Beyond the Cinque Terre villages.
The Cinque Terre villages are jam-packed with tourists, and for good reason - they are gorgeous.
But beyond the Cinque Terre villages are areas that are completely empty of tourists. Paths and trails that only locals seem to walk on.
There are villages up in the hills and surrounding areas that offer stunning views and are not all that far from the craziness of the fishing villages.
I chose to stay in the little village of Biassa, above Riomaggiore. I hiked to Punto Mesco and Levanto. And finally I hiked from Biassa to Porto Venere on a track where we saw no one else.
Escaping the crowds in Biassa.
Staying near Cinque Terre.
Biassa is a quiet village about 10 minutes drive up in the hills above Riomaggiore - the first of the five fishing villages on the immensely popular Cinque Terre. I stayed in a hostel there and was so grateful for choosing this as an option.
I'd booked it as accommodation in the towns was sky-rocketing. And while I had to share a room - this was a lovely way to meet other female travellers.
The hostel ran frequent shuttle buses down into Riomaggiore in the morning and then return shuttles in the evening. It was all very convenient and very well-organised. They had an information sheet on arrival explaining most of the frequently asked questions on the Cinque Terre. This was a slick operation!
The comraderie in the hostel was lovely and the place was relaxed and safe for a solo female traveller. The food deserves a special mention - breakfast was substantial and unbelievable, and then dinner was mind-blowingly delicious for a fraction of the price elsewhere.
The little village also had a pizzeria but I was too tempted to try all the dishes at the hostel, so gave the pizzas a miss.
Beyond the Cinque Terre - Punto Mesco, Levanto and Portovenere.
Having extra time in the region meant I was able to do some extra hikes that were very quiet. Less obviously marked as well, so were very reliant on good maps and our phones. My maps.me app saved the day again!
The tracks were up in the hills away only a stones throw from the Cinque Terre villages but completely deserted in parts. And if someone did appear they were mostly locals.
Hiking to the Punta Mesca.
Clearly I didn't think I had walked far enough the day I walked from Vernazza to Monterosso al Mare, as I then decided that I should walk up to the viewpoint of the Punto Mesco.
Replenishing my water supplies (very smart move) - I ventured on up into the hills that would give me a superb view of the entire Cinque Terre coastline. But, it was SO HOT. No shelter and the midday sun pelting down on me it was hard going on a very steep, and rough track.
When I eventually made it to the top I was shattered. I was met be local hiking groups and a group of young Catholics celebrating mass atop the hill.
The view from the top of the Punta Mesca.
Off the beaten track to Levanto.
I had two options for getting back down. One was to go the way I had been (boring), and the other was to walk further up the Ligurian Coast to the town of Levanto. The time to do both was similar so I opted for the unknown route.
This was a path that only seemed to be walked by local hiking groups. They seemed quite surprised to see me.
The paths were just as rough as the Cinque Terre ones, but the lifestyle you saw walking along was unaffected by tourists in the same way.
The way down was slightly cooler with more coverage from the afternoon sun.
Taking the lesser known route down to Levanto.
Walking to Levanto.
The views up the Ligurian Coast were spectacular. Lots of bush, local farms and homes, and of course, stunning blue sea forever.
Walking into Levanto I came across pottery garden features, large houses hidden behind century old walls, and a wealthier style of architecture.
Lots of black and white marble in the churches, a huge long beach filled with locals, and a town square devoid of tourists!
This was in complete contrast to the packed out Cinque Terre towns, and I was quite puzzled how a place so beautiful seemed to miss out on the action.
Hiking down to Levanto.
The best gelato!
After exploring this small town with it's gorgeous churches and manicured gardens, I opted for a sweet stop.
Unfortunately, the gelataria had run out of lemon gelato (horror, I know!!) but I was told the mango was the very best.
As I wondered off with my new flavour and explored more of the black and white marble church, I was struck not only by the unknownness of this beautiful town, but also the realisation that I would have to restart my gelato research - instead of lemon, I would redo it all on mango!!
Yum... mango gelato!
Hiking from Biassa to Portovenere.
This particular day and walk was a big part of the reason why I chose to travel light. I was going to hike 3-4 hours from my accomodation in Biassa down the coastline peninsula to Porto Venere. I wanted to to see something different and less populated.
I met up with two French-Canadian tourists in the hostel in Biassa and we all walked to Porto Venere together. It was a rugged track in parts and I was pleased to have the company as we saw no one else on it!!
There's always time for coffee in Italy.
I am normally fine walking alone except when tracks are a wee bit precarious! What was meant to be a 3-4 hour hike was actually 5 hours and we weren't mucking around.
But it was pretty amazing to see more of the coast that clearly not many others were. We saw no-one else except locals in the village we passed through that day on the top of the peninsular!
Looking down on La Spezia on one side and the Ligurian Coast on the other. The perfect coffee stop.
The rocky and slow-going walk down into Portovenere was hard-going on the feet and knees, and it was a welcome relief to finally get there.
Exploring Porto Venere.
Porto Venere is a beautiful town with a fortress of buildings as it's first line of defense against ancient marauders. And behind these a rabbit warren of alleys filled with shops, deli's, and churches.
It is a small town that is easily walked around, making it a great daytrip destination.
But staying the night there was very special. Mostly because of the light on the buildings. Sunrise in particular was stunning on the pastel coloured buildings made even softer in the subtle light.
As I walked through the backstreets at dawn, shafts of light sneaked between the tightly packed pastel-coloured buildings. Having the time to roam the streets was so relaxing.
Morning light in Porto Venere.
Cinque Terre boat trips!
I knew that seeing the Cinque Terre from the sea was a must-do experience. The weather was perfect and I thoroughly enjoyed the views up the coast from the calm sea. The round trip of walking to Porto Venere and then back by boat was an absolute treat.
Seeing the villages from the sea made me realise how little these villages are and how precariously they cling to the cliffs around them.
I caught the boat back to Vernazza for my last night in this region. I was absolutely exhausted from all the hiking. But also completely satisfied with all that I had seen and experienced.
And yet, there are so many other paths to explore and tiny villages.
The ocean perspective of the Cinque Terre.
Visit the Cinque Terre and beyond.
If you get the chance to visit the Cinque Terre spend a couple of extra days there and explore a wee bit further. There is so much more to see away from the crowds.
A simply beautiful part of the world.