I saw the : "Rock slides have closed all of the hiking trails from Monterosso to Riomaggiore. It's uncertain whether they will reopen in what's left of 2012." Do we know if/when these will reopened yet? We will be in the area mid-late April, staying in Monterosso and were intending to hike through the 5 villages. So, if the trails will be open, should we start our morning in Monterosso and hike south (boat back), or take a boat south and hike back?
Heather, It's expected that some or all of the trails will be re-opened at the start of tourist season in April, but I have haven't seen any specific information yet. I've heard that crews will be starting to work on the Manarola - Corniglia section quite soon, which was closed most / all of last year due to damage. AFAIK, the damage on that section was not related to the floods of October 2011. All the trails were closed early last fall after a severe rock slide occurred on the famous Via dell'Amore (Riomaggiore to Manarola) on or about September 24th. Four Australian tourists were severely injured. Ironically, that's the easiest section of all the trails and not so much a "hike" as a "stroll". There's a nice Bar part way along (closer to Manarola) where you can stop for a "cool one" and enjoy the gorgeous views. I would highly recommend starting the hike in Monterosso while you're "fresh and well rested", as that's the most challenging part. There's quite a climb at the beginning, and some of the stone steps have a high "rise". Be sure to take lots of water. When you arrive in Riomaggiore, stop for lunch or another "cool one" and then take either the boat (if running) or train back to Monterosso. Happy travels!