Hiking is the best way of appreciating the gorgeous Cinque Terre. This region of Italy is known for its stunning scenery consisting of dramatic coastline, quaint fishing villages and sprawling countryside. Hiking in Cinque Terre will give you the chance to take in the incredible views of the villages, the coast and much more.
Indeed, while there are many scenic viewpoints around the area and the stunning scenery can be enjoyed from just about anywhere, the best way to take in the area’s breathtaking views is by hiking along the many trails that run along the coast and through the area’s towns and villages. It’s fair to say that hiking the Cinque Terre is for many the highlight of a trip to this part of the country – it certainly was for me!
With 48 trails making up more than 75 miles (120 kilometers) of coastal walking adventures, it’s not hard to see why hiking is a top activity among visitors to the Cinque Terre region. Below is a comprehensive guide to hiking in Cinque Terre so you know what to expect and how to prepare.
Make sure to read my posts The Best Things To Do In Cinque Terre, How To Plan A Day Trip From Florence To Cinque Terre and Where To Stay In Cinque Terre.
What You Must Know About Hiking In Cinque Terre
The best time to hike the Cinque Terre
The best time to go hiking in Cinque Terre is when the weather is cool and dry and two seasons experience these conditions; spring and fall.
September and October are considered prime times to hike the Cinque Terre because the temperatures are not as hot and there are fewer tourists around so the trails are not as crowded. Be aware that as it gets later in the fall, there tends to be more rain and adverse weather that can cause landslides and slippery conditions. These can make the trails too dangerous to remain open.
The other time of year that’s best for hiking in Cinque Terre is between late April and early June before the heat of summer and tourist crowds arrive. However, rain can occur even in late spring and in fact when my sister and I visited at the end of April, trails were closed one day following heavy rain the previous day, and on the following day they were open but visitors were warned of very slippery conditions.
Hiking the Cinque Terre Blue Trail
The easiest and most well-known hiking trail in Cinque Terre is the Blue Trail, otherwise known as Sentiero Blu in Italian. This 7.5-mile (12-kilometer) trail connects the five villages that make up the region. You can start the hike in the village of Monterosso al Mare or at the other end in Riomaggiore – though keep in mind the section of the trail that connects Riomaggiore to Manarola is currently closed (more about closures below).
Along the way, you’ll pass through the other villages of Vernazza, Corniglia and Manarola and enjoy incredible vistas. The trail is well-marked so there are no worries about getting lost! It takes about 6 to 7 hours to hike this entire trail, depending on how often you stop.
If you prefer to join a guided hike, there is one that departs from La Spezia and includes train tickets and the Cinque Terre Card which you’ll need to access the trail. This guided tour only covers the hike between Corniglia and Manarola. For more information, click here.
Check out my posts A Useful Guide To Monterosso Al Mare and A Quick Guide To Vernazza.
Distances and difficulty levels of the Blue Trail
This trail is divided into four sections and although it’s the easiest trail in the region overall, some sections are more difficult than others.
The Sentiero dell’Amore (the Path of Love) from Riomaggiore to Manarola is an easy, paved section of the trail and is 0.9-miles (1.5 kilometers). It is currently closed for maintenance.
The Manarola to Corniglia section is also easy and is 1.8 miles (three kilometers).
The section from Corniglia to Vernazza is 2.5-mile (four-kilometer); and the section from Vernazza to Monterosso is 2.2-mile (3.5-kilometer). These are classed as moderate, which means there are some difficult areas with descents, ascents and unstable terrain.
Blue Trail closures
As of this writing, some sections of this coastal trail are closed. The section between Manarola and Riomaggiore, also called The Path of Love, is closed for reconstruction work and will not reopen until at least May 2024.
Landslides and unstable terrain have caused the closure of the section between Corniglia to Manarola, and this is not due to be opened until at least April 2025. A combination of well-marked trails 587, 586 and 506 will take you along an alternative route from Corniglia and Manarola.
Check out my posts A Quick Guide To Riomaggiore and A Short Guide To Manarola.
How much does it cost to hike in the Cinque Terre?
The Cinque Terre is a National Park. While most trails in the Cinque Terre are free to access, if you with to hike the Cinque Terre Blue Trail you need to purchase a ticket. This ticket is actually known as the Cinque Terre Card and it also offers users a range of other benefits including discounted rides on public transit free entrance to some museums and free access to Wi-Fi.
The Cinque Terre Trekking Card costs €7.50 and allows access to all four sections of the trail for one day. The cost may be lower at times when sections of the trail are closed.
The easiest way to get the Cinque Terre card is to order it online – you can get it here – but if that’s not possible, you can purchase it at any of the Cinque Terre Point found at the railway station in any of the five Cinque Terre villages, at tourist information centers, from local bus drivers or at the entrances to the trail.
Check out my posts Is The Cinque Terre Card Worth It? and What To Know Before Visiting Cinque Terre.
Our experience hiking in Cinque Terre
My sister and I started our hike in Cinque Terre in Monterosso al Mare (the trail starts right below Hotel Porto Roca) and took about 2 hours (with plenty of stops) to get to Vernazza, and another hour to get from there to Corniglia, where we stopped for lunch before continuing to Manarola, our last stop, via the village of Volastra. We had to take a combination of alternative trails to get from Corniglia to Manarola.
Since the Blue Trail between Manarola and Riomaggiore is closed, we opted to stop there – we arrived in time for aperitivo at Nessun Dorma – and took the train back to Monterosso.
We did not find the hike to be particularly challenging, however keep in mind we are experienced hikers and do lots of sports on a regular basis. All in all, we found the steep ascents much easier than the descents, which were quite slippery since we hiked after a day of heavy rain.
Needless to say, the views along the trail were absolutely breathtaking and we stopped many times to take photos!
Other useful things to know about hiking the Cinque Terre Blue Trail
Trails may close
During certain times of the year, usually from late October to early April, the Cinque Terre region sees a lot of rain that can create dangerous conditions on the trails. This results in some or all trails in the region having to be closed. After any amount of rain, the trails can get very muddy and slippery, so extreme caution is advised if you do decide to venture out on an open trail after it’s been raining.
There’s a cat sanctuary
One of the surprises you’ll find when hiking the Cinque Terre trail between Monterosso and Vernazza is a cat sanctuary. If you like cats, it’s a great spot to stop for a rest and hang out with them. Although they are stray cats, they seem to be well taken care of. Someone built them some cat houses so they may require some coaxing to come out of their cozy little hiding places.
Dogs are welcome
If you wish to hike with your dog, you’ll be happy to know that dogs are welcome on the Blue Trail as long as they’re kept on a leash and you clean up after them!
The trails can be crowded!
During nice weather and especially during peak tourist season and holiday weekends, there are many people on the trail so some sections can get a little crowded. Earlier in the morning is the least crowded and there seems to be more people around later in the day.
Hiking in Cinque Terre etiquette
As with any outdoor adventure anywhere in the world, it’s important to practice good etiquette while hiking in Cinque Terre.
These trails are beautiful, pristine and well-kept and both the locals and other tourists wish to keep them this way! If you have litter you need to throw away, hold onto it in your pocket or backpack until you find an appropriate facility to dispose of it.
Don’t pick the grapes
As you make your way along any of the trails in the region, you’ll see grapes growing. The vines are grown and owned by local people so you mustn’t pick any grapes off them no matter how delicious they look!
As people are living close to the trails in Cinque Terre, that means many places that are off the trail are actually private properties. As tempting as it might be to wander off the trail and check out something that catches your eye, make sure you refrain from wandering onto someone’s property. Imagine living along such a busy trail and having dozens or hundreds of people walking through your yard each day. That would get quite annoying, not to mention the fact that it’s considered trespassing!
Finally, be friendly to anyone you meet on the trail. Say hello, help with directions, or offer to point out something cool you spotted along the way (a couple we met pointed out a snake they had just passed by!). If someone behind you is walking at a faster pace, stop and move over to the side to let them pass. If you find yourself behind someone who is walking at a slower pace, simply say “excuse me” and wait for them to safely move over before passing by them.
What to wear when hiking in Cinque Terre
Due to the possibility of changing weather while hiking the Cinque Terre and the fact that the trails can be difficult in some places, it’s important to dress accordingly so you remain safe and comfortable during your excursion.
Good hiking shoes or boots
The most important thing you can wear on a hike is comfortable shoes suitable for the terrain. I have seen some people on the trail wearing running shoes, rubber wellies and plain city street-walking boots and wonder if they ever made it to the end of the hike without breaking an ankle: none of these are appropriate for the trails around Cinque Terre. A pair of sturdy, well-fitting hiking boots or shoes are the best type of shoe to wear.
A good pair of hiking pants will also save you on the trail. Even if it’s going to be very hot, it’s a good idea to wear pants instead of shorts. However, some pants are better than others for hiking in these unique conditions. Make sure your hiking pants are lightweight and dry quickly if you get caught in the rain. Nylon material is best and you should also ensure that they have plenty of pockets for storing items that you need to be able to access easily.
Wear a quick-dry shirt when heading out onto the trails but also have an extra one in your bag in case you need to change into something more comfortable or need to add layers if the temperature goes down.
Rain can happen any time of year in Cinque Terre and it’s important to be prepared. Take a compact wind and rainproof jacket with you in case adverse weather moves in during your excursion.
Since there are some things you’ll need to take with you on a hike and not everything will fit in your pockets, you’ll need something to carry those belongings in. A small backpack is the best option. Just make sure that it’s not so small that it won’t fit everything you need. If you plan to venture into any of the towns to shop for souvenirs, take that into consideration when packing for the trail because you’ll need somewhere to put those items.
That being said, you don’t want to take a bag that’s so big that you won’t be able to carry it over a long distance. Only carry what you absolutely need and make sure the bag is sturdy and comfortable so you don’t get tired or sore after carrying it for a while.
Sunglasses and a hat
It doesn’t have to be the middle of the summer to feel the effects of the sun in Cinque Terre! No matter what time of year you hike, always wear sunglasses and a hat to protect yourself from sun damage. Wearing them will also make it easier to see as you make your way along the trail.
While hiking poles are not necessary to get around on the trails in Cinque Terre (in fact, we didn’t use them), depending on your ability and hiking level, you might want to bring some along. They will certainly help with the ascents and descents and are also helpful when walking over unstable or rough terrain.
Make sure to read my post The Best Cinque Terre Packing List.
What to bring with you when hiking in Cinque Terre
The single most important thing you’ll need on the trail is a water bottle. Make sure to fill it up before you start hiking and keep hydrated throughout the day. When you run out of water, you can refill it at the public fountains that can be found in the villages along the way. The water is clean and safe to drink.
You should pack a few light snacks in your pack to help keep your energy up between meals. However, there’s no need to pack a lot of food because there are plenty of places to eat in every village along the way. When it comes to the food available, there are plenty of options to choose from.
Make sure to read my post The Best Restaurants In Cinque Terre.
When you go hiking along the coastal trails of the Cinque Terre region, you’ll be surrounded by spectacular views that you’re going to want to capture so you can cherish the memory forever and share the experience with your family and friends back home. Make sure you take a camera with freshly charged batteries and a full memory card because you’ll want to take a lot of pictures.
It’s also a good idea to stash a power-bank in your bag just in case your battery goes dead part-way through the hike or you run out of space on your card.