This corner of Italy is mainly famous for the five pastel hued fishing villages and many travellers have no idea that the Cinque Terre National Park is a paradise for hikers. The villages and sanctuaries of the Cinque Terre are connected by more than 100 kms of hiking trails. You can hike in amazing places through forests, terraced vineyards, olive groves, mediterranean shrub and tiny colourful villages. The views towards the bright green terraces and the deep blue sea are breathtaking.
I think you can't really see and understand the Cinque Terre if you don't do any hiking. You have to walk on the dusty paths and up the many stone steps, get close to the terraced vineyards and the dry stone walls to feel the essence of the Cinque Terre and understand why it has become a UNESCO World Heritage site. So don't just rush through the five villages by train or boat in a single day. Try to spend more days here and discover the Cinque Terre National Park on foot. Of course, you need a good fitness level to do that, as there are many ups and downs and long flights of steps in the area.
For hundreds of years these trails have connected the Cinque Terre villages and local farmers had to walk if they wanted to get from one village to the other. So these were simple dirt paths where they could walk to their cultivated terraces or carry their produce to the market. There was no train until the 19th century and no road until the 20th century.
When you set out on the Cinque Terre hiking trails, take enough water with you. On the path, between two villages, there is usually no water available. You find a couple of bars on the Blue Trail, but not on the other free trails. In the villages, you can always find a fountain to refill your bottle and even in the smallest village or at the sanctuaries, you can find a bar or a shop.
Summer on the trails can be really hot as there is not much shade. You should start early, spend the early afternoon swimming or relaxing in the shade, and then continue hiking late afternoon. But make sure you get to your destination before it gets dark. We once underestimated the hiking time from Vernazza to Monterosso on the high trail, and it got dark. We made it to the road and luckily a very nice couple stopped right away and they gave us a ride to Monterosso. I stop often to take photos, and I bet you will do the same, so it's better to plan more time for the hike than written on the hiking maps. If you are visiting Cinque Terre more for hiking than swimming, come in March, April, May, September, October or November. These are the best times to hike the Cinque Terre. You can also hike during the winter, as the climate is fairly mild, but make sure you book your accommodation with heating. Some services will be closed, but you can always find some shops, bars and restaurants in the villages.
The hiking trails in the Cinque Terre can be quite narrow and there is no railing, so mind your step. Some sections are not recommended if you suffer from vertigo. I have to admit that I do suffer from vertigo in some situations but I've never had any problems on any of the Cinque Terre trails. There are many stone steps which can be slippery, especially after rain. Although this is not the Alps, many hikers underestimate the difficulty of the trails. If you have a good fitness level, do hiking or other sports regularly, then you will not have a problem on the trails. But if you're spending your days working at your laptop or watching Netflix, and don't even go for a walk around the neighbourhood, then you'll find these trails very hard. You don't want to get stuck on top of the trail. The Blue Trail is full of emergency places where you can call help, but being rescued by a helicopter costs a lot, especially if you don't have a good travel insurance. On the other trails your only chance to call help is with your phone, when there is mobile coverage. The emergency number is 112.
Because of too many tourists going on the Blue Trail in flip flops, it is now compulsary to wear closed, solid shoes on the trails. Preferably hiking shoes, or good quality sport shoes, not the ones you wear because they are fashionable. No sandals. You may get a big fine if you don't have proper shoes, or you might be denied entry on the trail.
Some paths might be closed due to bad weather conditions or maintenance work. You usually find a posted notice about trail closures in the villages, or you can ask for information in the Information Centers of the Cinque Terre National Park, at the train station of each village. You can also buy a Cinque Terre hiking trail map there.
Please make sure you stay on the designated paths. You'll be walking through the lemon gardens, olive groves and vineyards of local farmers and winemakers. No trespassing please. I would surely hate it if hundreds or thousands of tourists walked into my garden every single day. And please, do not pick the grapes or lemons. I know it's just one piece, but with a few thousand people around the entire crop is gone. Their work is already incredibly hard on this steep terrain, so let's not make it even harder. Instead, go to a local bar after your hike and get a glass of Cinque Terre wine to appreciate their work, or do a wine tour if you'd like to visit a vineyard.
You can find the list and map of hiking trails on the website of the Cinque Terre National Park. Here you can see the length and duration of the different trails, and the map also shows which path is closed. At the Information Center, they'll be happy to help you choose between the many trails, depending on your fitness level and the number of days you spend in the area. But let me also share my favourite hikes with you. Do any of these hikes, and I promise hiking in the Cinque Terre will be one of the highlights of your travel to Italy.
If you only have one day for one hike, do this one, it's surely one of my favourite Cinque Terre walks. If you start from Manarola, you'll be walking uphill on many steps through olive groves, all the way to the small hamlet of Volastra. You can skip this part and take the local bus from Manarola to Volastra, check the bus schedule in advance. From Volastra the path will be mainly flat and downhill, so you can do it even if you don't hike regularly. From Volastra you'll be hiking through the vineyards, enjoying extraordinary views of the entire Cinque Terre coastline, Manarola, Corniglia and the Ligurian sea. Of course, you can also start the hike in Corniglia, but no bus there, so you cannot skip the uphill part.
It's a full day hike with marvellous views. The first part from Riomaggiore up to the Telegrafo is uphill, but once you reach trail number 1 on top, it gets easier. This is the main trail that connects Levanto and Portovenere, crossing the entire Cinque Terre National Park. It's also called the "Alta Via delle Cinque Terre". The village of Campiglia is a popular stopping point of hikers. Take a rest and taste some local snacks. As you are getting close to Portovenere, you can enjoy the view of the three islands, then after passing the castle you'll finish the hike in the colourful historical center of Portovenere. From Portovenere, you can come back by boat or bus & train, via La Spezia.
The Monesteroli steps and the whole Tramonti area are just unbelievable and off the beaten track. For more information, read the Tramonti page. There are many, I mean MANY steps going down to the village of Monesteroli, and you also have to come back. Not a good option if you have problems with your knees or you suffer from vertigo, but otherwise, highly recommended. I just love the whole Tramonti area, it's so wild, the tiny clusters of houses are so different. If you are staying for at least 4-5 days in the Cinque Terre and love hiking, you should definitely spend a day hiking around Tramonti.
You can get from Vernazza to Monterosso on the Blue Trail. It takes about 2 hours and you have to buy the Cinque Terre Card. But if you want a really fantastic hike, go on the higher trail. Of course it's harder and takes much longer, but there are less people, it's free and the views are unbeatable. You'll also pass two sanctuaries, the Santuario di Nostra Signora di Reggio above Vernazza, and the Santuario Nostra Signora di Soviore above Monterosso. I love spending time at these sanctuaries. It's good for your soul, it's quiet there, the perfect place to relax, away from the busy village centers down by the sea. Also in this case you can take the small local bus from Vernazza to the sanctuary, thus skipping the uphill part.
A wonderful, relaxing hike with the panorama of the entire Cinque Terre coastline and also the Bay of Levanto on the other side. Hike up from Monterosso passing by some beautiful villas, and find the viewpoint on top of Punta Mesco with the Hermitage of Sant'Antonio. On the other side you'll have the Bay of Levanto in front of you, and you'll be walking by some cute houses and gardens, descending near the Castle of Levanto. If you have energy left, why not rent a bike and enjoy a ride on the coastal bicycle path from Levanto to Bonassola and Framura. You can also swim on the long beaches of Levanto or Bonassola, or in the cute bays of Framura.
This is a shorter Cinque Terre walk, but takes you to one of the best viewpoints of the Cinque Terre. For an easy option, take the bus from the center of Riomaggiore and ask to be dropped off at Montenero. From there it's a 10-minute walk up the steps to the sanctuary, where you can relax under the trees and admire the bird eye view of Riomaggiore and the entire Cinque Terre coastline. On the way down stop at the Bar il Sole a 180 Gradi for a coffee or drink to enjoy more of this view. A long staircase will take you back down to Riomaggiore.
The Via dell'Amore was the most popular walk in the Cinque Terre, but unfortunately it has been closed for many years. Hopefully it will be reopened next year, but at the moment there is no easy way to get from Riomaggiore to Manarola, other than the train or the ferry. But if you'd like to walk, you can go on the Beccara trail, one of the most popular hikes in Cinque Terre during the past few years. It will give you one of the best views of Manarola, surrounded by a natural amphitheater of green terraces. You can also start from Manarola of course, but expect lots of steps on both sides.
You are probably wondering why I don't mention the famous coastal path of the Cinque Terre, the Sentiero Azzurro (Blue trail) which connects the five towns. Unfortunately this path was damaged by floods and landslides. The Via dell'Amore between Riomaggiore and Manarola is closed. (UPDATE: A very short section between Manarola and the bar has been opened. The full Via dell'Amore will be reopened in 2023, hopefully.) The Manarola-Corniglia section was basically ready but we have been waiting for the National Park to open it. I guess by now it needs another renovation. Corniglia-Vernazza is open. Vernazza-Monterosso is open. This might change, so for updated information ask at the National Park Centers. For the coastal path, you have to buy the Cinque Terre Card, even if only one section is open. All the other trails in the area are free, including my favourite ones mentioned above.
Don't forget, the Cinque Terre and all of Liguria is a hikers' paradise. You could walk for months and never get bored of the breathtaking views of the colourful villages, nature and the sea. You could basically walk all the way to France on the beautiful Ligurian trails.
Although only the Cinque Terre villages have become world famous, there are many equally beautiful villages and towns in the area, not to mention all the different hikes with seaview. Bonassola and Framura are both cute and quiet villages, and you surely won't meet crowds on the trail connecting them. It's a great option for a day trip. If you have more energy, you can start the walk from Levanto or keep walking to Deiva Marina. All these towns have beautiful long beaches, so you can combine swimming and hiking. If you'd prefer walking with a licenced hiking guide who can tell you a lot about the area and nature around you, join this fun hike and wine tour from Bonassola to Framura.
Combine this hike with a visit to Portovenere. Take the morning ferry to Portovenere, then jump on the small boat across to Palmaria island. There is a circular trail that goes around the island, with great views of the Bay of La Spezia and the colourful houses of Portovenere. After your walk you can relax on the beach of Palmaria or eat at the local restaurant.
When staying in the Cinque Terre, make sure you do a daytrip to the Portofino peninsula. The best way to discover it is a combination of hike and boat. Take an early train to Santa Margherita Ligure, enjoy morning coffee while peoplewatching on the piazza, then walk to Portofino. During the summer months stop for swimming and snorkeling in Paraggi Bay. After discovering Portofino head to San Fruttuoso. First there will be many steps, but once you get to the top, it gets easier. Once you arrive in the Bay of San Fruttuoso, you can go for a well deserved swim and get a cold beer from the beach bar. From here you can take the local ferry to get back to Camogli where you can hop on the train, or you can rent a private boat for the afternoon and enjoy some more swimming and snorkeling in the crystal clear sea. If you prefer hiking with a professional hiking and nature guide, join our Portofino-San Fruttuoso hiking tour.
Tellaro is one of my favourite villages in the area. Absolutely stunning, still fairly quiet. From Lerici to Tellaro it's an easy walk along the road, and you might want to stop at one of the bays for a swim. After discovering Tellaro you can hike to Montemarcello. Look for the lookout point from where you can enjoy a great view of the Gulf of Poets and Portovenere on the other side of the gulf. These villages are less known, but surely worth a visit.
I hope you have found this article useful for your hike in and around the Cinque Terre. So, in your opinion, which one is the best hike of Cinque Terre?