We were there in the mid of February, and happily the days were sunny. Staying in Sestri Levante, and used local trains to visit in Cinque Terre villages. This was our 4th visit in the area, and we have walked most of the coast trails earlier. Now of course most of the popular trails were closed, but we walked from Riomaggiore to Manarola, up-and down-trail, which is about half-an-hour longer route than the closed coastal trail. It takes about one hour from us, but the path is only for those who are in quite good shape. Beginning of the trail was quite hard to climb up, but the trail was anyway in very good condition. Little bit hard to find, local people helped us to find the beginning of the path.Manarola was very quiet in February, we even did not find the open bar for the cup of coffee...So we then took a train to Vernazza, eated there (we found only one open restaurant there but the food was good) and after that took the trail to Monterosso. I have walked the same trail to other direction earlier, and this way was easier. About after 2 hours we were in Monterosso. The trailwas quite easy to walk, and in good condition.So it depends lot of the weather, is the hiking in the winter time good idea or not. The villages are very quiet and not so charming in winter time (everything is very closed) but the trails could be nice to hike even at that time if the weather is just good. We have +16 C and very sunny in mid-Feb 2015. Earlier years we have been in Apr, Sep and Oct in this area, mostly doing hiking.
We took the trail from Monterosso to Vernazza and it was hard...for me at least. I'm pretty out of shape but it seemed like for 3/4 of the trail it was uphill! I was huffing and puffing away but what kept me going was the constant gorgeous views! We had to pay to go on the trail, which I thought was a little pricey but definitely worth it. It was insane once you round a corner and see the next city below with the colorful buildings, soooo pretty! It took us a while to get to Vernazza because we made a ton of stops to take photos and to eat the sandwiches that we bought in Monterosso. Everyone needs to visit here at least once in their life!
I took a day trip with Walkabout Florence to Cinque Terre in September 2013. The whole place was so cinematic with beautiful, vibrant color painted houses & reserved natural landscape. The whole 1.5 hour walk to the last stop was definitely one of the most fascinating moments of my life so far. I've never seen the Mediterranean ocean so vast and blue. I didn't get a chance to enjoy the sunset on the Canal of Lovers, but I did sip a white wine glass on the rock in middle of the mountain. The view was so amazing I got lost for words...If I come back I'd definitely plan an overnight trip to fully enjoy this beautiful land.
Our trip here was much anticipated, but was a big disappointment, Portovenere was far superior. Visited in mid October, but still shoulder to shoulder throng of tourists in every village, most of our time was spent waiting for over crowded trains that are far too infrequent and unable to get on trains due to them being so full. Villages are undeniably beautiful, but too small for the huge amount of tourists invading each day, none of us enjoyed it and would not return.