Julie Italy 168 Comments

The Cinque Terre, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a group of five towns perched on the dramatic coastline of Italy, just north of Pisa. The towns are easily recognizable, with their pastel buildings stacked on top of one another, overlooking the harbors below. Each town offers something a little bit different than the others, and part of the fun of visiting the Cinque Terre is picking your favorite one. Hiking the Cinque Terre is one of the best ways to explore these five towns.

Hiking the Cinque Terre

About the Trail

The towns can be visited by bus, boat, train, or by hiking trail. We chose the hiking option.

There is a 11 km trail (called the Blue Trail) connecting Riomaggiore to Monterosso al Mare. Some portions of the trail are very easy to walk, such as the paved section connecting Riomaggiore to Manarola, and other sections climb up and over hillsides with spectacular views along the coast. It takes about 5 hours to hike the entire distance, not counting the time to explore and linger in each town.

In order to hike the trail you have to purchase a ticket.  There are various options for this, but the ticket is absolutely necessary. At every town we had to pass a checkpoint and show our tickets. We purchased the Treno Cinque Terre Card, which gave us unlimited trips on the trains for the day and access to the hiking trails.

Distances and Difficulty Levels on the Blue Trail:

  • Riomaggiore to Manarola:  1.5 km, easy,  30 minutes, also called “Lover’s Lane” or Via dell’Amore
  • Manarola to Corniglia:  3 km, easy, 1 hour
  • Corniglia to Vernazza:  4 km, moderate, 1.5 hours
  • Vernazza to Monterosso:  3.5 km, moderate, 1.5 hours

Important Update on Cinque Terre Trail Closures:  The trail between Riomaggiore and Manarola (Via dell’Amore) and Manarola to Corniglia are closed due to a landslide and are planned to reopen in July 2024. Get updates here.

Note: We did this hike in July 2014 but this post is frequently updated with new content. In our comment section at the end of this guide, you can also read tips from other travelers who did this hike in recent years.

Town #1: Riomaggiore

Riomaggiore Cinque Terre


Our day started off very warm, without a cloud in the sky. We chose to start in Riomaggiore, because we wanted to end with a swim in the ocean at Monterosso’s beach. Unfortunately, the first section of trail, the easiest section to Manarola, was closed because of a recent rock slide.  This was not a good start to our day.

The trail between Riomaggiore and Manarola is called Via dell’Amore. When it is open, it is flat and easy to walk. However, it frequently closes due to landslides. It was closed when we did this hike in 2014 and it is currently closed again (until 2024).

If this trail is closed, you have the option to take the train to Manarola or hike a much more difficult trail, the high route, to the next town. Anxious to get started and not thrilled about having to wait 45 minutes for the next train, we chose to hoof it over the mountain.

The trailhead for the high route is located 5 minutes away from the Via dell’More. Click here to see the location of the trailhead on Google Maps. This trail took is a succession of stone staircases and steep hill climbs. But, you do climb high and are treated to wonderful views of the coastline.

High over the Cinque Terre


The trail on top of the mountain took us through vineyards. We were rewarded for our hard work with great views over Riomaggiore and the coastline. Since we were one of the only crazy ones who decided to make this climb we were almost on our own.

Hiking Cinque Terre Kids

During the descent into Manarola Tim had a wipeout. He turned to look back at Tyler, who was stumbling, and in the process Tim’s foot slipped off of the trail. His weight pitched him off the trail, he fell through some brush and landed on the hillside five feet below the level of the trail. Tim somehow emerged from this without a scratch on him, giving us all a good laugh.

Town #2: Manarola

We safely finished the rest of the hike into Manarola. We bought breakfast at a grocery store, spent a little time exploring the town, and then had to decide what to do about getting to the third town, Corniglia.

Again, the trail was closed. Would we ever get to hike the main Cinque Terre trail? Once again, we had the option to either hike up and over another mountain, this hike being twice as long as the first one we did, or take the train to Corniglia. We chose the train. We still had a long, hot day in front of us and Kara was already beginning to run out of steam.


Manarola Cinque Terre


Town #3: Corniglia

To get from the train station into Corniglia you have to climb this long series of wide steps into town. It still felt like we were hiking even though we had just taken the train!

Steps to Corniglia


In Corniglia, we only spent a little bit of time before hiking to the next town, Vernazza.


Walking through Corniglia

Town #4: Vernazza

Finally, the trail was open. By now it was over 90 degrees and the sun was incredibly hot.

To get from Corniglia to Vernazza we hiked on dusty, rocky paths, up and down endless stone steps, and through many more vineyards. The views were spectacular. This would have been much more enjoyable if it weren’t so crazy hot. Towards the end of this portion of the hike Kara kept warning us that her feet were going to explode.


Cinque Terre Kids


Finally, we made it to the most beautiful town of the Cinque Terre, Vernazza (with all feet intact).

Overlooking Vernazza

Vernazza is beautiful, and it was extremely crowded during the brief period of time we spent there. All of these towns can be explored in less than a half an hour, but be prepared to walk up and down some steep inclines.

We wandered away from the main street through Vernazza and went to Alberto Gelateria for a much needed break. This was the best gelato we had so far, and it was so good that we went back for seconds.



Town #5: Monterosso al Mar

Finally, it was time for the final hike to Monterosso. This is the most strenuous stretch of the Cinque Terre, another mountainous hike lasting 3 km. Fortunately, Kara got her second wind. Two hours later, a very sweaty, tired family of four arrived in Monterosso. It was time for that much deserved swim!

Almost in Monterosso

Monterosso al Mar


Once in Monterosso we plopped down at the beach for a much needed swim in the ocean. This was the perfect way to end our hike.

Thoughts About the Hike

So, what do we think about the hike now that it is over? It was a great experience, the views were incredible, and there was something very cool about hiking through the hillside vineyards. Cooler temperatures would have made the hike more enjoyable, but it was July, so it was going to be hot. The heat just made the gelato and the swimming that much more enjoyable.

For anyone who wants to see the Cinque Terre and have an active, adventurous day, hiking the trail is a great option.

Julie Rivenbark Photographer

As for our favorite town, Monterosso was the winner. Monterosso is the largest of the five towns, and with its two beaches, multitude of water sports, and its wonderful energy, we loved it here. In fact, we spent our second day in Cinque Terre relaxing on the beach and renting the paddle boat/slide that Tyler and Kara loved so much.

Vernazza was the prettiest, Corniglia was the quietest, Manarola had a great harbor, and Riomaggiore was the best place to sit and watch the sunset.

In the past few years, the Cinque Terre has become one of Italy’s most visited destinations. From May through September, the cities and the hiking trails can get very crowded. If you visited or hiked the Cinque Terre during the summer months in recent years, how was your experience? We would love to hear about your experience and it would help future readers know what to expect during their visit. Let us know in the comment section at the end of this article.

Italy Travel Guide Rome

Tips on Hiking the Cinque Terre

For information on visiting Cinque Terre on a budget, read our post The Cinque Terre for Budget Travelers. We give tips and advice how to keep costs low but still enjoy the best that the Cinque Terre has to offer.

The hike can be done in either direction.  To get the hardest hiking over with first, start in Monterosso. Once you reach Corniglia, and assuming all of the trails are open, the easier sections will be at the end.

For those who are very ambitious, there are trails that go even higher into the mountains for some of the best views of the area. The Cinque Terre information points in each town have maps of these trails.

There are different options for buying the Cinque Terre Park Card.

  • The Cinque Terre Trekking Card costs €7.50 per person and covers the hiking trails (this covers the trails from Monterosso to Vernazza and Vernazza to Corniglia; you do not need to pay to hike the other trails).
  • The Cinque Terre Treno MS Card starts at €19.50 per person or €49 euros for a family of four and increase substantially for peak season. With the Cinque Terre Treno Card, you can hike, take the bus, and take the trains from Levanto to La Spezia. There are also multi-day passes available.  For more information click here.

From early November through mid-March, you can hike the Cinque Terre for free.

Water bottles can be refilled at the public water fountains in each town.  As long as the fountain does not say “non-potable” the water is safe to drink. We drank gallons of water out of the public fountains all throughout Italy.

As with our experience, trails close frequently.  The day before our hike the trail from Riomaggiore to Manarola was open. There was a rockslide during the night which covered part of the trail, making it inaccessible. Check with the information offices before starting any hike for trail closures.

Sections of the trail are true hiking.  Make sure you wear appropriate footwear (sturdy walking shoes are sufficient and hiking shoes are ideal), bring sunscreen, and don’t forget those water bottles.

And don’t forget your swimsuit! What better way to cool off than a swim in the Mediterranean Sea!

More Great Hikes Around the World

If You Like This Hike…

If you like hiking the Cinque Terre, here are six similar hikes from around the world:

For more great hikes from around the world, check out our Hiking Guide.

Where We Stayed:  We were traveling on a budget so we stayed in La Spezia at Hotel Birillo. This is a small, budget hotel. It was very basic, with small rooms, an interesting bathroom (you actually had to walk through the shower to get into the bathroom), but it was only a five minute walk to the train station. If you are traveling on a budget, consider staying in La Spezia to save money.

If you have any questions about hiking the Cinque Terre, or if you want to share your experience, let us know in the comment section below.

More Information for Your Trip to Italy

PISA: Learn how to visit the Leaning Tower of Pisa while traveling from Florence to the Cinque Terre.

FLORENCE: If you are planning your first visit to Florence, don’t miss our guide to the 10 Best Things to Do in Florence. We also have a guide about how to visit the Florence Cathedral and related sites, the best rooftop bars in Florence and the best viewpoints in Florence.

TUSCAN HILL TOWNS: Check out our detailed guides to Montepulciano, Pienza, Montalcino, San Gimignano, Lucca, Volterra, Arezzo, and Cortona. We also have a One Day Siena Itinerary.

MILAN & LAKE COMO: Learn how to visit Milan on a day trip or while traveling between the Cinque Terre, Florence and Venice. Lake Como and Bellagio are two more beautiful places in Italy that are great day trip destinations.

DOLOMITES: The Dolomites has a long list of epic hiking trails. Some of our favorites are the Puez-Odle Altopiano, the Croda da Lago Circuit, and Lago di Sorapis. In our article Best Hikes in the Dolomites, we list 15 epic trails in the Dolomites. We cover important things to know before you go and travel tips in our article How to Plan a Trip to the Dolomites.

We have TONS more information about Italy in our Italy Travel Guide, including Rome, Florence, Venice, Tuscany, the Dolomites, the Amalfi Coast, the Cinque Terre, and Puglia.


Hiking the Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre Italy Travel Guide


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Comments 168

  1. Avatar for Nancy Thrams
  2. Avatar for Joanne De Silva
    Joanne De Silva

    Hi I am travelling with a friend in the next couple of weeks to the CT . Can you tell me if any of the paths are very narrow and with a sheer drop to the side? I’ve seen a lot of the paths do have a handrail but I’m worried I ll get an attack of vertigo . I would so like to do some of it if not all of it.

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      It’s been a few years since our visit but I don’t recall any sections with a drop off. If I remember correctly, there were wooden fences/handrails at the sketchier places along the trail. Cheers, Julie

  3. Avatar for Susan

    So glad I came across your blog! My daughter and I will be traveling to Europe in May/June 2024 for 3 weeks. We plan to hike in the CT for 5 days, as well as the Ladder of Kotor and Oia to Fira in Santorini. Trying to decide if we should pack our Osprey 1.5-2.0L bladder backpacks or simply take reusable water bottles with slings. With train travel, trying to minimize packing/luggage, but considering the hiking we are doing, these packs maybe useful. I know each of the towns in the CT have places to fill water bottles, but not sure about the other two hikes we are planning. Since you have done all of these, what is your recommendation?
    Thanks for sharing your experiences. I’ve found your site very helpful!

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Hello Susan. It will be extremely easy to get water in the Cinque Terre and walking Oia to Fira in Santorini. The Ladder of Kotor is a longer hike with little opportunity to fill your water bottle on the hike. If you wanted to save space, you could just bring one osprey backpack, share the water in that bladder, and also take the refillable water bottles for the Ladder of Kotor hike. It could be warm when you do that hike so having more water than one refillable bottle is a good idea. Let me know if you have any other questions. Cheers, Julie

  4. Avatar for Lisa

    Hi, I’ll be taking my 14 year old son to Italy in August and I’m planning to spend 3 nights in Cinque Terre so we can hike the trail and do the higher elevation one if parts of the blue trail are closed. Since it’s just the 2 of us, I’m wondering which town is the safest? (ie. if we want to leave our hotel windows open at night) I’m trying to factor that in when deciding where to book a hotel.

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      As far as I know, all of the towns in the Cinque Terre are safe. Monterosso is a good pick because it has a beach, so if you have extra time, you could spend some time here on the beach. It’s also a slightly larger town so there should be some good hotel options here. Cheers, Julie

  5. Avatar for LAURA CHAN

    Hi !
    We are planning a trip to Italy in September for our 25th wedding anniversary. I love your website and all the suggested itineraries. Do you have any recommendations on mid range places to stay in La Spezia or Cinque Terre?

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      That’s very exciting that you are planning your 25th wedding anniversary in Italy. Tim and I will be celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary this year too! I’ve never gotten around to researching hotels in La Spezia or the Cinque Terre, we are just familiar with the budget hotel in La Spezia where we stayed. I recommend looking on Booking.com. That’s what we use to find and research the hotels we stay in. You can filter for 3 star hotels, which are generally mid-range. Cheers, Julie

  6. Avatar for Tracy

    Great info. And I haven’t even gone yet (or chipped away at all the other articles of yours I want to read!) Question: we will be coming (possibly driving) from Florence. Is there a best place to park the car all day if we plan to do the whole trail? Grazie!

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Hello Tracy. I recommend looking into a parking lot at either endpoint of the trail (Monterosso is probably a better bet than Riomaggiore) or park in La Spezia and take the short train ride to the Cinque Terre towns from here. Have a great time in Italy! Cheers, Julie

      1. Avatar for Erin

        Hello! We are planning a trip To in August with our family and will be driving a large van (hitting the Dolomites too). We are planning to stay in manarola for two days. Should we park our car near the train station in La Spezia or Riomaggiore and leave it there? Is that even an option? I imagine driving to manarola in a large van wouldn’t work well.
        I have never commented or asked questions before, but I love your website! Thank you for creating it—it’s awesome. We used it to plan an amazing trip to Norway, hike Arches NP, Yosemite, and now Italy! Thank you!!

        1. Avatar for Julie Post

          Hello Erin. Thanks for writing in. Yes, if you have a van (or really any kind of vehicle) it is best to keep it parked while in the Cinque Terre. It might be easier to find a parking garage or lot in La Spezia, since that is a much larger town, and from here it is easy to take the train to Manarola. You could look into parking options as well in Manarola or, if you have a hotel booked, ask your hotel staff where to park in Manarola, to see if that is even an option. Cheers, Julie

  7. Avatar for Leah
    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      This hike is typically done point-to-point, using the train to skip over closed sections and/or to get back to your starting point. So yes, plan on taking the train to get back to the town you start the hike. Cheers, Julie

      1. Avatar for KRowe
        1. Avatar for Julie Post

          If you want to do the hike, I think it’s best to stay at one of the two endpoints, Riomaggiore or Monterosso. Hike the trail and then ride the train back to your starting town. However, any town would work. If you find a good place to stay in Vernazza, in the morning, take the train to Riomaggiore, hike to Monterosso, and then ride the train to Vernazza. Cheers, Julie

          1. Avatar for Leah

            Hi Julie, We’re planning on staying in the CT for four nights. We were thinking of staying two in Monterosso and two in Riomaggiore or do you think it would be best to stay four nights in one spot. What do you think?

            We’re also struggling to find more information on the range of hikes. We know there is the blue trail which is the 11km but have heard of the higher, harder hikes. Do you know where we could access some good information about these at all?

          2. Avatar for Julie Post

            Hello Leah. It would be a matter of preference, whether you break up the stay into 2 different towns or just stay in one the entire time. To transfer hotels, most likely you would take the train, so just be aware of the walks to and from the train stations from the hotels. It would add some hassle to the itinerary but could be worth it if you want to experience 2 different towns on your trip. This is the best source that I know of to learn more about the various hiking trails. I don’t know how detailed they get about the higher trails, however. Cheers, Julie

  8. Avatar for Katie Lawrance
    Katie Lawrance

    1st Aug 2023 – hiked Monterosso – Vernazza – Corniglio today. Luckily overcast even though hot – I’m really not sure how you did it in baking sunlight! The steps at the start going this way are a killer, but worth it.
    A little farm shop is near the Prevo bar you mention which had a lovely little atmosphere to sit and have a lemonade/piece of fruit.
    There’s a shuttle bus into Corniglia you can take to avoid the winding staircase from the station – we didn’t use it but had read about it and saw it in action today.
    Queues for the loos at the stations were long/slow as everyone knows you can use them for free with the cinque Terre card – we abandoned these twice and opted to pay for a drink and use the loo in a cafe instead!

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
  9. Avatar for Anton

    We walked Riomaggiore – Monterosso in a day July 19th 2023, the white red trail with a total of ~33 km. From Manarola to Corniglia we had to go via Volastra. Really steep and long. Fortunately they had a water fountain up there so we could drink some water. In the towns it was very crowded but on the trails it was almost no one

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