The Cinque Terre trails, among the best and most famous walks of Italy
Growing up in the Cinque Terre area hiking is simply having a walk from one village to the other or to one of the shrines above them. It’s something trivial and at the same time we have never enough of it. It’s part of our lives.
Hiking in the Cinque Terre is also one of the Italian tourism highlights and accordingly to Facebook and the Lonely Planet it’s getting a world one!
Saying so means that these 5 tiny villages tend to be overcrowded during Italian national holidays and summer and that’s why I suggest that you plan a trip between October and April to fully enjoy the essence and authenticity of this UNESCO gem.
Introduction over, now let’s talk about the villages and the paths.
From west to east the 5 villages are:
- Monterosso al Mare, the biggest one,
- Vernazza, probably the most photogenic,
- Corniglia, perched on the rocks amid vineyards,
- colorful Manarola,
- Riomaggiore, the amazingly vertical one.
The lower trail connecting the villages is the most famous one, known as the Blue Trail n° 2. It follows the rocks passing in the middle of vineyards, olive trees and never-ending sets of the typical stony walls. Due to the fragile and steep landscape of this area and the climate change in the last few years, during the cold season these paths happen to be closed for security reason in case of heavy rain or due to their difficult maintenance.
My favorite portion is the one in between Corniglia and Vernazza, lasting more or less 1 and a half hour, with some steep and very narrow parts, but what a view!
To hike trail n° 2 you should purchase the Cinque Terre Card at the Park Info Points or at the entrance of each path. For more information regarding both the card and the updated trails’ situation.
Oh, the world famous Via dell’Amore (i.e. Love Lane) connects Riomaggiore and Manarola, but it’s at the moment only partially open from the Manarola’s side. It’s not really a trail though… it’s a paved flat way, the only one accessible with strollers and wheelchairs.
Less famous, but to me really more scenic and interesting are the trails connecting the villages to the five shrines and then Red Trail n° 1 linking them to one another. This trail is also known as the Upper Trail or High Trail, it’s always open and stretches along 40 km between Levanto and Porto Venere being much more peaceful and with an impressive view all the way long (actually most of the pics you can see in magazines and travel guides are taken from this trail).
To hike it all you need more or less 8 hours, but you can of course cut it and do it in several days to have time to relax and visit the villages and their sanctuaries:
- Our Lady of Soviore,
- Our Lady of Reggio,
- Our Lady of Grace,
- Our Lady of Good Health
- Our Lady of Montenero.
The portion I prefer is the one in between Levanto and Monterosso. A 2-hour hike stretching in the middle of the Mediterranean maquis, offering amazing glimpses and once over the top, at Mesco Peak, letting you have a view from Portofino to Tuscany islands and of course on the crystal blue sea.
Some personal tips:
- there are some trails offering a better view/easier uphill hike walking from west to east: Levanto-Monterosso, Riomaggiore-Porto Venere;
- there are other to be walked the other way round: Manarola-Volastra-Corniglia, Corniglia-Vernazza (amazing at sunset!), Vernazza-Monterosso (both on trail n° 1 and 2);
- stay at least 2 days and 3 nights to be able to visit everything and enjoy the villages from sunset on and early in the morning when they are not crowded and more authentic;
- if you have more available days, don’t miss Porto Venere, Levanto, Bonassola and Framura. The villages are beautiful and the trails connecting them are really worth it and very quiet!
Some general useful hiking tips:
- wear good sneakers or during the rainy season hiking boots. It might sound silly and obvious, but you will see the number of injured people wearing flip-flops on high hills;
- never forget to carry some water when you leave a village as you won’t find any till the following one;
- don’t forget sunscreen and sunglasses as the sea reflection is similar to the snow one;
- if you have it, carry your camera with a good zoom as the smartphone zoom might be quite frustrating when taking pics of the villages from the paths.
How to get to Cinque Terre
The closest airports are Pisa and Genoa, both connected to Cinque Terre by train.
This area is also connected by train to Milan, Torino, Bologna, and the other main cities in northern Italy. For the detailed train schedule, please do check the Italian Railways official website.
I would really avoid coming by car as you do not need one while visiting the area and as there are almost no parking places in the villages. It’s a little bit easier in the surrounding towns where hotels have their own parking lots, but still…
How to move around
Well, you can obviously walk from one village to the other, but you can also take the train (there is one every 30 to 45 minutes from 6 a.m. to 1 a.m. and it takes 3 to 4 minutes in between each stop) or enjoy the view from the sea taking the ferry. To check prices and timetables for the ferries, please do check the official website.
There is of course much more to tell about all the mentioned villages and trails, so do not hesitate to get in touch should you wish more details.
Enjoy this tiny paradise!