Thank you for the website. I had been to Italy many times to visit family, but never heard of CT until a friend asked me about it, and I found the website. I was worried about crowds, and arrived in Sestri Levanto on my rented vespa from Milan the third week of October 2002. The weather co-operated, but it was dicey at times, and occasionally looked like it might rain. I waited on some potential bad weather, and started late, arbitrarily picking Riomaggiore as a starting point. I could not find a guide book for CT beforehand, but read somewhere that they were readily available in the villages. They had almost none, probably due to the lateness of the season, so I bought one of the only ones I could find. I found out (the hard way) it was not real accurate. I followed the route to Portovenere. The terrain begins steeply from Riomaggiore on trail 3, and winds past farms, vineyards, and is quite beautiful. After a strenuous bit, I arrived at a church, the Santuario di Montenero. The church was closed for the season. I was rewarded for risking a trek to CT so late in the year by making the trip up there without seeing a single person! The church was locked up, but I could tell that it must get crowded up there in the high season, for there were hundreds of chairs stacked up, and I saw what appeared to be a closed down refreshment stand. The vistas from the church were stunning. The guidebook rated that part of the climb “easy”, but I decided that either the author never took the climb himself, or he was an Olympic athlete.
Actually, I would rate that stretch moderate-difficult. The terrain leveled out, and there were pine forests, and periodic stunning views of the ocean. I encountered what appeared to be a 12th century gun turret. The path eventually crosses a small highway at “colletelegrafo” — so named for the telegraph station that once occupied the space. I stopped at a restaurant there, but the food was forgettable, and I regretted taking precious time away from my walk. The trek takes you through more vineyards and one can’t help but wonder how anyone could possibly grow grapes up there. The true reward is to view the Muzzerone (“gymnasium rock”) — a stretch of cliffs that plunge straight to the sea as you near Portovenere. It is stunning, but the path clings to them and if you’re afraid of heights it might be tricky. It was here that I encountered the only person I saw all the way to Portovenere — a German tourist who was kind enough to snap my picture. The walk takes you through a few hamlets, all scenic. I stopped to rest in one small village in a small church, and the inside was ornate and filled with art that appeared 17th century. The descent to Portovenere then began. the guidebook I had described the route inaccurately, and I had to re-acquire the trail on a number of occasions. The articles in the website warn against straying off the path, as there are many small trails that look like they would be easier and/or quicker. Those warnings are accurate and I wish I had heeded them!! Do NOT stray off the marked trails, as you will inevitably hit a dead end, forcing you back (usually uphill) when you are already tired. By this time, I had been hiking about six hours (including a lengthy lunch stop) and was quite tired. Finally, I spotted Palmaria, the island just off the promontory of Portovenere, and also the castle jutting out from the edge of the town, guarding the mouth of the bay.
For anyone who hates crowds, I would highly recommend late October as a time to visit. the weather is unpredictable, however, so you’ll have to trade the certainty of summer weather for no people. I saw only one person on the trail all the way from Riomaggiore to Portovenere. Also, Study about CT before you go, and plan what villages you want to see in what order. I winged it at the last minute with the only guide book I I could find, and while I still had a great time, I could have gotten much more out of my visit with a little advance planning (just enough not to ruin the adventure of spontaneity). The trails are fairly well marked, but a guide book or map of the trails is a must.
Although the weather will be cool in the second half of October, be sure to take a decent supply of water, and invest in a cheap rain suit to tuck into your pack just in case the weather doesn’t co-operate.
Redding, California, USA