Cinque Terre is a stretch of seaside villages on the Ligurian Coast of Italy that consists of 5 (cinque) beautiful lands/towns (terre). The hillsides are stacked with water colored structures, precariously atop stunning rock faces jutting over the Mediterranean Sea. Years of incessant exposure to saltwater, rain, and the beating sun have faded the colors to those one could only hope to replicate with a 152-count box of Crayons. Vivid Tangerine, Macaroni and Cheese, Dandelion, Granny Smith Apple, Sea Green, Aquamarine, Cornflower, Tickle me Pink, and Apricot all come to mind. Hiking Cinque Terre is the best way to see these 5 towns and to have the ability to burn off the kilo of trofie al pesto you’re sure to consume!
From La Spezia Centrale, purchase a Cinque Terre card and train to Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, or Monterosso al Mare. There is a Cinque Terre card you’ll need for the train (or you can buy single train tickets) called the Cinque Terre card treno and a Cinque Terre trekking card for hiking between the seaside villages. Over the years we have had a chance to hike many sections in Cinque Terre and as the rules have changed, you’ll need this Cinque Terre card for hiking Cinque Terre in a number of sections. There are parts of the path you can walk/hike for free and others that you can’t. Prices are as follow:
The cards are a cool little souvenir as well and make for great scrapbook material.
We have ventured on a Cinque Terre day trip from Florence probably a dozen times at this point. Each time we visit Cinque Terre, we make sure to hike a section of the amazing trails between Riomaggiore and Monterosso al Mare but with severely limited time on a day trip, we usually train between most of the towns and only hike small sections. To hike from Riomaggiore to Monterosso or vice versa would take hours that you simply won’t have if you’re embarking on a day trip from Florence.
The famous trail connecting the 5 towns is called the Sentiero no. 2 or Sentiero Azzuro (Blue Trail) connecting Riomaggiore and Monterosso al Mare. This trail is 11 KM and takes hikers an average of 5 hours to walk (if you don’t count the time you’ll stop in each town to eat, drink, swim, and explore).
A storm many years ago damaged a section of this trail between Riomaggiore and Manarola, so it is generally closed. Check for closures before you plan your hike.
Hikers can take a few trails on Le Cinque Terre Hiking Trails. We mentioned the Sentiero Azzuro (Sentiero no. 2) above, but the other option is quite a bit more arduous.
Sentiero no. 1 is the red path that runs farther northwest in the mountains, connecting Portovenere to Levanto. This trail is 40 KM long and has an 800 meter gain and loss as it starts at sea level, climbs through the mountains, and returns to sea level.
Perhaps the most popular section of the trail is the Via dell’Amore; a paved section between Riomaggiore and Manarola. The Via dell’Amore – or Lover’s Lanes – is an EASY 2 KM walk where you’ll find a kissing statue of lovers, a tunnel covered in declarations of love, and padlocks where lovers sealed their love for eternity (or maybe just until the padlock gets cut off).
Riomaggiore to Manarola: 1.2 miles (2km); 40 minutes (walking)
Manarola to Corniglia: 1.2 miles (2km); 1 hour 15 minutes (walking)
Corniglia to Vernazza: 2 miles (4km); 1 hour 45 minutes to walk (walking)
Vernazza to Monterosso: 1.8 miles (3km); 2 hours (walking) – This is, in our opinion, the most aesthetically beautiful part of the trail and is the section we choose to hike most times when we visit.
Cinque Terre has some INCREDIBLE food, so you can reward yourself in every village you hike to. Make it like a hiking food tour and have a pizza in Riomaggiore, bruschetta in Manarola, a glass of wine in Corniglia, gelato in Vernazza, and swordfish in Monterosso.
Honestly, any time of year is great! Summer is hot and humid. You’ll reward your hard work with nice swims, cliff jumping, and sunbathing on the Mediterranean. We have hiked in summer and fall and both were lovely. Even if it’s too cold to swim, you can enjoy the hike, food, and wine of the Ligurian region.