We are, once again, on a level 2 storm warning. ARPAL (which stands for “Agenzia Regionale per la Protezione dell’Ambiente Ligure“) currently has two levels of alert: level 1 (think of it as a yellow “proceed with caution” light) and level 2 (the highest level of alert, a so-called red light where everything comes to a grinding halt). We’ve had multiple back-to-back alerts in just this past month.
Trails throughout the Cinque Terre are currently closed. All local schools have been cancelled. Our day-to-day lives are obviously interrupted. This is starting to feel like a throwback to Aesop’s Fable, “The Boy That Cried Wolf.” Yes, we are in an area that is extremely prone to hydrogeological hazards (we know this all too well, especially considering the disastrous 2011 flooding). But does that mean that every single time a storm comes through we need to go into a state of alert? From a psychological standpoint, it’s unnerving (to say the least).
As we all know, there are always two sides to every coin. OF COURSE, we’d rather be safe than sorry. OF COURSE, we don’t want to put our loved ones (or anyone else, for that matter) at risk. I think the reasoning behind the abundance of alerts in the past few weeks stems from recent lawsuits involving mayors and public officials (in other cities in Italy that have suffered from flooding or other natural disasters). These public officials are being held responsible for deaths due to unheeded weather alerts. It’s yet to be seen whether they’ll actually be found guilty, but in the meantime I’d say it’s enough to have most mayors and public officials shaking in their boots. The easy way for local city governments to wash their hands of the responsibility is to declare a state of alert whenever ARPAL sounds the alarm. As soon as that happens, emergency measures go into effect (including closing the schools, trails, etc.). The obvious flip side to having so many alerts is that the local population becomes desensitized and indifferent to them, thus undermining the whole point of the alerts to begin with.
***UPDATE*** The level 2 alert has been extended until 3pm today. We’ve had lots of rain and gusty winds but as far as the Cinque Terre is concerned so far, so good. However, the storm has caused extensive flooding just to the south of us in Marina di Carrara. Fingers crossed that the alert is soon lifted and that we can go back to life as normal.
The Cinque Terre is back on a level 2 storm warning starting tonight at 9pm until tomorrow (November 5th) at midnight. Precautionary measures such as closure of local schools as well as the hiking trails throughout the Cinque Terre National Park will be in effect.
Latest update: October, 2017
The most famous hiking path in the Cinque Terre is the Sentiero Azzurro (the so-called “blue” coastal trail that connects all five villages, also known as SVA). There are currently two sections of the coastal trail that are open (the sections between Corniglia and Vernazza and between Vernazza and Monterosso) while the other two sections are currently closed.
Let me break down the four sections of the coastal trail for you and give you some details for each one.
Riomaggiore to Manarola: The famous Via dell’Amore (Lovers’ Lane) which can be classified as a walk or stroll (not a hike) has been closed since 2012 due to extensive landslides. There’s no hope of it reopening in 2017 as no works are currently in progress (thanks to a lack of funding and Italian bureaucracy *sigh*). Learn more about the Via dell’Amore here.
- Alternate trail: At the moment, the primary alternative trail between Riomaggiore and Manarola (called the Beccara, trail #531) has been closed to the public due to pending litigation (more details on that can be found here). While super steep and intense, the Beccara was a straightforward way to hike between the two villages. My friends at Cinque Terre Trekking in Manarola have mapped an alternate route (albeit longer and not so direct) for avid hikers wanting to connect between the two villages (see below). Starting on trail 501 in Riomaggiore (you’ll find the trailhead behind the village’s castle) connect to trails 530 – 532 – 532C – 502 – 506V – 506. This loop is circa 5.8km (3.6 miles) with 420 meters of positive elevation gain. If you’re on Instagram, I recommend following @cinqueterretrek for gorgeous Cinque Terre trail photos and some inspiration!
Manarola to Corniglia: This portion of the coastal trail has been closed since 2011 due to landslide; at this point we do not have an expected reopen date. However, don’t be discouraged as the alternative trail for this portion of the coastal trail is actually one of my favorites (and is actually much more beautiful than the original!).
- Alternate trail: via Volastra (trail 506 to 586 to 587) From Manarola, trail #506 makes its way up the hillside, climbing through the terraced vineyards. Once you’ve reached Volastra (a beautiful little village off of the sea) the trail connects with trail number 586 and takes you through the olives groves and then descends down into Corniglia on trail 587. As Corniglia is already located up off of the sea, the descent isn’t too steep. This alternate route between Manarola and Corniglia takes roughly 2 to 2 1/2 hours (diffulty level: medium to difficult).
TIP: Keep in mind that the most difficult portion of this alternate route is the section of trail 506 (as this is the incline from sea level in Manarola up to 333 meters/1,094 feet above sea level in Volastra). If you prefer, it is possible to catch a bus from Riomaggiore (two per day during peak-season) or Manarola (multiple buses each day) to Volastra and hike the latter two trails to Corniglia.
Corniglia to Vernazza*: This portion of the blue coastal trail (SVA) is currently open and takes approx. 1 1/2 hours to hike (difficulty level: medium to difficult). As you approach Vernazza you’ll have some stellar views over the village!
Vernazza to Monterosso*: This is the most difficult portion of the coastal trail (not counting the alternate route between Riomaggiore and Manarola). Approx. hiking time is 2 hours (difficulty level: strenuous).
*Keep in mind that in order to hike the Sentiero Azzurro a special national park hiking pass (€7.50 per person, per calendar day) must be purchased. In alternative, you can purchase the Cinque Terre Card (€16 per person, per calendar day) which will include not just the hiking along the coastal trail, but also unlimited trains for the day between the villages as well as use of the buses in the villages. See more details about the different passes available by clicking here.
IMPORTANT THINGS TO NOTE:
Only the coastal trail (Sentiero Azzurro) requires payment. All of the other trails (including the aforementioned alternate trails) can be hiked free of charge.
I’m oftentimes asked about the status of the Cinque Terre trails because people have heard that the majority of the trails are closed. FALSE. Out of a total of 48 signmarked trails in the Cinque Terre, 5 are currently closed. FIVE. But don’t take my word for it, you can see for yourself on the Cinque Terre National Park website. No matter how long your stay, there’s plenty of hiking to be done here!
While we’re on the subject, I recommend reading my post on the 8 things you need to hike the Cinque Terre.