulze)
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