Cinque Terre Hiking: The Most Beautiful Walk in Italy

Last summer we spent a few weeks travelling around Italy including an idyllic 5 days in the Cinque Terre hiking, swimming, eating and enjoying ourselves immensely. This beautiful spot along the Italian Riviera lies to the west of La Spezia in the Liguria region and is a world heritage listed site. It’s a “must-see” for anyone visiting Italy in my humble opinion.

Cinque Terre Hiking, Riomaggiore
Riommagiore – the village we stayed in.

I’ve previously written about the stunning 5 villages that make up the Cinque Terre however one of the main attractions of this region is the picturesque hike that takes you from village to village. Sentiero Azzurro (Light Blue Trail) is the name of the walk that connects the five different villages.

Corniglia to Vernazza
Rewarding views the whole way along the Cinque Terre trail.

We did this walk over two days, although I must admit we got waylaid a few times by the crystal clear ocean and delicious pizzas and gelato that were calling our names. We ended up walking one section of the hike the different direction than most and going up hill the whole way… but I’ll get to that later. Let us begin at the beginning!

The Cinque Terre Hike

You can start the walk from anyone of the villages as they are all connected. There is also a local train that stops at each village so you can head direct to Riomaggiore (the most southern village) or Monterosso al Mare (the most northern village) and walk in either direction you choose. The hikes get harder as you go further North so most people leave from Riomaggiore, stopping for delicious sustenance along the way.

leaving Monterosso
Just outside of Monterosso al Mare – the most northern village.

How long is the Cinque Terre Hike?

How long the walk takes varies greatly depending on whether you stop in each village for a wander around, if you feel inclined to cool down with a dip in the ocean or how distracted you get by the mouth-watering food and gorgeous villages along the way (like we did).

If you’re wondering if you can hike the Cinque Terre in one day, then YES this is definitely possible. It will take you about 6 or 7 hours depending on how fast you’re going. Don’t forget sunscreen and a water bottle!

swimming in Corniglia
The swimming spot we got distracted by for a few hours – fair enough really right?

Like I said, we got as far as Vernazza the first day we did the hike and by then it was getting late and dark as we had spent all day eating and swimming between hikes. We decided to get up early the next day and do the hike from Monterosso back to Vernazza then spend some time in Vernazza exploring. Great idea except it’s all uphill from Monterosso to Vernazza!

swimming in Monterosso
Locals heading for a swim.

However if you do the walk from start to finish with just short stops along the way it should take you about 5 hours. Start early, particularly if you are there in summer as it gets incredibly hot with the sun beating down on you and you can be walking for a couple of hours in some parts.

What to take with you?

Admittedly we did the walk in flip flops because we are Aussie’s who never take them off in summer but walking shoes would probably be a bit more comfortable! Take PLENTY of water, bug spray, sunscreen and your bathers in case you want to jump straight into the ocean to cool off.

cliff diving Monterosso
Crazy Italians!

How much does it cost to access the trails?

The Cinque Terre hike is a protected National Park and therefore there is a cost to enter the trail. The day pass is €5 per person however it’s worth looking at a 2 day pass for a few euros more. You can also grab a Cinque Terre Train Card for only a little extra which gives you unlimited rides on the local train.

Monterosso to Vernazza Tom
Halfway between Monterosso and Vernazza – time for a rest in the shade.

There is a booth as you enter the walk and along each section between villages. They weren’t always manned or if they were the attendant was sometimes sleeping but this does not mean we recommend not paying for the card – this is one spectacular part of the world that certainly deserves to be preserved and buying the pass means you are doing your little part to help with that!

Let’s Get Hiking: The Trail with Photos

Cinque Terre Hike

Riomaggiore to Manarola (Hike Time: 20-30 minutes)

If you walk the trail as most do, starting in Riomaggiore and heading north you begin with a leisurely stroll to Manarola, the second village of the Cinque Terre. Via dell’Amore (Lovers Walk) is only a short walk that is wheelchair friendly and takes you past locks that lovers have attached to the fence before throwing the key into the ocean to prove their fidelity to each other.

lovers locks
Lovers locks seen while hiking the Cinque Terre.

Don’t forget to snap a picture of the beautiful lovers seat that adorns many postcards. You will come across it just before you reach Manarola.

lovers seat
The Lovers Seat!

Manarola to Corniglia (Hike Time: 1-1.5 hours)

Unfortunately when we were here this section of the walk was closed due to a landslide so we caught a train for this part. Luckily we didn’t miss the good bit! From what I have read the first part of the hike is very flat and easy going – much like the Lovers Walk. From the train station to the village is where it gets interesting.

Lots of Stairs Up To Corniglia in Cinque Terre
Walking the steps up to Corniglia. Good training, right? The local villagers must be fit!

Corniglia is not at sea level – it is perched high above the rest of the villages, regally looking down from it’s perch. Which means you need to work that butt and legs and climb the 360 stairs to reach it. It’s worth it, believe me!

corniglia lady
Enjoying the view from Corniglia.

Corniglia to Vernazza (Hike Time: 1-1.5hours)

We set off from Corniglia to Vernazza with a belly full of pizza and cooled down from a swim in the ocean. This is where the red stripes along the rocks started to come in handy to give us a bit of guidance along the path. This hike is not that strenuous but it is very dusty and rocky so make sure you look where you are going.

entering Vernazza
Beautiful candy coloured buildings greet you as you enter Vernazza.

Vernazza to Monterossa (Hike Time: 2 hours)

So this is the section we did backwards and I recommend not doing what we did! It was a stunning walk but there was about a million steps going up, apparently it’s still arduous in the other direction but not quite as much. Make sure you have plenty of water for this stretch and perhaps proper shoes – it’s a pretty decent hike.

Riomaggiore to Manarola
You can always catch the train for any stretch along the way.

If you feel thirsty along the way you might be lucky(?) enough to come across a farmer selling cold, alcoholic limoncello, unfortunately this is not quite what we were looking for to quench our thirst right then.

Monterosso to Vernazza
Tom, catching his breath before attempting MORE stairs.

Once you have completed the hike take a big swig of water, jump in the ocean to cool off, treat yourself to a gelati then sample some of the local wine – you deserve it!

looking down on Vernazza
You will also get treated to plenty of views such as this!

Other Common Questions & Final Thoughts

We thought we would finish the article with our final thoughts and some answers to the common questions that often arise.

The Best Way To Hike The Cinque Terre?

As with all things travel, there are different strokes for different folks. I would recommend starting with the blue trail as this is the “easiest” and a fantastic way to see the coast and villages as you go.

For the more advanced hikers (that’s not us, see the flip-flops Tom was wearing?) there are trails further up the mountain that provide a much better level of difficulty. We found the blue trail the perfect mix of challenging and fun – so start with that!

Is it easy?

Many people wonder if hiking the Cinque Terre is difficult or not. A little but of fitness is required, and there can be a lot of steps and stairs involved – so as long as that isn’t going to be a problem you’ll be fine. There are villages along the way and other people on the trail so there is always help if it’s needed.

Is it safe?

Yes, the trails are very safe. Common sense is also obviously required. They’re quite vigilant about closing trails when needed or if there are safety concerns. One of the trails was still closed from the floods for us (Manarola to Corniglia) – the path is also quite wide and you’re never hanging precariously off a cliff or something like that.

How long to spend in Cinque Terre?

Our personal opinion is 3 days or more. People ask how much time is a good amount for the 5 villages, it depends on you of course but 3 – 5 days is what we recommend. 2 days is just not quite enough time and if you love walking, photography, food & swimming you’ll be sad to leave on the third day.

The place is magical, let it win you over and give it the time it deserves!

Sun Set in Riomaggiore Cinque Terre

29 Responses to “Cinque Terre Hiking: The Most Beautiful Walk in Italy”

  1. Wow – what a great hike! I’ve just added something new to my travel to-do list! Beautiful.

  2. Chloe says:

    Hi Tom πŸ™‚ Great photos! It looks like such a magical place. What camera do you use? We will add this hike to our “must do” list!

  3. Lauren says:

    Beautiful photos! Love the one of you situ looking out into the blue water.

    • Tom says:

      Thanks Lauren – that’s actually a stranger Trudy caught sitting on the wall. She has a cool hat – we just thought it was a beautiful shot πŸ™‚ The water is gorgeous around this part of Italy, with blues and green hues it’s all you can do to stop yourself jumping in when you’re sweating and hiking πŸ˜€

  4. Karen says:

    Hi Tom,
    We will be spending a week in the Cinque Terra in June. love your tips about the walk. which town do you think is the best to stay in? I was thinking Vernazza or Rio Maggiore.
    Thanks again,
    Karen

    • Tom says:

      Hi Karen! Well we stayed in Riomaggiore and loved it – staying there is definitely a good option and it’s the first town you meet on the train from La Spezia. It’s nice to check-in, get organised and then you can begin the walk straight from Riomaggiore. Vernazza is a beautiful little village as well, I wouldn’t hesitate to stay there if you see a nice place! Both are good! Go with wherever you can get the best deal, I reckon! πŸ˜€

  5. Simon Falvo says:

    Lovely post. The hike at the Cinque Terre is definitely enchanting, but I’m not sure I would call it the most beautiful in Italy. There are amazing walks in the Dolomites, with fabulous views on some of the most wonderful mountains in the world (not surprising they have been declared a UNESCO Heritage site). And many others in off-beaten areas.

  6. Nice sets of photos Tom. Italy is definitely included in my bucketlist. Hopefully, I can also visit Cinque Terre. Thanks for this informative post. πŸ™‚

  7. Leah says:

    Wow so glad we added this to our trip in February, can’t wait! Hopefully it will still be beautiful in winter. We are also staying in Riomaggiore. Just discovered your page today and it’s given me heaps of ideas and hints for our 9 months travelling/working around Europe, Thanks!

  8. Kristy says:

    I can’t wait to go there this summer to enjoy the beach. Hopefully I can loose weight on those stairs!

  9. Eibhlin says:

    Did you pre-book hostels/hotels/B&BS or find accomodation on arrival to each village? is accomodation expensive?

    • Tom says:

      Hiya Eibhlin, we pre-booked a place in Riomaggiore for 4 nights, it’s easy enough to explore the other villages, no need to sleep-hop between them. Unless you’re going right in peak time it’s probably not needed to book, but then that does mean you have to walk around looking for a place to stay when you arrive. If I went again, I would probably stay in either Riomaggiore (again) or Vernazza.

  10. Anine says:

    Hi Tom, thanks so much for 2 great inspiring posts about Cinque Terre! I’ve been following your posts for quite while. Congrats also on the new website and logo!

    My husband and I are going for a 3 week holiday in August, where we want to spend 4 – 5 days in Cinque Terre and I was wondering if I could ask you a couple of questions. It sounded like you were quite happy with your accommodation in Riomaggiore – you mentioned you booked a hostel and it ended up being a 2 bed apartment? Any way you could forward me the link to the place you’ve stayed?

    Also, we’ll be travelling with a car from Rome/Tuscany. Can we drive to Riomaggiore and leave the car there and explore the rest of the villages by foot and/or train or do we need to leave the car in La Spezia?

    Many thanks!

    • Tom says:

      Hey Anine! Thanks for leaving a comment!

      We were happy with our accommodation in Cinque Terre, but we were sharing with 6-7 other backpackers in a little apartment type thing with bunkbeds. It was certainly comfortable for what it was, and was close to the water in Riomaggiore. We booked it through Hostelworld. You might want something a little more private, I saw a double bed room going in Manarola for like $50 USD.

      Cars are not really allowed in the villages, there are some roads up and around them but I would imagine parking would be a nightmare. Honestly I would leave the car at La Spezia and get the train in – a much more relaxed way to do it. Once in Riomaggiore you can walk or get the train to the other villages very easily.

      Hope this helps, let me know if you have anymore questions!

  11. Tripobox says:

    Hi Trudy,

    I have been to Italy but I have never heard about the ”Cinque Terre”! It looks awesome; I will visit it for sure!

    Sincerely,
    Alexandros

  12. Craig says:

    Hi!

    This looks absolutely amazing. I am planning a trip across Europe and this will be a perfect little detour between Venice and Milan!

    I was wondering though, how easy is it to get trains to and from the first and last village? I imagine I’d need to get a train from Venice to La Spezia and go from there, but to get up to Milan, would you know what my options would be?

    Thanks and I LOVE your blogs. It’s giving me so many ideas for my trip!

    Craig πŸ™‚

    • Tom says:

      Hi Craig!

      Getting trains between the villages is VERY easy, you won’t have any problems there. Getting to Cinque Terre normally involves getting a train via La Spezia. Going up to Milan, you would likely have to go via La Spezia again – as this is the closest main train hub to Cinque Terre.

      Thanks so much for your kind words about the blog! Have an awesome trip πŸ˜€

  13. Art says:

    Thank you for the post. I am convinced cinque terre is the place to visit, maybe 3 days.

  14. Andrew says:

    At night, where did you guys stay? Do you suggest camping, hostel, home stay? I’m assuming it was a spontaneous decision as to where you stay’ed?

    • Tom says:

      Hey Andrew we booked something through HostelWorld. It turned out to be a unit type thing in Riomaggiore with shared beds in it that we shared with other travellers. Worked out quite well, we made some friends in there that we explored Cinque Terre with and was pretty cheap. If you’re heading there in peak season you would probably want to book ahead, but between all the villages you’re bound to find a room if you just rock up.

  15. Caitlyn says:

    Hey guys!
    I am thinking about doing this hike at the end of October and I remebered you had done it. Love the photos and it was great reading about it all. But i’m wondering if it would be as good in Autumn. Not that fun if it rains i’m guessing! And also, might not be as fun if you can’t swim.

    What do you think??

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