How to Hike the Cinque Terre

The Cinque Terre is one of the most popular destinations in Italy for good reason. The five villages along this beautiful stretch of the Mediterranean coast feature colorful buildings that seem to tumble down to the sea, deep blue swimming holes, and gorgeous views along the coast and the surrounding mountains. One of the best ways to take it all in is hiking the pathways that connect these picturesque towns.

Corniglia with Manarola in the background from a high trail in the Cinque Terre

The most popular of these paths is the Sentiero Azzurro (blue trail) and it shows up as blue on most maps. Although it can be rigorous at times, it is the easiest, most direct route between Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso.

However, since the devastating floods of 2011, this trail has been in a constant state of repair and sections are often closed. The easiest and most popular section between Riomaggiore and Manarola, aka the Via dell’Amore (Path of Love), has been closed ever since. 

When we were there in June 2021, the only section that was officially open was between Corniglia and Vernazza. However, we discovered that Vernazza to Monterosso was being used, and was not blocked like the other lower sections. It is now officially open as well.

Betsy standing below signs marking flood levels in 1939 and 2011 in Monterosso

Fees for Hiking the Cinque Terre

All the paths are maintained by the Parco Nazionale delle Cinque Terre. There is a daily fee to use the coastal trail of €7.50 or €14.50 for two days. If you have not purchased a pass in advance there are booths at the trail heads in each village to collect the fees. Info on passes, trail availability, maps, and more can be found on the Park’s website.

There is an extensive network of trails above the coastal trail and use of these higher trails is still free. While these trails are often quite strenuous, they are not heavily trafficked and offer some amazing views you can only get from these elevations.

Hiking the Cinque Terre Coastal Path

The Cinque Terre is a paradise for day hiking. There are trails to keep you busy for days, there is always a place to grab lunch or panini and fruit for a picnic, and any of the villages make a perfect location to come back to every evening for a delicious dinner by the sea.

When we first visited in 2006 we hiked the whole Sentiero Azzurro in one day. Leaving early from Vernazza we hiked south through Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. From there we took a ferry up to Monterosso and hiked back to Vernazza. It was an amazing day but fair warning: the path out of Monterosso is a long, steep, tough climb at the end of the day. It becomes longer, steeper, and tougher if you spend a couple of hours in the wine cellar of a local you happened to meet in Riomaggiore!

A simple guide to the Cinque Terre at Bar il Gabbiano between Vernazza and Corniglia

Some of our Favorite Cinque Terre Hikes

On our most recent visit we specifically wanted to hike some of the higher trails and, in some cases, we were forced to if we wanted to walk between all five villages. We also stayed longer and had the luxury of exploring the villages themselves while spreading our hiking out over several days.

For us the most breathtaking hike was between Manarola and Corniglia. We started early from Corniglia while the temps were still relatively cool. Trail 587 takes you steeply out of town and rewards you with beautiful vistas back over the village and along the coast. When the trail splits take 856 toward Volastra. The walk from there is relatively level as you follow the contours of the mountainside. Volastra is a small village with one restaurant and a minimart. You can wander the streets and have a drink before plunging down to Manarola where you can take a dip in the dark blue swimming hole hiding behind the panoramic viewpoint on the edge of town.

Approaching Manarola from above

The hike between Manarola and Riomaggiore is a steep up and down either direction. The view at the top is nice but the rest of the time you are concentrating on the climb or descent so much you have to remind yourself to look up if you want to enjoy the scenery.

We did a circular hike from Vernazza that turned out to be a lot more work than we anticipated, but it was still amazing. Leaving town towards Corniglia we headed uphill to the left just past the park “toll booth.” And by up, I mean up! This was the steepest, most difficult section we encountered. There are some amazing coastal vistas and bird’s eye views of Corniglia and Vernazza along the way.  The trail took us to San Bernadino where it leveled out some but was a long hike on trail 8a around to bring us back into Vernazza. There is another loop trail from Vernazza suggested by the park I plan to try next time.

The trail between Vernazza and Monterosso is the longest and perhaps most beautiful of the coastal trail segments. We left Vernazza one morning and enjoyed the hike, meeting very few people. The trail takes you through vineyards, woodlands, and a cat sanctuary. When we arrived, we explored Monterosso and had lunch before hiking back. From the Monterosso harbor it is possible to see all five villages down the coastline.

Always climbing!

Always climbing!

Always climbing!

Always climbing!

Always climbing!

Always climbing!

Always climbing!

Always climbing!

Always climbing!

Always climbing!

Maps for the Cinque Terre

Finding the right map for hiking the Cinque Terre can be frustrating. The map on the park’s website shows the whole system and color codes the trails. Blue=Tourist (easiest), Green=Hiking, Orange=Skilled, and Black=Closed. You can zoom in on sections you want to hike, but unfortunately it doesn’t show elevation or the trail numbers.

The site does provide some itineraries and suggested routes which may be helpful picking out a hike, but it doesn’t help too much when you are out on the trail.

They also have an app that has suggested hikes and a map that you can use while hiking. This map actually includes the trail numbers, which is much nicer. Search “Pn5t plus” on Apple or Google Play. Just be aware that connectivity can be a problem on the trails.

What we found most useful was the free map that is widely available at the TI Booths and hotels, etc. It is accurate and detailed and includes all the trail numbers. It’s easy to pick one up when you get there, and it gives you a chance to talk to a local about your plans, which is always informative and fun.

Manarola is a great place to take a dip after a long hike

Getting Around in the Cinque Terre

All five villages are connected by a train system as well as ferries. We suggest trying both. The trains are fast and efficient but the views from the sea are spectacular. It also makes it easy to start or end a hike in any village and easily get back to where you are staying.

On our last visit we stayed five days. The scenery never got old and we far from exhausted all the possible hikes. It seems many people just hit the Cinque Terre for a few days at most, but there is plenty to see and do here to enjoy a longer stay. See our Planning a Trip to the Cinque Terre blog post for more info.

Grape vines with a view of the see near Monterosso

Do you want to visit Italy and hike the Cinque Terre? We can help with that! Remember that we are always available to you and your friends and family for custom trip planning to Italy and all of Europe. We are experts in creating custom travel itineraries and leading small group trips in Europe. Feel free to reach out via email — we are always available to talk about travel!

Greg Ball – Greg is co-founder and partner of Euro Travel Coach (ETC), which crafts custom European vacations for independent travelers and leads small group tours to Europe. In his previous life he taught Woodwinds and Jazz at the university level for 30 years. As a professor he took his bands to England, Ireland, Czech Republic, Austria, Switzerland, and England. Since “retiring” he and his wife/ETC co-founder Betsy travel Europe nine months out of the year. Together they have visited over 40 countries and counting! He loves cooking, hiking, listening and playing music, and wine and holds a Level 3 certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust.

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