Taking In Italy’s Popular Hiking Trails of The Cinque Terre


There are not many more desirable hikes than the Cinque Terre in Italy.  The combination of viewing a gorgeous coastline and a variety of trails for all skill levels.  You also have the unique opportunity to take a break in a gorgeous Italian village.  There is no wonder why the Cinque Terre has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of Italy and was added as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997.

There are many hiking trails throughout the Parco Nazionale delle Cinque Terre.  The most popular route is the number two trail which hugs the coastline.  In one day you can see all five villages while being exposed to a gorgeous coastline.

Starting from the south your first village is Riomaggiore.  The colorful village looks like it was carved out of the cliffside.  There are many shops and eateries  lining it’s main street that runs all the way into the harbor.  There is a somewhat hidden beach to the south for those looking to take a dip in the sea.

If you have the time, an excellent hike is to heading up to the monastery of the Madonna di Montenero.    The 45 minute uphill hike is challenging bu you are rewarded with a commanding view of the Cinque Terre.  At the top of the one street town where the parking lot is you will see a Cinque Terre point house.  Just past it you will see a sign that points to the start of the trail.  The peaceful church on a hill is quaint and lovely as well.  Head back down the same way you came and head on out to the other villages.

The path between Rio and Manarolo is called the via dell’Amore.  Be sure to check with locals when you arrive as it has been closed recently due to mud slides.  If open it is a leisurely 15 minute walk.  Otherwise take the train and hop over to Manarolo.

The village of Manarolo is similar to Riomaggiore.  A one tree town with beautiful houses perched on a cliffs overlooking the sea below.  It takes approximately one hour to hike to the next village of Corniglia along the coastline.  You may also take the train which is only five minutes between villages. 

Whether you arrive by train or by foot, Corniglia will make you work to enjoy it.  On top of a steep cliff, the train station is at the bottom.  A large staircase of 365 steps will make you earn a visit to this village.  The reward however is a beautiful village with a great view in all directions.  Due to its location it is the only one of the five villages that does not have a harbor, but is perhaps the most underrated village thanks to charming streets and the best views of the coastline below. 

From Corniglia head north along one of the toughest but beautiful hikes in the Cinque Terre.  Get up close with vineyards perched on the side of the cliffs.  Several ups and downs later will lead into the most popular village in the Cinque Terre and in the argument of most beautiful villages in all of Italy. 

Vernazza  has a castle, scenic church overlooking the harbor, and many places to eat and shop.  As beautiful as the village looks in photos, they still do not do it justice.  Despite it being crowded, Vernazza feels peaceful.  It makes you wonder if you ever want to leave and return to reality.

If you ever pull yourself away from Vernazza, hike north to the most touristy and largest village in the Cinque Terre, Monterosso.  It boasts plenty of beach front property and upscale resorts along a promenade.  The town is split in two for which a tunnel connects them. 

Hiking time between the five villages can be done in five hours not counting time spent in the villages themselves.  This makes it a perfect all day adventure challenge to hit all five.  During the busy months the trails can get crowded and be aware of the weather conditions as rain can close the trails.  Mudslides are common during storms and may close paths.    


Visiting the Cinque Terre

The Cinque Terre is located on the northern coast of Italy.  The nearest major cities are Milan to the north and Florence to the east. You can stay in one of the five villages, but options are limited.  The most convenient place to stay is La Spieza a short 8 minute train ride away.  The port town has become the unofficial gateway to the Cinque Terre. 

To hike the popular trail number two you need to purchase a pass.  The Cinque Terre card allows access to the trails.  You can purchase a one day or two day pass.  You may also add on train travel between the five villages for a small fee.  This is definitely worth it if you are staying in La Spieza as it includes train travel to and from the city.  It also allows you the ability to travel between villages if you do not want to hike between all the villages or as is very common, one of the trails is closed due to storm damage. 

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