Hiking the Cinque Terre

October 22, 2021

Hiking in the Cinque Terre is one of the best things to do in Italy. Its hiking trails are among the most beautiful in Europe and if you are an outdoor lover, or just someone who wants some exercise in between decadent Italian meals, it is one of the most rewarding ways to enjoy Italy’s spectacular coastline.

But when you hike the Cinque Terre you need to come prepared. From understanding trail difficulties to packing the right things and going at the correct time of year, being well informed will make the difference between a life-changing hike and a wearying slog. To help you you make the most of hiking the Cinque Terre we’ve put together a guide featuring our most helpful local knowledge. If you don’t see what you need to know below, just ask in the comments and we’ll get right back to you. You can also find more info in our guide to visiting in the Cinque Terre in the off-season.

Where to hike in the Cinque Terre

Enjoy the spectacular landscapes when hiking around Cinque Terre

Enjoy the spectacular landscapes when hiking around Cinque Terre

The most famous network of hiking trails in the Cinque Terre: Trail #2, or Sentiero Azzurro

The most popular way to enjoy the Cinque Terre on foot is to follow Trail #2 (the Sentiero Azzurro, or “Blue Trail”), which is made up of four individual paths along the coast. You can walk the entire route in about six hours, if you take short breaks—although many hikers prefer to spread the route out over a few days at a strolling pace, stopping to enjoy the towns along the way.

You can start from either direction (Monterosso, heading south, or Riomaggiore, heading north). But here’s a tip: Start from Riomaggiore, where the paths are easier and paved, and work your way up to the more challenging trails. That way, you can stop at any time… and head to the nearest train station if you have to! (Here’s an easy guide to using the Cinque Terre train).

Just remember, admission to Trail #2 usually requires purchase of the Cinque Terre card (5-7 euro/day for trail and museum access, or 10 euro/day for trail, museum and unlimited train access).

The Via dell’Amore, from Riomaggiore to Manarola

No matter how many trails you’ve walks its hard not to fall in love with the Cinque Terre on this “Lover’s Lane.” Wide, flat and paved, it is by far, the easiest section of Trail #2. And it’s famous for its kissing statue and tunnel covered in declarations of love! Length: 1.2 miles (2km); 40 minutes to walk.

The “Via dell’Amore,” between Corniglia and Manarola

The “Via dell’Amore,” between Corniglia and Manarola

From Manarola to Corniglia
A relatively easy path, the section from Manarola to Corniglia boasts spectacular gardens and sea views. Length: 1.2 miles (2km); 1 hour 15 minutes to walk.

From Corniglia to Vernazza
This where things get a little trickier! This trail climbs up to the highest point of the Cinque Terre (and back down) so expect a fair amount of climbing and descending. Officially graded as ‘medium difficulty’ the trail features are stone steps but they tend to be quite steep, uneven, and not always well-kept. Trekking poles or a walking stick are recommended on this section for walkers who like a little extra help on steep inclines.

It may be more physically strenuous but the views are absolutely stunning. You’ll also find lush olive groves and exotic plants and flowers along the way, too. Length: 2 miles (4km); 1 hour 45 minutes to walk.

Hiking in the Cinque Terre

The start of the path from Corniglia to Vernazza: beautiful and easy…

From Vernazza to Monterosso
The longest, most difficult hike in Trail #2, this section has lots of stairs and narrow passages. It’s another section of trail in which hikers often favor walking sticks and trekking poles. It’s also the most rewarding view-wise. Its panorama of all five Cinque Terre towns is one of the highlights of the trip. Length: 1.8 miles (3km); 2 hours to walk.

Off The Beaten Path Trails

Trail #2 is the busiest hiking trail in the Cinque Terre but it certainly isn’t the only one. If you are looking to step off the beaten path and avoid some of the crowds, there is an entire network of lesser-known trails that are perfect for more serious hikers.

The Trail of Sanctuaries

For a taste of Cinque Terre’s history, follow paths #3, 6, 7 and 8 to visit the area’s famous sanctuaries: Nostra Signora della Salute, Nostra Signora delle Grazie, Nostra Signora di Montenero, Nostra Signora di Reggio and Nostra Signora di Soviore. Note that these are more difficult paths than #2, so be prepared! (Bonus: They’re also free!).

The Mountain Trails

Feeling adventurous? Head inland for more challenging hikse along the area’s mountains! Trails #1, 4, 6, 9 and 10 are perhaps the least-frequented and most rugged of the bunch. As with the trails that lead to the sanctuaries, however, please note that these trails range from medium to difficult, and are for experienced hikers only. These trails will also feature fewer spots to buy water or provisions so be sure to pack plenty of liquids, these babies can be strenuous.

Tips to prepare for hiking in the Cinque Terre

Aside from some of Trail #2’s easiest paths, the Cinque Terre’s trails aren’t for strolling–they’re hiking. So dress, and prepare, accordingly!

First and foremost this means wearing appropriate shoes. Comfortable sneakers will suffice for most of trail #2 but most of the other paths require hiking boots for ankle support and traction. Flip flops are not a good idea and don’t even think about high heels.

Bring a bag or backpack with the essentials; even for the Via dell’Amore, leave your suitcase at your hotel (some train stations may offer lockers).

Hydration is essential. If you go in the summer it will almost certainly be blazingly hot. Sunburn and heatstroke are both common ailments of the Cinque Terre hiking trials. Insider tip: Buy water and snacks before you go to the Cinque Terre to avoid being forced to buy drinks in the towns – they’re usually overpriced.

Wear layers of breathable clothing, especially in the fall and winter. And in the spring and summer, don’t forget sunscreen, hats, and sunglasses.

Finally you absolutely cannot forget your bathing suit (during the spring and summer) and your camera. A swim in the Ligurian sea is the perfect post-hike reward and the views you get from the trail are some of the best in Europe.

When to hike the Cinque Terre

We recommend hiking the Cinque Terre in April, May, September or October. That’s when temperatures are milder, so it’s much more comfortable. These months also attract fewer tourists; at the peak of summer, the narrower sections of trail #2 in particular can get extremely crowded.

View of Vernazza from the old tower on the hill

View of Vernazza from the old tower on the hill

If you go in the summer, try to head out as early as possible to avoid the sweltering midday heat.

Winter is cooler and less crowded but its not uncommon for heavy rainfall to cause landslides and unsafe hiking conditions. Large sections of the trails were closed in 2013/2014 due to trail wash-outs and rock slides caused by heavy rains, so if you’re planning a winter trip, watch the forecast carefully. You can get up to date info about trail closures (as well as a bunch of other helpful links) from the  Cinque Terre National Park website.

Want to hike elsewhere in Italy? Don’t miss our posts on trekking in Italy and Italy’s best outdoor adventures… beyond the Cinque Terre!

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