Cinque Terre

The next stop in my travels looking for lizards was Cinque Terre National Park. Cinque Terre is most famous for its five small towns along the rugged coast of north western Italy that were historically connected only by long, steep trails. Nowadays the towns are well connected by land and by sea, but my goal was to hike some of these trails, keeping my eyes open for the several species of lizard in the park.

I got a nice early start and was on the trail by 09:00. I started my traverse at Porto Venere, not one of the famous five, but a beautiful port nonetheless and, sitting at the southern tip of a long spit it looked like there was a lot of nice forest and trail between it and Riomaggiore, the southernmost of the five villages.

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I was so excited I took the first climb almost at a jog. I was soon exhausted and drenched in sweat though. It was swelteringly hot and that first climb seems to last forever. The view was worth it though:

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The trail was extremely variable. Sometimes paved and sometimes just a narrow cut through the grass on top of some farmer’s terraced fields.

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My first trail decision came just as I reached another town (not one of the five, yet) Campiglia. Up until now my plan had been to stay away from the more touristy trails where I expected the lizards to be less plentiful. Per the advice of an Australian I met on the trail though I decided to take a side trail that would take me to Riomaggiore; thus my carefully plotted loop of trails would instead turn into a one way trip where I’d be able to take a boat shuttle back to my car. It was still early and I thought it’d be silly to go to Cinque Terre without actually visiting the namesakes so off I went.

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Well, everything was going according to plan and I was right on schedule to arrive in Riomaggiore at around 3:00 with plenty of time for a gelato and maybe even a bit of sightseeing. I wish I had a picture of the sign on my phone, I’ll upload it from my camera, but it put a kink in all of those plans. I don’t actually know any Italian, but the sign on the fence saying “Attenzione” and stop! seemed pretty clear.

I’d read online that much of this area had been hit hard by rain and landslides in the last couple of years so I assumed the trail was out. No problem, there are several trails into Riomaggiore, I’d take the next one. Several kilometers later I realized that I was no longer on any trail, was instead on a very old, grassy road and wasn’t getting any closer to my destination, in fact I was circling it. The funny part was that I could see the city the whole time but just couldn’t find a way off the ridge and down to it. Finally, I figured out where I was on the map and guessed there was another trail not too far ahead, of course, the same sign blocked my passage. By this point I was getting a bit concerned. I’d drank almost 3L of water by this point but was still dehydrated from the heat and I was now several hours away from Campiglia which would have a shuttle I could take to my car.

I decided to press on and hope for the best. I was starting to get close to the next city, Manarola and noticed that not only were there more trail options but there were also roads heading in that I should cross. At worst, I could hike out on one of those. Well, several kilometers later, I hit the trail to Manarola and, the same sign greeted me. This time though there was an English translation below it. It said (something like, I need to look it up in the picture) “Attention! You must remember to close the gate behind you to prevent wild boars from entering this protected area.” I’m still not sure what the other signs said exactly but I have a feeling the gist was the same. Exhausted and hot after some 15 km of hiking I opened the gate, carefully closed it behind me, and set off for Manarola.

The hike was extremely steep and in my shaky condition I was a bit concerned. It was absolutely beautiful though so I didn’t mind takin my time. Here’s a picture of Manarola from above:

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I made it shortly after 18:00 after some 9 hours of hot and difficult hiking but the views and forest was absolutely beautiful. I also managed to watch three different species of lizard on the hike though they were some of the most skittish of any that I’ve seen this entire trip. All in all it was a highly successful adventure.

Here are a couple of other pretty pictures:

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