How to Hike Cinque Terre in Italy!

Italy is one of the most beautiful countries in the world ~ & Cinque Terre is without doubt one of the most beautiful regions in Italy!  Cinque Terre means “Five Lands,” & if you choose to do the famous hike here, you’ll pass through all five villages that make up Cinque Terre, via the gorgeous Sentiero Azzurro, or “Blue Trail.”  Whether you want to hike it by yourself (which I did) or with a group, find everything you need to know about “How to Hike Cinque Terre in Italy” in this post!  

How to Hike Cinque Terre in Italy, GIrl WHo Travels the World

Vernazza, what is widely believed to be the most beautiful town in Cinque Terre.

Map of Cinque Terre Towns

The map below shows all five towns in Cinque Terre, starting with Riomaggiore (the furthest south) where you’ll start your hike, & Monterosso al Mare ~ where you’ll end your hike.  You could also choose to do the hike in reverse, by starting in Monterosso al Mare.

Vernazza

Riomaggiore (Start Hike Here)

Monterosso al Mare (End Hike Here)

Manarola

Corniglia

Cinque Terre Hiking Info!

  • Name of the Main Cinque Terre Hiking Trail: The Blue Trail, or Trail #2. In Italian, it’s called the “Sentiero Azzurro.” (The Red Trail is higher in elevation & more difficult.)
  • Starting Point: Riomaggiore, at Via del Amore (“Lover’s Lane”)
  • How to Get to Riomaggiore: By train. The closest major train station to Cinque Terre is La Spezia, which can be reached from Genoa, Pisa, Florence, & many other major Italian cities. Once in La Spezia, switch to the local train for Cinque Terre.
  • Do You Need a Ticket to Hike Cinque Terre? YES.
  • Where to Buy Cinque Terre Tickets? You can purchase them online here, at all railway stations in Cinque Terre or La Spezia, in the beginning of each section of the “Blue Trail,” or at tourist info centers. 
  • How Much Does the Cinque Terre Ticket Cost? 7.50 Euro for Adults
  • Total Hike Distance: 11 kilometers (6.8 miles)
  • Hike Type: One-way, then hikers usually return on the train to La Spezia
  • Difficulty: Easy in the beginning, more difficult from Vernazza to Monterroso al Mare
  • Time: 5-6 hours for full trail, without stops
  • Kid-friendly: Yes, for active kids
  • Crowded: Busy
  • Best Time to Visit Cinque Terre: March-June & September-October; July & August are hot, expensive, & very busy; November-February has the most rainfall ~ so check the forecast before hiking in winter.

 Hike Solo…or With a Group?

When I first hiked Cinque Terre many years ago, I walked the trail solo & stayed in budget accommodations in La Spezia.  If I had it to do over again, I would choose not to stay in La Spezia (too rough & gritty for me, & definitely not as pretty as Cinque Terre) ~ but personally, I LOVED hiking solo in Cinque Terre!  It gave me flexibility: I could stop when I wanted, hike as fast as I wanted, take pictures when I wanted…you get the idea. 

With a group tour, especially if you’re a fast hiker: you may get frustrated by how many stops the tour makes ~ or vice versa, that there aren’t enough stops!  Also, is the issue of price.  When I hiked by myself, I just paid for my train ticket, plus the entrance to the park.  Recently, when I was in Florence, the minimum price for a group tour to Cinque Terre was 100 Euro!  Granted, they’re providing round-trip transportation, but still: you’ll pay more with a group tour than if you just hike yourself.  And there are usually so many people on the trail, I never felt unsafe when I hiked it alone.  So really, the choice is up to you.

 Where to Start Your Cinque Terre Hike

Section #1: Riomaggiore to Manarola: 1.2 miles (2 km); 30-minute walk. Easy. Wheelchair-accessible.

Section #2: Manarola to Corniglia: 1.2 miles (2 km); 1 hour walk. Easy to moderate (with stairs).

Section #3: Corniglia to Vernazza: 2 miles (4 km); 1 hour, 30-minute walk. Moderate.

Section #4: Vernazza to Monterosso: 1.8 miles (3 km); 2-hour walk. More Difficult (with steps). Great views.

How to Hike Cinque Terre in Italy, Girl Who Travels the World

This map shows the “Blue Trail” (right along the ocean), starting in Riomaggiore & ending in Monterreso al Mare. The red trail is more difficult & higher in elevation, but has beautiful views.

Hike Section #1: The start of your Cinque Terre hike begins in the town of Riomaggiore, at Via del Amore (“Lover’s Way”).  If you’re exiting the Riomaggiore Train Station, all you need to do is turn left, & you’ll be on Via del Amore.  If you want to explore the town first, turn right when exiting the train station instead.  There’s also a Tourist Information center right by the train station in case you have any questions.

How to Hike Cinque Terre in Italy, Girl Who Travels the World

Though colorful, Riomaggiore isn’t the most beautiful town in Cinque Terre ~ so if you’re short on time, skip exploring here & get right on the trail.

How to Hike Cinque Terre in Italy, Girl Who Travels the World

The stretch between Riomaggiore & Manarola is one of the shortest & easiest stretches of the Cinque Terre hike, with a nicely-paved walkway.

 How to Hike Cinque Terre in Italy

After your short walk from Riomaggiore along “Lover’s Lane,” you’ll find yourself in adorable Manarola ~ literally, a one-street town.  There’s a small harbor here where you can swim, framed by a very famous spit of land that’s probably been photographed a zillion times.  If you’d prefer to stay in one of Cinque Terre’s villages (instead of grittier La Spezia), Manarola is a great choice, as its train station is very close to town.

How to Hike Cinque Terre in Italy, Girl Who Travels the World

Manarola is one of the prettiest & most-photographed towns in Cinque Terre.

Hike Section #2 (Manarola to Corniglia): Once you’ve explored Manarola, it’s another fairly easy mile to the next town: Corniglia.  Perched high atop a cliff ~ you may not want to stay in Corniglia if you’ve got lots of luggage: because there are 365 steps UP to the village from the train station!  This is the most challenging part of this hike.  Corniglia is the smallest town of the five, & not the most easily accessible, though its hilltop location affords great views.

How to Hike Cinque Terre in Italy, Girl Who Travels the World

In Corniglia, the train station is DOWN below ~ & the city is UP above (+ 365 steps)!

 How to Hike Cinque Terre in Italy

Hike Section #3 (Corniglia to Vernazza): Because Corniglia sits on a hill, the third section of your hike has quite a bit of downhill, & some steep parts too.  This part of the hike takes about two hours ~ & gets more crowded the closer you get to Vernazza, which is often regarded as the most beautiful town in Cinque Terre (& probably the one you’ve seen most often on postcards).  There’s a small harbor here where you can swim & great restaurants, making Vernazza the perfect place to take a break in the midst of your hike.

How to Hike Cinque Terre in Italy, Girl Who Travels the World

Vernazza is the jewel in Cinque Terre’s crown, & easily the most photographed & recognizable town of the five.

Hike Section #4 (Vernazza to Monterosso al Mare): This final section takes you from Vernazza to resort-like Monterosso al Mare.  It’s the most difficult stretch of the hike, & definitely the steepest ~ but also the most beautiful.  You NEED good shoes for this section, as it gets rocky & narrow, with lots of up & down.  But don’t despair: you’ve got the largest beach & most restaurants just waiting for you in Monterosso.  Jumping in the ocean after hiking for six hours will feel w-o-n-d-e-r-f-u-l!!

How to Hike Cinque Terre in Italy, Girl Who Travels the World

Monterosso al Mare has the largest white sand beach in Cinque Terre, & is also the most accessible by car (though it’s far easier to take the train). It has the most “resort” feel of the five towns, & is great for those looking for more luxury.

How to Hike Cinque Terre in Italy!

So, to recap: the easiest stretch of the Cinque Terre hike is the first section ~ between Riomaggiore & Manarola.  The hardest (but most beautiful) stretch is between Vernazza & Monterosso al Mare.  And you can take the train to & from ANY of these towns, if you get tired!  Please ask any other questions you have about hiking in Cinque Terre below in the comments!

Ciao Bella! 

xoxo Noelia 

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