Cinque Terre (“five lands”) is a collection of villages along Italy’s Ligurian Coast. From north to south, they are Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. Getting between the towns by foot and by train is easy. Each town has a station serviced by a local train several times per hour. The hiking trail that connects the towns winds along mountains and beaches, through towns, forests and fragrant groves of basil. The trail is about 6.5 miles long and can be completed without much stopping in about 5 hours, but what fun is that? The last leg of the path connecting the two southernmost villages, Manarola and Riomaggiore, is known as Via Dell’Amore, in English, the “Love Walk.”
In the 1920s, the Genoa-La Spezia railway line got an upgrade and dynamite was needed to blast through the rock. With their eye on safety, workers built tunnels into the rock on both the Manarola side as well as the Riomaggiore side of the mountain to store the explosives safely away from the villages. When construction was complete, young people, for the first time faced with the opportunity of dating somebody from outside their hometown, turned the tunnels into a path connecting the two villages. This newly formed trail served as a clandestine meeting point for lovers, earning it the name, Via Dell’Amore.
Today, it is the most popular and accessible leg of the trail. As you walk, you will notice padlocks attached to the fence used to keep landslides at bay. Couples write their names on a lock and close it together, tossing the key into the sea below, to symbolize their commitment to each other. Don’t want to part with your luggage lock? There is a hardware store at via Colombo, 152 in Riomaggiore that can supply you with one. Of course the best time to go is at night, like the lovers of half a century ago. Find a dark and quiet spot to smooch your sweetie underneath a Mediterranean Moon while listening to the waves of the sea crash into the rocks below.
Being a national park, you have to buy a trail pass for 5 euro, available at the beginning of the paths.
The Via Dell’Amore is only romantic at night, but it is worth walking during the day as part of the trail connecting all five towns.