Cinque Terre hiking has been so long synonymous with the Via Dell’Amore, the famous walk from Riomaggiore to Manarola along a paved trail that hugs the cliffs and coastline, that when it was closed at the end of last season because of an incident involving falling rocks and some very fortunate Australian tourists, we all thought that the Park management would get the trail up and running in no time flat.
The months went on, and every time we checked the news from the park, it was the same story, that the “Lover’s Walk” was not yet open. And yet the summer kept getting nearer and nearer.
And so we reacted with dismay when we got the news from an inside source within the park that not only was the trail going to remain closed indefinitely, but that it might never open again! How could this be possible? The Cinque Terre surely wouldn’t allow its major attraction to just vanish like that!
But our source had some good reasons for believing that not only was this the inevitable outcome, due to the impossibility of ever truly making the trail 100% safe, and thus making insurance risks way too high, but also for believing that this was the way things should be.
After all, hiking is not the same as walking, and the Via dell’Amore was nothing more than a walk on a sidewalk with hordes of tourists. You could do it in flip-flops or in heels, you could do it out of shape or drunk. And that is not what Cinque Terre hiking (in a national park, no less) is all about.
But this doesn’t resolve the question: without the Via dell’Amore, what has Cinque Terre hiking become for your average visitor? Well, there are any number of wonderful hikes in the park, trails that link one town to the next, or one town to its upper sanctuary. But they require a bit more forethought and planning than just stumbling onto the Via dell’Amore in whatever condition you happen to be. You should have good shoes, the proper clothes, a hat, some water, and the desire to hump it up and down some rather steep grades. They aren’t for everyone, I admit, but I have also seen them done by tourists in their 80s, and children as young as 5. (I can’t guarantee that the kids were actually enjoying it, though.)