Hiking The Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre, which means five lands in Italian, lies on the northwestern coast of Italy, south of Genoa, and offers breathtaking views of the Ligurian Sea, outstanding Italian cuisine, and great hiking. There are five charming cliff-side villages: Riomagggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso al Mare.

About Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre is stunning, with each village perched on steep, rugged cliffs, offering panoramic views of the coast. The quaint, colorful houses stacked on the hill sides are quite picturesque, as well as the winding cobblestoned street filled with charming shops and traditional Italian food, gelato, wine, and more. No wonder this is such a popular summer destination!

The five villages here, used to be fishing villages, only linked by mule tracks, rail, or water, until relatively recently. Today, you can still reach them by rail and water, but the best way to experience them, at least in my opinion, is by hiking between them, along the footpaths of Cinque Terre.

Panorama of hiking the Cinque Terre
Cinque Terre

Hiking The Trails Of Cinque Terre

There are over 74 miles (120 km) of trail along the coast of Cinque Terre for hiking. The most popular is the one that runs directly between the villages, near the coast, called the Azure Trail, or Sentiero Azzuro (Blue Line). It’s 7.4 miles (12 km) total, connecting all five villages from Riomaggiore to Monterosso.

The hike is not difficult, but sometimes it’s steep, as you go up and down the hillsides. Other times, the ground is relatively flat. If you can’t hike, but still want to see the amazing panoramic views, know that many of the best views are located close to the villages. This means that just walking near start of the trail can be fantastic too. Plus, as a combination hiking and train pass is offered, you can be creative and combine the two in any way you want.

I’ve listed the trails and villages below from the south to north. Unfortunately, the two trails at the southern end are closed.

Riomaggiore to Manarola: Path Of Love (Currently Closed)

Also known as Via dell’Amore (Path of Love), this is the shortest and easiest of the trails, taking about 20 minutes. Unfortunately, it’s closed due to damage from a landslide.

As of July 2023, it’s not expected to open until 2024 (bummer). A small section of it may be open on the Manarola side, but as work continues here, that may change from time to time. Please verify at a tourist information checkpoint. Click here for contact info.

The trail is .59 miles (900 m) and runs between the rail stations, with steps going all the way down to the sea.

Manarola to Corniglia (Currently Closed)

This section is also closed, also due to landslides. As of a July 2023, it’s not estimated to open until 2025 (double bummer). And, as above, a small section may be open near Manarola for some views. When open, this trail is a little over 1.7 miles (2.8 km), taking about an hour. This trail is considered average difficulty.

Corniglia to Vernazza

This trail is about 2.5 miles (4 km), taking 1.5-2 hours. It offers stunning views of both villages, and the hillsides between. This trail is considered moderately difficult.

This photo shows looking back to Corniglia from this trail.

View of Corniglia and beyond while hiking the Cinque Terre

If you look in the distance as you approach Vernazza, you can see the next village, Monterossa (below right).

View of Corniglia and beyond while hiking the Cinque Terre
Corniglia to Vernazza Trail
Vernazza while hiking the Cinque Terre
Vernazza

Vernazza To Monterossa

The trail between Vernazza and Monterossa is about 2 miles (3.5 km), taking about 1.5-2 hours. The sweeping panorama here really are breathtaking. This trail is also listed as moderately difficult.

The photo below left shows Vernazza from the northern side of the village. The photo on the right, taken further along this trail, show Vernazza in the distance.

Vernazza from the trail while hiking cinque Terre
Vernazza
Views from the Vernazza to Monterossa trail while hiking Cinque Terre
Vernazza to Monterossa Trail

When you finally reach Monterossa, you’re greeting by this refreshing view from the trail. I couldn’t resist walking down to the beach and jumping in after hiking here!

Monterossa from the trial while hiking Cinque Terre
Monterossa

About The Five Villages of Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre is not just about the hiking, it’s also about visiting the charming Italian villages here. The train ride between each villages only takes a few minutes, like 2 or 3, so it’s easy to explore them all, even if you can’t hike them all.

Riomaggiore

Riomaggiore is the village closest to La Spezia. The main street, Vio Colombo, connects upper Riomaggiore with a Piazza Vignaioli, and is full of shops, bars, and cafes.

A little north of the city, you can find Castello di Riomaggiore, built in the 13th century to protect citizens from pirates. You can find great views form here. If you want a more spectacular panorama, climb to Santuari di Nostra Signora di Montenero, or Sanctuary of Montenero. Note, however, that the church is rarely open to tourists.

Manarola

With its cascade of colorful houses, this is one of the most photographed villages. Especially from Manarola scenic viewpoint, just a few minutes north of the harbor.

Although there’s not a traditional beach on Manarola, you can swim in the harbor.

There are also large rocks in the sea that you’d can climb around if you’re more adventurous.

Manarola | Chensiyuan

Corniglia

This village, on a plateau 328’ (100 m) above sea level, does not have a harbor. This is the smallest village, and the one I chose to stay in. I was happy as it was not nearly as crowded as some of the other villages, at least not in the evenings. It’s less commercialized, with little bars and restaurants tucked around.

I also had this spectacular view from the balcony of my room.

View from Corniglia in Cinque Terre
View From My Balcony in Corniglia


I routinely bought a bottle of wine and some snacks from the italian grocers to enjoy the view in the evening.

One caution, if you arrive in Corniglia by train, you must walk up 382 steps to get to the village, as it’s perched up above the sea.

Alternatively, you can follow the road, which sometimes has a bus.

View From My Balcony

Vernazza

Colorful stacked buildings perched over what may be Cinque Terre’s prettiest harbor, make Vernazza a popular village. Of course, there’s plenty of authentic Italian restaurants here, as well as gelato. As this village is a little larger, there’s also shopping.

And if you want more spectacular views, climb to ancient Doria Castle, perched above the harbor, a 15th century lookout tower.

Doria Castle | Tangopaso

You can see the castle tower in the photo below as you approach Vernazza.

Footpath Approaching Vernazza

There’s a small sandy beach here, and some rocks you can sun on. It’s a 2-minute walk from the train station. There’s also a small rocky beach you can access via tunnel.

Vernazza

Monterossa

This is the largest village, with the largest beach, and the most amenities, although it’s the least photogenic. It’s also closest to Genoa. The beach here is sandy, while most of the other beaches are small and rocky, so it can get crowded.

When I hiked here from Vernazza, the beach looked so nice, I jumped in the sea! It was very refreshing after hiking on a hot day.

Costs For Hiking The Cinque Terre

You need to buy a card called the Cinque Terre Trekking Card for hiking the Azure Trails trails between the Villages. The 2023 cost is €7.50/day for hiking. The cost to add in unlimited train access is €18.20/day. During November 6 until March 17, which is off season, hiking is free. You only need to buy the train pass.

You can buy tickets at the information booths in the trains stations at each village, as well as La Spezia and Levento.

Getting To Cinque Terre

Fly

The closest airports are Pisa and Genoa. From there, you can take the train or drive (below). Milan is the closest international airport.

Train

From the airport in Pisa, there is a ‘People Mover’ to Pisa Central train station. Take the train to La Spezia. From there, you need to change to a different train that runs north towards Levanto. It provides stops at each of the 5 villages.

From Genoa, take the train south towards La Spezia and stop at whichever village you prefer.

For more information on the train, see the Cinque Terre Timetable. Remember to validate your train ticket in the green machines when you board, or face a possible fine.

Boat

In the summer, boats run from La Spezia, Levanto, and Portovenere to all the villages except Corniglia, which does not have a harbor. Portovenere is located south of Cinque Terre and is another spectacular village to visit. Especially if you want to avoid the crowds of Cinque Terre.

To learn more about boat options in Cinque Terre, see Cinque Terre by Boat.

Drive

Although you can drive to Cinque Terre, it’s not recommended as parking is very limited, unless your hotel offers it. You can’t drive within the historical villages anyway.

If you do decide to drive, ask your hotel for the closest parking. Know, however, that it can cost around to 15€ a day, unless you park outside the village.

Note the color of the lines to understand parking here. While lines means free parking. Blue is paid parking, but if says, “parcheggio residenti” it’s reserved for residents only. Parking fines here can be very pricey.

Want More Of This Area?

Sometimes dubbed the ”sixth” Cinque Terre village is Portovenere, about a 30 minute drive or ferry ride away. As it’s not as easy to get to, this beautiful city is often less corwded. You can also hike there from Riomaggiore. The 8.3 mile (13.3 km) trail takes 5-6 hours. AllTrails rates it as moderately difficult.

To read more about Portovenere, all it has to offer, and how to get there, click here.

Experiencing the spectacular views is one of the top things to do in Portovenere
Portovenere

Other Top Spots in Italy

A little further north of Cinque Terre is the port town of Genoa. This melting pot city was the birthplace of both Christopher Columbus and Pesto Pasta, which I thought I didn’t like until I tried the REAL version.

Heading south, you can’t miss Florence, with its iconic Duomo, and outstanding Renaissance art. And, of course, Rome is a top highlight in Italy. The Colosseum, archeological sites, history, architecture, and food are top notch, making this one of the world’s top travel destinations.

South of Rome, the ruins of Pompeii and Hurculaneum, are less than a 3 hour drive. One of the world’s top archeological sites, it’s fascinating to wander the streets and homes frozen in time almost 2,000 years ago. This is one of my all time favorite places!

Heading south of Pompeii, highlights include the idyllic beauty of the famed Amalfi coast. And, from there, the jaw-dropping beauty of Capri, is just a ferry ride away.

Sicily, off the tip of Italy’s boot, is full a fascinating cities and sites. While the lovely Aeolian islands are scattered north of it. They’re fun to ferry between and explore one-by-one. I explored a few and hiked up the volcanic island of Stromboli for some adventure.

On Italy’s east coast, Venice is a top highlight. I loved wandering its lovely side streets and watching the gondoliers gliding along the canals.

To see all the highlights of Italy, as well as understand how to get around, safety, scams, logistics, and more, to help you plan your trip, see my Italy Travel Guide.

Hello! I resigned from a corporate career in product development to explore the world. Although my goal was to travel for a year, 8 years later, I’ve been honored to have explored more than 60 gorgeous countries and met some unbelievably amazing people. Our world truly is a beautiful place! Follow me into the gorgeous unknown by subscribing below. You’ll receive details on fabulous destinations, comprehensive travel guides, travel tips and tidbits, and information on travel trends, like experiential, sustainable, and transformational travel. Where is your next gorgeous unknown? Julie

One Comment

  • Erynn Crowley

    Fabulous photos! What great views of the cities! I’ll bet the swim and hotel did feel great after all that hiking.

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