Genoa to Monterosso – 74 km ( train 72 km, walking 2 km)
Monterosso to Madonna di Soviori return – 2.5km (elevation 465m)
The next four days we will be hiking the Cinque Terre, a rugged stretch of the Italian riviera. The coastline, the five villages of Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore, and the surrounding hillsides are all part of the Cinque Terre National Park and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Isolated for centuries, the villages only became accessible with the arrival of a rail line in the late 19th C. Even now, while a highway now runs high above, the villages themselves are connected only by ancient trails, a train line or by sea.
The main feature of the steep and uneven landscape is the extension of terraces, called “cian” or “piani”, that are often so narrow that they can contain only one grapevine row. Constructed over the past 1000 years are thousands of kilometers of dry-stone wall supporting these terraces.
October is still high season and the train to Monterosso was packed with tourists. We were able to leave the crowds behind to climb up to the Santuario della Madonna di Soviore, where the view was worth the trek. Our visit to the church at the Sanctuary happened to coincide with the arrival of members of a small mixed choir in preparation for the 5:00 pm sung Mass. We sat for a while and listened to beautiful 4-part harmony (small recorded excerpt below).
Back down in Monterosso we sat by the beach in the late afternoon and then climbed up to the Convento dei Capppuccini, the chapel of which houses a Van Dyck depicting the Crucifixion.