Hiking a trail is one of the most popular activities you can do while in Cinque Terre. These foot paths offer some of the most gorgeous scenery in Italy, maybe all of Europe. There are plenty of stunning trails throughout Cinque Terre, around 48 if my count is correct. These trails stretch for 120 kilometers as they take you winding through gorgeous vineyards and overlooking panoramic views of the sparkling blue sea. They are gorgeous, that is for sure, but they are by no means “easy”. Hoards of people now travel to the once secret villages of Cinque Terre and are seemingly not prepared for what they are up against.
*Check out the Table of Contents below for quick links to the different trails*
Disclaimer: READ BEFORE HIKING CINQUE TERRE!!!
Hiking Cinque Terre is not easy. Even for someone who exercises on a daily basis, I can tell you that these trails are difficult and will have your butt and legs screaming by the end. Too many websites will mark the paths as “easy,” rather than telling the truth as to what they are. Even some of the locals will tell tourists that the paths are an easy walk. I don’t know, maybe they are just trying to get people to hike a trail, hurt themselves, and never come back. Hey, it wouldn’t be the worst decision as there are way too many people waking around these trails not knowing what they are in for.
To hike these trails, you need 4 main things:
You need to be in somewhat decent shape. If you have a busted leg, don’t walk the trails. If you have never climbed rocks before and hate taking stairs, don’t walk the trails. If you are over the age of 65-70, you probably shouldn’t walk the trails unless you’re in some kind of insane old dude shape. If you have a small toddler that can barely even walk yet, come on… They should not be on the trails! I say that this is important because these trails can be dangerous. At moments they truly have you walking along the edges of cliffs. Yes, it is breathtaking! But people who have trouble can make it dangerous for the rest of the hikers, not only themselves.
You NEED to have proper shoes. I cannot tell you how many people I had seen walking these trails in flip flops. Without a proper pair of sneakers or hiking shoes, you are going to have a lot of trouble. A lot of these trails go straight up and down some steep staircases that have some very tiny steps made out of jagged rocks. I would leave your cute flip flops at home.
This one is self explanatory. Any time you go for a hike, you should be and stay hydrated. Especially if you are doing this hike in the summer months, it gets very hot and you are exposed to a lot of sun. Buy your water before the trails, you will not find someone selling water to you on the sides of the paths. Although, on the hike between Vernazza and Corniglia, there is a bar at the halfway point of the hike. Its cool to grab a beer or glass of wine, but make sure you buy a water with it!
Lastly, and my favorite of all, research. Any time you travel, you should do research before hand. Too many people come to Cinque Terre because they have only seen the beautiful pictures. This leaves them unknowing of what they are up against and beyond unprepared. You cannot do these hikes without being prepared. I could not believe my eyes when I saw someone trying to push a stroller up the steep cliff side of one of the most difficult trails. Do your research people.
Sentiero Azzuro – Blue Trail No. 2
The most famous and popular path of all is Trail No.2, Sentiero Azzuro, or Blue Trail. This trail stretches about 7.5 miles through each of the five famous villages Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. This trail offers some of the most spectacular scenery you will ever see as it winds through vineyards and puts you on the sides of mountains over looking the gorgeous towns and the surrounding sea. The trail is not free as you have to pay $7.50 Euros for a one day pass as it is a National Park and very well maintained.
The trail can be started in either Riomaggiore or Monterosso al Mare, although the paths from Riomaggiore to Corniglia are closed at this time and are not re opening until about 2020. It is possible to finish the trail in one day, but that is going to be one hell of a calorie burner and will take up to at least 5 hours without stopping in any of the towns or really appreciating the views. The best way to complete this trail is to stay a few days in one of the towns, then do a piece or two of the trail each day with stoppages in each of the towns.
Monterosso to Vernazza:
Time: 2 1/2 hours
Distance: 2 miles
Difficulty: Medium – High
The most difficult stretch of Sentiero Azzuro starts in Monterosso just at the far end of the Old Town. You will see sets of stairs that have signs labeled, “Vernazza”.
You begin the trail by taking the first of many sets of steps up. Before you continue up the steep steps and into the trees, you have the perfect opportunity for a photo of the best panoramic view of Monterosso’s old and new towns.
As you continue your way up, the trail becomes more and more small and the trees more and more dense. You lose the sound of the ocean crashing into the cliffs below, but are welcomed by the smells of fresh lavender, oregano, and thyme.
You will encounter many steps along the way that will take you through some gorgeous vineyards. The steps feel like they go up forever, but I promise you, they eventually end.
The steps give out in a few instances where you can really enjoy the views of the coast line and Monterosso through the towering trees and over top of the vineyards.
This one vineyard had some of the best views and a very good use of advertisement! Although, I think that in the future the owners should be sitting outside a couple days a week selling some cold white wine. Then again, that could get some people very drunk and have them falling off the cliffs.
This area of the trial has some of the best views of Monterosso, and should be used as a bit of a break to really take in the views. When you continue forward, there are not too many more steps going up as the path seems to flatten out for a bit. The trail will rap you around the hillsides that separate Monterosso and Vernazza and the trees begin to open up to a beautiful cove below.
Eventually you will begin to see Vernazza down in the distance and that is when you know that it is time to go down.
Just like the way you came up to the trail from Monterosso, you are going to do the same thing going down into Vernazza.
Going down can be tough, but the views of Vernazza are well worth it. All of the views of Vernazza are dazzling, but the best view of the town will come at the end of the trial just before going into town.
Vernazza – Corniglia
Time: 2 hours
Distance: 2 miles
Difficulty: Medium – High
This trail is not much easier than the one before it, if at all, as it includes its own large amount of steep stairs. The trail begins up the hill and past the train station in the center of the town. You will see signs pointing towards “Corniglia”.
When you walk up the stairs, you will immediately have one of the best views of the entire trail. Next to a very small looking watch tower or castle, you will have a very unique view of Vernazza and its back side.
After taking in the view for a few minutes, it is time to head up the stairs, and a lot of them. This trail seemingly goes higher than the previous one. Whereas the trail from Monterosso to Corniglia gave you a lot of views of the coast line, this trail will hide you more in the shade of the trees. You will be walking up steep stairs and hillside for about 35-40 minutes or so until you hit the halfway point.
There is a very cool place at the halfway point that offers a nice selection of refreshments. They have beer, wine, liquor and of course water. Don’t forget to hydrate! This place also has some of the best, fresh squeezed orange juice I have had as there are of course plenty of fresh oranges through out the hills. They even have a nice sign of encouragement to keep you going!
As this was the halfway point and it was all going up, it is time to head back down. The second half of the trail takes you back down a hill into Corniglia. However, this portion is not as steep as it was going up from Vernazza and you start to see some different environment. You will eventually come out of the trees after about 20 minutes and will get your first view of the incredible cliffside village of Corniglia.
The rest of your walk into Corniglia will keep heading down hill for about 15 minutes until it is flattened out and has you walking through vineyards and olive groves on the rest of your walk into the town.
Corniglia – Manarola
Time: 45 minutes
Distance: 1 mile
Difficulty: Easy – Medium
If you want to do this trail, unfortunately you are out of luck until 2020. Due to recent landslides in the area, the trail has been closed. However, you can still get a good glimpse of the trail from both Corniglia and Manarola. The trail hugs the water the entire time as you only go up and down a few little hills. The stair case at the start or end in Corniglia is the most difficult part.
If you are starting from Corniglia, you have to take the 382 steps down from the town and past the train station.
If you are starting from Manarola, it is very easy access as you follow the path around the hillside away from the town. Here you will have one of the best views of Manarola.
Manarola – Riomaggiore
Time: 20-30 minutes
Distance: 0.5 miles
Via dell’ Amore, or the “Path of Love”, is the most famous and easiest trail of the bunch. Many people visit Cinque Terre and put this trail at the top of their to do list. However, this trail is also closed and may not re open until 2021!
This is absolutely a bummer as this trail is beautiful and offers some amazing views of the gorgeous coast line surrounding Cinque Terre from Riomaggiore to Manarola.
Asides from the ever so popular No. 2, Sentiero Azzuro path, there are many other trails that are easily accessible and can be used as other options to the closed off trails. All of the other trails apart from No. 2 are free, but keep in mind that they are even more difficult than the No. 2 path as they are alternatives to the “easy” connection between the towns. They take you straight up the sides of the hills through many more vineyards and give you a birds eye view of the area.
Riomaggiore to Manarola
Time: 1 1/2 hours
Difficulty: Medium to Hard
This trail is one of the more popular ones, but it is of course closed too. It is a good alternative to get to Manarola as it goes up and over the hill and gives a different perspective of the two towns. The only other way to get from Riomaggiore to Manarola right now is a very difficult trail that takes about 3 hours. The locals say its gorgeous though…
Manarola – Volastra – Corniglia
Time: 3 hours
Distance: 3.4 miles
This trail is your alternate route to get to Corniglia from Manarola as the blue path is closed. I have only seen the beginning of this trail, but can tell you that it is spectacular. If I had some more time, I would have really liked to hike the entire thing, but I was enjoying my time relaxing in the towns on this day. The trail begins towards the top of Manarola where you will take a very steep stair case on the left through some very thin buildings. The stair case will be labeled “Sciacche Trail”
When you get to the top of the stair case, you will walk through some vineyards and have a very nice birds eye view of Manarola that most people don’t see.
The rest of the trail heads up, up, up to the very high and small cliff top town of Volastra. It is said that you will have some of the best views of Cinque Terre from this town.
Although there are some trail closures, hiking Cinque Terre is an absolutely incredible experience. There are so many options of trails to hike whether it is the famous Sentiero Azzuro, the high cliff top trails, or a long walk from Riomaggiore all the way to Portovenere. The trails are at your disposal. If you visit Cinque Terre, walking at least one of the trails is a must do. Just make sure to do your research before hand and come prepared to see some of the most beautiful scenery in the world.
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