I first visited Cinque Terre back when nobody seemed to know about it (except the Germans, who seem to know all the good spots before the rest of the world). I think by now, everybody has heard of this special little place. These five small villages with pastel buildings and glittering azure water have attracted hordes of tourists in the past ten years. There are rumors of government imposed limitations on tourist numbers, but this has not yet come to pass. These villages are all connected by train (only 1 to 3 minutes between each) and by hiking trails. One of the popular activities here (other than strolling around with a gelato gawking at the sheer prettiness), is hiking. The Cinque Terre national park is a vast area with tons of hiking trails. It can be overwhelming looking at the maps and trying to figure out a plan. I’m here to help you with hiking Cinque Terre
Cinque Terre translates to “five lands” in Italian. The five villages from south to north are Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterrosso de Mare. The Cinque Terre National Park is a protected area and became Italy’s first national park in 1999. It encompasses parts of the communes of Levanto and La Spezia Cinque Terre was included as a Unesco World Heritage site in 1997.
You can stay in any of the villages, but lodging is very expensive. La Spezia (at the southern most end) and Levanto (the northern most end) are both good options for lodging since they have train service. I stayed in a village called Biassa between La Spezia and Riomaggiore. It was a very good price but not the most convenient place. Search for hotels and hostels here:
Right now if you use Booking.com (my favorite hotel booking site) you and I will both get $20! Woo hoo! Just use this code: https://www.booking.com/s/11_6/f5938ab7
There are many more trails than I will talk about. You can read more about them here if the info you want isn’t in my post.
There is a coastal trail and a high trail. The Via Dell”Amore is an easy coastal walk but is currently closed because of landslides. The high trail is open. This is a free trail and maybe the most difficult. It takes about an hour and is essentially a steep incline, then steep decline. I skipped this one.
There are two trails here with the easy coastal walk also closed. (Why can’t anything be easy, huh?) The harder hill-side walk is moderate difficulty, takes about 2 to 2.5 hours. This one is free. I did this and will describe it in more detail.
This is a coastal walk that is open. The cost is 7.5 Euro and takes 1. 5 hours. It is moderate difficulty but much easier than the hillside walks. I did this one also and will describe.
This is a coastal walk of moderate difficulty. Also costs 7.50 Euro and takes 1-2 hours. I did not do this one, but heard this is gorgeous.
A girl I met did this hike (as well as all of them) and said this was here favorite. She started in Levanto and said it wasn’t very hard and took approximately 2 hours. It was very quiet and peaceful because of not many people doing it. Sounds lovely huh? I wish I did it!
This village is close by and a nice place to escape the crowds. I am working on another post about how to hike here. Stay tuned!
All of these can be done in reverse and in combination with others, depending on how much time and effort you want to spend hiking. Think of it as mix and match hiking. They can be slightly harder or easier depending on where you start.
Don’t be an idiot like me. You have to watch my videos to see all the bad decisions I make. Have these items before you start hiking:
Starting from the harbor in Manarola and looking north (to the right) you will see stairs. Go up these stairs. Make sure you don’t go towards the closed Via Dell’ Amore. Also be sure you look back often and enjoy the gorgeous views of Manarola.
I get very confused hiking so I will provide as much detail as possible to help those out who are like me. Sometimes it is well signed and of course keep going towards Corniglia. There is a village named Volastra in between so follow signs towards Volastra (until of course you pass Volastra). Apparently you can take a shuttle from Manarola to Volastra and of course the hike would be that much easier.
Sentiero means “walk” in Italian, just in case you are not fluent in Italiano. The red and white symbol is the trail marker for the entire region. Always look around for those. Sometimes they are subtle. They can be on trees, rocks, walls, etc.
Eventually Manarola becomes a tiny little speck to your south and you will eventually see Corniglia in the distance to your north. In between is gorgeous crystal blue water that you would do anything to jump into at this point!
I got lucky somewhere in the hills and found a little hydration station. I can’t say this will always be there so don’t be dumb like me, and bring plenty of water. For real, some angel had set up a table with several iced jugs of homeMade lemonade and disposable cups, a garbage can and a tip jar. Adorable and literally saved my ass!
Getting closer and closer to Corniglia!
Vernazza is my favorite village for many reasons. This colorful piazza by the harbor will be your reward for hiking here from Corniglia!
This hike is pretty easy to follow. Good signage and hard to get lost. You will pass a village with a store halfway through if you need to restock on nourishment!
I heard that starting in Vernazza and going to Corniglia is HARDER. Also good to know, there are over 300 steps just to get from the Corniglia train station into the village, so this is kind of part of the hike I guess.
Much of the way looks like this. Notice the little red and white symbol on the rocks.
Get ready for lots of this on your descent into Vernazza (steep steps):
It’s so exciting when you can see the village ahead. Plus it’s so freaking pretty!
If for any reason you need to get back to a different village from where you end up, consider the ferry for a different and beautiful perspective of the villages. I took the ferry from Vernazza back to Riomaggiore and it cost 10 euros. This photo is Riomaggiore from the ferry.
If you are walking down into the village facing the water, Il Grottino will be on your left. Very cute little place. I had the gnocchi with prawn sauce. And the local house white wine. Of course. Oh mamma mia.
Make sure to treat yourself to one of the many awesome gelato places in town. I can’t remember the name of this one but once you find Il Grottino and walk up the hill (away from water), it is very soon to your left. There is an outdoor cafe next to it. If you get your gelato to go, it costs less than to sit and eat it. Oh Italy. I highly recommend the peach and orange flavors (pesche and arancia en Italia) for the perfect combination of indulgent and refreshing. The peaches in Italy are bomb btw! I recommend eating them any chance you get. Eat your heart out Georgia peaches.
Corniglia is the smallest village. There’s one main street and a piazza. There are many restaurants. Choose any and I’m sure the food will be good. I happened to go to Ristorante Enoteca Il Pirun and had spinach ravioli with a pistachio pesto and it was incredible.With local white wine (don’t you all know me by now). I ate this too fast to take a picture. Sorry! (I’m not that sorry). Especially after hiking! After that, definitely have gelato and walk down to look at the water. You may want to pack a bathing suit so you can take dip. There is a small rocky area just north of the village where you have water access.
I randomly found this teeny place with literally 7 tables called San Martino. You basically go up to the counter, look at what fresh dishes they are making and choose. Choose a drink, take it and they will deliver the meal to your table, if you were lucky enough to grab one. I got lucky and got there right before a line formed. I had pesto lasagna and almost went back for seconds. One of best lasagnas I have ever eaten (and I’ve had many). I still drool looking at this picture.
Also in Monterosso, Cantina de Miky which has a great ocean-side location. Start with a refreshing Limoncino Spritz. The pesto was one of best ever and the homemade curly pasta shape was incredible. Also the fried chickpea appetizer was unique and yummy.
For a special experience, check out Il Pirata. This is more of a breakfast or lunch/snack place. I first discovered this place in 2003, a year after they first opened. It’s kind of a long story, which I will be sending out to my subscribers soon. Subscribe homey! Anyway, I had read that they had grown substantially since then and had to go back to see the twin brothers that run the place (one of them is the pastry chef). I chose the special, an almond croissant with ricotta cream, with a giant cappuccino. It was divine.
If you have any questions please feel free to ask in comments or contact me privately! I hope this is helpful!
Have you been to Cinque Terre? What was your favorite hike? Favorite restaurant?
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