Hiking Guide to the Cinque Terre

hiking5t1No matter how crowded the tiny villages of the Cinque Terre are getting these days, they remain intensely beautiful, almost impossibly charming, and reasonably accessible to visitors – all of which means they’ll continue to be popular on most peoples’ to-do lists when they come to Italy. Among the biggest reasons why people visit the Cinque Terre to begin with is the hiking.

There is a cliffside trail which connects the Cinque Terre villages, and which provides some stunning views over the Ligurian Sea. But each connecting trail is slightly different, from how difficult it is to how well-maintained it is. In this article, I’m going to break down the hike into its individual sections so you can better plan your trek (and decide whether there are any segments you’d just rather skip entirely!).

>> Learn more about getting around in the Cinque Terre for the times when you’re not hiking, too.

Hiking Guide for the Cinque Terre

hiking5t2I have a habit of thinking of the Cinque Terre towns in a numbered way, which isn’t uncommon among travel writers who have covered the area. Unlike most of them, however, for some reason I start my numbering system at the top (northernmost) town and work my way down (south). For the purposes of this article, however, I’m going to reverse that – because the hikes starting from the southernmost town get harder as you go north, so it makes sense to increase the number rather than decrease it!

The trails connecting the Cinque Terre towns (and the land surrounding them) was turned into a National Park in 1999, and ever since then hikers have to pay a fee to enter the park and walk between the villages. Being a National Park also means there are certain hours when the trails are open – it’s no longer a 24/7 operation. You’ll find all the Cinque Terre National Park information you need – including entry fees, trail maps, and the passes you can buy – at the bottom of this post.

Because the trail goes through each village, you’ll get a chance to visit every Cinque Terre town (if you do all the hikes). This route will let you get a bite to eat along the way, but it also gives you ample opportunity to lose sight of the next part of the trail. Luckily, the folks in the National Park were thoughtful enough to paint red and white colored markers in strategic places to lead you around corners, up staircases, and away from main streets to the next trailhead. (They can be a bit hard to spot, however, so here’s what you’re looking for.)

Signs at each trail entrance tell you not to wear high heels (darn!), but you also don’t need tricked-out hiking gear for this hike, either. I’ve seen teens wearing rubber flip-flops on the trail, and I wouldn’t advise that, but a decent pair of comfortable hiking shoes, hiking sandals, or even tennis shoes is adequate. The main thing you want to be sure of is that your shoes have good grip, and you aren’t breaking them in on the Cinque Terre trail.

Another thing to keep in mind is that, since the hike alone can take you nearly five hours (and that’s not including time spent in each town devouring sustenance and generally soaking up the atmosphere, or stopping at the beaches along the way, both of which are highly recommended), it’s a very good idea to start hiking as early as possible in the day. This is good for two reasons – first, you’ll avoid hiking in the hottest parts of the day; and second, you’ll potentially avoid most of the crowds of late risers.

In addition to the popular cliffside trail connecting the five towns (called the Blue Trail), there’s a much more challenging trail further inland (called the Cinque Terre High Trail) as well as a trail which links each town’s sanctuary (called, appropriately, the Sanctuary Trail). I’ve broken the Blue Trail down into the four separate sections below, and then listed the High and Sanctuary trails after that.

>> Note that sometimes due to weather and other environmental factors, portions of the trail are closed for maintenance or repair. You can check the current status of which trails are open on this official Cinque Terre park website.

Hiking from Riomaggiore to Manarola – Cinque Terre Hike #1

hiking5t4This section of the Cinque Terre trail is often referred to as the “Via dell’Amore,” an Italian Lover’s Lane. It’s the easiest portion of the trail by a long shot – so much so that I hesitate to even call it a “trail.” It’s flat and paved, so don’t be surprised if you see families on this path pushing strollers between these two towns. This stretch of the “trail” also comes by its nickname honestly – smooching with your sweetheart is almost impossible to avoid, and colorful love notes are scrawled all over the place.




If you aren’t engaging in copious amounts of strolling, meandering, or lolly-gagging, the “hike” between Riomaggiore to Manarola shouldn’t take you more than 20 minutes.

Hiking from Manarola to Corniglia – Cinque Terre Hike #2

hiking5t5The trail north out of Manarola will, at first, be similar to the Via dell’Amore trail you just left. It’s mainly flat, although no longer paved, and makes for pretty easy going. Easy, that is, until you get within sight of Corniglia. That’s when you realize that unlike the other four towns, Corniglia isn’t at sea level. It’s up on top of a cliff – the keyword there is “up.”

As you get closer to Corniglia you’ll be walking alongside the train tracks, which are between the water and the trail. Then, at the train station at the base of the hill (on top of which is the town), there is a set of switchback stairs. Someone counted – there are more than 360 steps to get to the top. If an Italian stair-master isn’t what you had in mind for your vacation, however, you can take the easy way out and opt for the shuttle bus which is to the right of the station.

The hike between Manarola and Corniglia should take less than an hour, unless you require lots of breaks on the stairs.

Hiking from Corniglia to Vernazza – Cinque Terre Hike #3

hiking5t6Because Corniglia is at the top of a hill, no matter which way you come from you’ll have to head upward at some point. On the flip side, however, that also means whichever way you’re going when you leave – you’re going down.

The trail from Corniglia to Vernazza heads gradually downhill for the most part, although there are some seriously steep sections. Parts of the trail are made up of irregularly-shaped stone steps which require a bit of attention when you’re walking. Not only that, this is where the trail begins to seem precarious – it can get extremely narrow at times, and in some areas you’ve got a wall of vineyards or other vegetation on one side and a cliff on the other (with no railing, I might add).

It’s at this point when you start to wonder what it’ll be like to pass someone coming the other way. (Answer: Don’t worry, the Cinque Terre is plenty crowded – you’ll find out soon enough.) Oh, and once you get to Vernazza, there is a series of very steep switchback steps leading down into the town itself, so don’t start celebrating your arrival too early.

The hike between Corniglia and Vernazza can take between 1.5-2 hours, barring too much pulling out in the passing zones.

Hiking from Vernazza to Monterosso al Mare – Cinque Terre Hike #4

hiking5t7The most challenging hike is easily the one from Vernazza to Monterosso, mainly because it’s not just up or down – it’s both. And it’s steep. It’s also the one with the highest percentage of so-narrow-you’re-not-sure-they’re-wide-enough-for-one-person trail sections (many of which have cliffside dropoffs on one side), so be prepared for lots of stopping and starting if the trail is particularly crowded. The good news is that those gorgeous olive orchards and vineyards you started seeing in the last trail segment are even more plentiful in this one, and you’ll even dip inland now and then and be bathed in cool forest-y shade. (This is especially refreshing if you’re hiking during the heat of midday in the summer.)

Again, if you’re not doing too much in the way of stopping and starting, the hike between Vernazza and Monterosso should take roughly 1.5-2 hours.


Cinque Terre High Trail

hiking5t8If you’re a more serious hiker and you want more of a challenge (not to mention wanting to get away from the crowds), then have a go at the High Trail. This route actually stretches beyond the Cinque Terre and connects the towns of Portovenere in the south with Levanto in the north. The hiking time alone is estimated (depending on what you read) between 6-10 hours, and the paths are not nearly as well marked as the route described above, so it’s highly recommended that you either pick up a detailed hiking map of the area or you hire a local guide to lead the way.

Should you get partway into the High Route and decide you’ve had enough, no worries – there are lots of trails which connect the High Trail with the Cinque Terre towns, so you can cut your serious trekking short along the way and choose to spend the remainder of your day sipping the local dessert wine in a bar. No one will judge you.

Cinque Terre Sanctuary Trail

hiking5t3Each of the Cinque Terre towns has a sanctuary (also called a church or shrine) which is typically in the hills above the town center, and there are trails which connect each of these as well. You can get to these trails from either the main Blue Trail or the High Trail – you can even hike up to each shrine without starting on either the Blue or High Trail, from each town center.

Again, because these trails are less popular they’re also less well-marked. Get a good hiking map of the area, and ask at the tourist office if you can’t find the starting point.

Cinque Terre National Park Visitor Information

  • hiking5t9Cinque Terre Trail Entry Fee: €5 per person
  • Cinque Terre Trail Passes: There are 3 kinds of passes (trail only, trail + trains, trail + trains & ferries). All three also get you free entry to a few museums in the Cinque Terre towns, a 3-hour bike rental for free, and a discount on Cinque Terre products for sale at the tourist information centers. Ask for details about all of these extras when you buy your pass.
    Cinque Terre Card – trail entry fee only, good for 1, 2, 3, or 7 days; adult prices €5 for 1 day, €8 for 2 days, €10 for 3 days, €20 for 7 days
    Cinque Terre Card + Train – trail entry fee plus transportation on local trains from Levanto to La Spezia, good for 1, 2, 3, or 7 days; adult prices €8.50 for 1 day, €14.70 for 2 days, €19.50 for 3 days, €36.50 for 7 days
    Cinque Terre Card + Ferry – trail entry fee plus transportation on local trains (as above) plus ferries in the Cinque Terre, only sold in 1-day increments; adult price €19.50 per day
  • Cinque Terre Trail Maps: TrekTools produces a very detailed map of the Cinque Terre hiking areas which you can buy online before you leave.
  • Cinque Terre Park Website: This is the main site for the Cinque Terre National Park. There are sections for the Blue Trail, the Sanctuary Trails, and all the trails, and a page to see which trails (if any) are closed. (Note that even if you click on the Union Jack it’s likely the entire page will still be in Italian.)
  • More Cinque Terre Resources: James at Wandering Italy has some great Cinque Terre hiking resources on his site. There’s also a photo tour of 3/4 of the hike (with an unexpected detour) here, and SlowTravel Italy has hike times listed on their site. Beers & Beans reminds us that the hike is not a doddle.

photos, top to bottom, by: finofilka, paige_eliz, SandraW12, mismisimos, Lee Coursey, Lee Coursey, mismisimos, milano24ore, jsbanks42

39 thoughts on “Hiking Guide to the Cinque Terre

  • David Eg

    Nice article; we’re local to the area, so know it well. We take the boat from Lerici that drops you off on the Cinque Terre and allows you to walk or ‘skip’ a Terre if you stay on the boat.

    Don’t underestimate the heat or the crowds in the towns!

  • Jessica Post author

    Thanks, David, I’m glad you liked the article. And thanks also for the added warning re: the heat & crowds. I felt prepared for both & was still surprised. Amazing how many people can cram themselves into such small towns! 🙂

  • Jessica Post author

    Thanks, I’m glad you found it helpful! 🙂 I think you’ll love the 5T – especially if you can go in the off-season, or even the shoulder season. Even if it’s busy, that doesn’t take away from how gorgeous it is…

  • Junel

    I’m so glad I lucked up on your article while I was doing research for my upcoming trip to Italy in October 09. My friend and I will definitely want to spend a day hiking the Cinque Terre now. Thanks so much for the links and the particulars on fees. The narrow walkways you mentioned may make me a little nervous, but I know it will be worth it for the pictures and a funny story.

  • Kayla Petherbridge


    I am heading to the UK in Novemeber of this year, we are off for a week in Barcelona but I was looking for somewhere else wonderful to vist. Can you please advise if I should bother visiting Cinque Terre in November or if it will be too cold and miserable? I am not fussed what we do (be it, hiking or drinking wine!) but I would like to be sure that we could soak up the atmosphere.

    If you don’t think it will be worth while, can you please make a recommendation of anywhere else that might be nice at that time of the year?

    Thank you kindly.

    Kayla Petherbridge.

  • Jessica Post author

    If you’re not bothered about weather, November’s a fine time to visit anywhere… But yeah, it’ll probably be on the wet side in the Cinque Terre in November. That said, if you’re going to the UK and Barcelona, it’s quite a ways from there to the Cinque Terre. As much as I love Italy, I’d probably stick to Spain (or maybe venture into southern France, if you want to cross another border) rather than spending all that time getting back & forth from the Cinque Terre (which isn’t easily accessible anyway).

  • Kelly

    Thanks for the grea,t informative article with extra resources too! We are going in April 2010 and can hardly wait!

  • davidcamp

    We are coming in on a ship to La Spezia. We want to get the train to go from Terre to Terre. Can someone suggest to me: What is the best way to get on the train from La Spezia? Thank you.

    • Jessica Post author

      The train station in La Spezia is in the city center, and the cruise terminal is a short walk from the city center – so you should be able to get specific directions from someone at the terminal and walk to the station. If you feel like it’s too far, there are likely to be taxis around the cruise terminal that can take you to the station.

  • Stephen

    Thank you for publishing this helpful information. It is one of the best that I uncovered about hiking the Cinque Terra. I will be there a week in mid October 2010 – hopefully not as crowed then. Your generosity is noteworthy!

    Do you purchase the Cinque Terre Cards at the train stations or some other location?

    I found the following: any idea where one can purchase this pass?

    Recommendation: Get the National Park Pass, it will save you money and allows you to hike on the trail, unlimited national park bus rides and unlimited train rides between the 5 towns.

    Warmest regards,


    • Jessica Post author

      Hi, Stephen:

      If you scroll up to the bottom of the article above, under the heading “Cinque Terre National Park Visitor Information” you’ll find all of the options for the various Cinque Terre Trail Passes you can buy. They’re available at the train stations in any of the towns, or at the entry points for the trail itself.


  • ian

    hi jessica!

    i’m going to italy in a week, and i’m visiting cinque terre. i’m a solo female traveler and i was wondering if it’s ok to go on the trails alone? i suppose the one from riomaggiore to manarola is ok for a solo walker, but what about the rest of the trails? =)

    (btw, i planned my itinerary based on your recommendations! so thank you for publishing such helpful articles)

    ian =)

    • Jessica Post author

      Yes, the trails are perfectly fine for solo hikers of any gender – they’re usually quite crowded, so you’re never really alone, and they close up at night (it’s part of a national park) so you’re always going to be hiking in daylight hours.

      Enjoy your trip!

  • Derek

    Great article Jessica.
    We are doing the walk in May 2011. Would appreciate your suggestion concerning accommodation. We are are considering using Corniglia as a base for 6 nights and branching out daily to do the walks (will use trains and ferry as appropriate). The attraction here is that we do not have to worry about getting our luggage from place to place. We are satisfied that we will cover all the walks of the Cinque Terre using this option. Would appreciate your comments concerning what we are proposing. Many thanks, Derek (Australia)

  • Judy

    Hi Jessica,
    Your Italylogue is fabulous. My husband and I will be in the CT in May. Do we need to worry about the twin evils of heat and crowds at that time of year?

    • Jessica Post author

      The heat shouldn’t be *too* bad in May – depending on when you’re there, that is – but you might find it pretty crowded. It gets more crowded in June and July, however, so keep that in mind.


      If it happens to be hot when you’re there, just make sure you’re starting the hike early enough in the morning so that you’re not out on exposed cliffs in the early afternoon.

  • Judith

    Hi Jessica
    Thanks for a wonderful informative and enthusiastic article. We are going there in a month so I used your link to check out the situation of the trails and found that all but the lovers’ trail are closed. Can’t read Italian but there seemed to be no information re the reason or duration of this closure. Any idea why they are closed and if and when they will open? Is this a seasonal thing? Will appreciate any response.

    • Jessica Post author

      I’d heard about this recently on a blog post by someone who lives in the area:

      The most popular paths – between the towns – do typically close for a bit of time each winter for repairs, but this closure is more drastic than in the past. This is (as the blog post states) partly due to corruption and subsequent arrests of people involved in overseeing the park itself – things remain in a bit of flux as a result. The blogger does mention that there are a few other hiking options in the Cinque Terre, a couple of which are also mentioned in my article above, so you won’t be without hiking choices.

      • ndg

        The trails aren’t closed due to corruption, but because of landslides.

        Corniglia to Vernazza is “closed” but a lot of people are still walking it, but Vernazza to Monterosso is blocked off by fences and signs warning of extreme danger. In some places the path itself has collapsed; in others, it’s the terrace above the path.

        The trails are undergoing repairs so “closed forever” sounds unlikely, but it’s not going to be this month (and maybe not even this year).

  • Judith

    Thanks for the information. You keep this venue wonderfully active and helpful.
    I think we may try parts of the upper trail.
    Still I am hoping the lower trails will open by May. After all this is their livelihood, it is in their best interest to keep the trails open to tourists.

  • Priscila

    Hi Judith and Jessica,
    Just came back from Italy, my husband and I followed Jessica’s 2 weeks itinerary and we loved everything (thanks a lot Jessica for all the tips and information on everything). So, when we arrived at the Cinque Terre I got to know about the trails been closed, I was so frustrated and thought “what is the point?”, but then, you just start wondering in the towns and you get it, the place is perfect… you kind of hike while walking around, almost nothing is flat and no matter where you are, the views are incredible, take the little paths going up and you found a trail. The only officially opened trail was the Lovers’ Trail, but we were also able to do the trial from Corniglia to Vernazza, the guy at the start of the trail just told us “be careful and watch out for falling rocks”, well, I wanted to do it so much than I didn’t even processed what he had said, we did and it wasn’t that bad at all… and the best part… the trail was OURS, we didn’t pass a living soul until the very end of it. I was kind of late when we arrived in Vernazza so we didn’t try the Vernazza to Monterosso al Mare trail, but some people said they were able to do it… so my point is… when you are there, try that you may be allowed to do it! Have fun and I am pretty sure you will love it!!!! Priscila

    • Jessica Post author

      Great tips, Priscila – I’m glad you made the most of what you had when you were in the Cinque Terre, it sounds like you had a wonderful visit!

  • peter

    We’re going to Italy on July 28 and landing in Milan Malpensa at 9:05 am. We’re catching a 12:05 train from Milan central to Santa Margerhita. Will we have enough time to get to Central from Malpensa. How long should we plan to clear customs. We are deciding whether to take a cab or the Malpensa Express train to Central station?

    • Jessica Post author

      If I were you, I’d stick to the train – taxis are expensive, and the transfer time isn’t reliable, since it all depends on traffic. The train is reliable. You can learn more about the train to Centrale here:

      Unfortunately, it’s impossible to ever predict how long customs will take. You should be fine with a 9am arrival, but if you’re concerned you can either book a later train or wait until you get to Centrale – then just get on the next train for Santa Margherita, whenever it is.

  • jacinth

    Dear Jessica,

    Thank you for the awesome article! Can I check with you , is it advisable to visit Cinque Terra in winter? Im planning a trip to Italy from 1st to 12th December… thinking of visiting Cinque Terra, Venice, Rome and Florence. Are there any cities I should give a miss considering the season and weather? Thank you very much!

    • Jessica Post author

      I’m terribly sorry, it looks like I missed this question when it came in! I hope an answer now is still useful to you.

      The Cinque Terre really isn’t a great spot to visit during the winter, no. The towns all but shut down, the trails often close, and the weather isn’t great. For early December, I’d skip any spots that are best known for things like hiking and beaches, so that means skipping the Cinque Terre.

  • rosann mckenna

    Dear Jessica I would like to read you article on Chinque Terra we would like to hike the CT for 5 or 6 days then see Tuscany area for another week can you give me any tips especially where to stay in Cinque Terra the best town thanks

  • Janice

    Hi Jessica,
    I’m loving all your info! Planning a trip for April 2013; I have LOTS of time to figure this out. I noticed that the trails are (still) closed, except for #1. Have they been closed this whole time? If there are that many problems, we’re thinking of bypassing CT and just enjoy Genova (family origins). Can you please update re. this??

    • Jessica Post author

      Well, after the mudslides in the area in October of last year, many of the trails were damaged, so I’m not sure what the ETA is on opening them back up again. By 2013 they should be open, however, so I wouldn’t worry too much about figuring out your itinerary quite yet.

  • Bob

    Hi, reading your article I must commend you on a wonderfully relaxed and yet informative writing style.it often seemed as though you were not writing but in fact chatting to us and I must say I love the little cheeky in parenthesis comments. For my part I intend spending two days in CT alone and was wondering in which town I should base myself (first question) and secondly whether I should sleep in different towns for the two nights stay or in the same town for both nights…also,should I spread the hike (blue trail ) over two days or walk it in a day and then spend the second day..doing….? Pls help

  • Selena

    Firstly, thank you for providing so much information! I am devouring all things Cinque at the moment, in anticipation of our 2-week trip to CT in 15 days! (I am so excited I can barely contain myself). After much research I still have just a “few” questions I hope you may be able to answer. 🙂

    Did you kayak? If so, from whom did you rent? How was the water temp during your visit? Do you have any “do not miss” recommendations for restaurants? We will be staying in our own apartment with kitchen, I hope to cook us some lovely dinners to enjoy on our deck; did you happen to shop the local markets for fresh fish, produce, etc? If so, how are the prices?

    I noticed in a previous post someone mentioned a 2- week itinerary, is this available, or did I mis-read something in my haze of excitement? Thank you again for all your time and attention to detail, your article is a wealth of information and a crucial resource for us “type-a planners”. After all, Prior Preparation Prevents Piss-poor Performance. Lol. Looking forward to hearing from you and those who may read this and have additional tips, recommendations or advice. Cheers!

  • Andrew


    I’m planning to walk the area in July 2012 – will the cliff paths be accessible then?
    Plan to stay 2 nights close by and use the hike and train option 🙂

    All advice wlecome


  • Megan

    First of all, I love your website. It is so informative and is helping me plan my trip, so thank you!!

    I am hiking of being in Cinque Terre and doing the hikes on a Monday. I know a lot of Italy shuts down on Monday, so how will that effect my trip to Cinque Terre? If you were to have one of your days in Italy be a Monday, which city would it be in – Cinque Terre, Florence, Rome, or Venice?

  • christopher

    Jessica, I’m “running away from home” for a week (I’m actually 50… but another “vacation” seems boring! ha… ) You offer great articles and travel knowledge. I will be heading to CT in April 2013, and much of your writing/wisdom will be employed during my stay. I’m a trail runner so I’m excited to run and hike all the trails I can, in-between great eating and relaxing. Thank you for your positive endorsement and honest opinions (crowds, costs, etc).

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