Difficulty: Moderate. The footpath climbs up from the town of Vernazza, levels off for a while and then descends to the town of Monterosso al Mare, a trip that takes about 90 minutes.
How to get there: Fly to Italy and take a train or drive to the coastal town of Vernazza, one of the five towns that make up Cinque Terre in the Liguria region of Italy. Walk into Vernazza on the main road and find Via Ettore Vernazza. Red, blue and white blazes mark the walls of the buildings, leading you down the narrow road and up stone steps to the footpath leading to Monterosso, which is easy to follow.
Information: Five beautiful towns that make up Cinque Terra: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso. These quaint towns — colorful clusters of shops, homes and restaurants — are built into the cliffs and hills on the northwest coast of Italy, overlooking the Ligurian Sea. Tourists can shop for local art and crafts, snack on traditional focaccia and gelato, dine at restaurants nestled into the cliffs and watch locals play bocce ball by the beach. A footpath connects the towns, but sometimes sections of this footpath are closed due to flooding and erosion. As of May 22, 2012, the sections Manarola to Corniglia and Corniglia to Vernazza were closed.
The footpath spanning between Vernazza and Monterosso, a combination of stone steps and dirt paths, hugs the coast and winds through vineyards and lemon orchards. Along the way, hikers will see bright poppies, wild roses, cactus, vines, old rock walls and footbridges. While the path does veer into the forest, much of the time, hikers are exposed to the sun. Consider hiking the trail in the spring or fall because the region is simply too hot for comfortable hiking in the summer. Hikers must pay a small fee to use the trails.
Personal Note: This faraway “1-minute hike” was during my 10-day vacation traveling throughout northern Italy. I also visited Michelangelo’s David at the Galaria de la Academia in Florence, was blessed by the Pope in Vatican City, turned my thumb down in the Coliseum in Rome and enjoyed Tuscan cuisine in Cortona. Don’t worry. I’ll resume my Maine “1-minute hikes” next week, after my body recovers from all the wine, cheese and pasta.