As I just alluded to, there was more to love in Cinque Terre than just the food; the views and character of the towns were amazing. Obviously, tourism brings in a lot of money to these quaint little towns, but somehow the locals have made sure that the tourists don't detract from the charm. If you are a hiker and enjoy ocean views, I would highly recommend Cinque Terre as a must-see place to visit. I enjoy a good hike on occasion, but I got more than my fair share while i was there. One of the main attractions is the trail along the coast that connects the five villages. Because it is now a state park, you have to buy a ticket to hike the extensive trails, but it is very reasonably priced, and you can get one, which includes the train and bus transportation between the villages. I paid around 14 or 15 Euros for a two-day pass.
Even though I had been exercising more at home before leaving for my trip, wow did I get a workout while on the trails. The paths connecting Riomaggiore to Manarola to Corniglia are pretty tame, with the first being quite easy and short. There are many other trains connecting to the other villages in the hills or towns quite a way away. I took one of the less used trails to Volastra from Manarola. It was quite the challenge going up those steep trails and stairs through the vineyards, but the views of the area made up for the shaking of my quads when I walked down the same way that I hiked up. On my second day of hiking, my legs were a little sore, so I only did one of the two harder trails, which are from Monterosso to Vernazza to Corniglia. I only did the first leg, but I also explored Monterosso a great deal and climbed up to the old monastery and cemetery that overlook the town. I would have continued the hike from Vernazza to Corniglia, but it was mid-afternoon and very sunny, so a 90 minute hike with little shade did not sound very appealing. Also, a guidebook that I had consulted stated that the views on the first, and harder, trail were much better.
I greatly enjoyed my time in this little gem tucked away in Liguria between Genoa and La Spezia. I would definitely come back, though perhaps with a friend, so I can have someone motivating me to stop being a wimp when I stop to catch my breath on the trails. Hearing the waves of the ocean from my bedroom window was quite soothing, and there is something about the ocean that I love but can't quite describe. If you were expecting sandy beaches, then you would probably be disappointed. There are two smaller beaches in Monterosso and Vernazza, but I feel that they do not have as much character as the other rockier areas. I found a very charming pebbled beach close to Corniglia off the trail from Manarola, and there were several people there swimming and getting some sun. Manarola and Riomaggiore also have places to swim, but they are smaller and rockier, though they do have steps and ladders to make getting out of the water easier. You don't even need to actually get in the ocean (I didn't), and can appreciate the beauty just by soaking up the sun and view.