Martha and I like to think of ourselves are avid hikers. Nearly four years ago, we hiked to the top of Mt. Tallac near Lake Tahoe, a height of nearly 10,000 feet, and I proposed to her there (awwwww). It was a picturesque view of seven nearby lakes and one of our fondest memories. So, while we were in yet another picturesque area, we thought we would treat ourselves to a big of exercise and views.
There are several paths between each of the villages. There is an “easy” path and a “challenging” path. The easy path is carefully maintained, usually paved, and you need to buy a ticket to walk on the path. The ticket is good for a single day on any of the lower paths between the villages, including the famed Via Dell’Amore (“Lovers Walk”) between Riomaggiore to Manarola.
Before we set out on our hike, we packed along a big bottle of water, some granola bars, and talked to Giuseppe, the husband in the husband-wife duo owners of the Albergo Barbara. He lent us his hiking map and explained that the challenging path, which took you up the hills to the road, was difficult but worth it for the views.
Vernazza to Monterosso al Mare
Here is a map of the area, we would be getting from Vernazza to Monterossa by climbing trail 8 to 8b to 1 to 9. It was a six kilometer hike that is estimated to take three to four hours.
The #2 path, which I’ve outlined with a green line, is the “easy” path that requires a ticket. The red path, which is the “8 to 8b to 1 to 9” path, is the one we took. You can’t really tell on this map but there is some serious elevation changes going on. 🙂
The hike begins with you talking through the residential area of Vernazza, which caused us a little bit of an issue. We saw the trail signs but didn’t realize that the really nice signs, the professional ones, were for the funded #2 trail. This is one of them (when we show you the unfunded trail signs, you’ll see the difference!):
We got a little lost when we first started because we confused a few of the markers. We didn’t have much faith in the trailhead markings but the red and while blazes were there, along with accurate trailheads. To get to trail 8, you need to go up through the town of Vernazza, past the train station (underneath it in fact) until you get to a small bridge to the left. It will lead to a church and cemetary. Continue up the mountain and look for red and white stripes to lead the way.
As you go up the path, take a look at Vernazza as it slowly gets smaller and smaller. 🙂 Eventually, and it is quite a ways, you will reach a wooded area that has a madonna statue, the Madonna di Reggio Vernazza. To the right of the madonna statue is a little fountain with what felt like the coldest water in the world.
After a brief stop, we continued onto 8b through the wooded area. Here’s what the non-funded trail markers look like:
The beginning of 8b seems innocuous enough, it takes you through a “residential” area, and eventually spits you out on the main road. Make a left (there are signs) and continue along the road until you read a dusty dirt patch that seems to have a little path along the side of the mountain. That’s the rest of 8b! If it weren’t for the couple coming the other way, I’m not entirely sure we would’ve known to go in this direction. Here’s the dirt patch I was talking about, the trail head is to Martha’s right:
The remainder of 8b winds around the side of the mountain, scratching your legs along the way, and is not an entirely fun trek. You are, however, treated with fantastic views of the water and of both Vernazza and Monterossa, whenever you get close enough to see it. 8b ends on a road.
The road itself is considered trail 1. You follow it for what seems like a kilometer until you touch a road that dips down to the left. It’s the first road on your left, from there you follow it until you reach a church. There are free restrooms where you can rest a little and refill your water. The water is drinkable and pretty cold, both of which are very good things!
To the left of the church there are some benches, where you can take a little break before hading down trail 9. To get to 9, just keep walking until you see a fountain and the end of the granite wall. THe wall will be labeled with a red and white sign with the number 9 on it, just follow that trail down and you’ll be on 9. Trail 9 has a lot of deceptive looking splits and breaks, where you aren’t entirely sure where to go, but always go down and always go where intuition takes you. About five or ten feet after each split, you should see a red and white blaze indicating you’re still on the path.
Trail 9 it also challenging because a lot of it is smooth rock, making it especially difficult to walk down. We preferred the difficulty of 8/8b, since footing was easier, than 9 where you felt like you could easily slip down farther than you wanted. The hike doesn’t have much in the way of views because of the trees though it does offer plenty of shade, which is nice considering we were hiking mid-day at this point.
You’ll know when you are getting close to Monterosso once you start seeing homes, the first of which will be abandoned. At this point, we were exhausted, hungry, and tired of granola bars. We had plenty of water but only croissants for breakfast, so we were famished at this point.
So, we treated ourselves to some pizza!
When we were finished, we felt pretty good about our accomplishments. It was a good hike with some great views and definitely a must. It’s not easy but not impossible, so bring plenty of water and your camera. Now it’s time to explore a little bit of Monterosso!