Julie Italy 124 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 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.

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.  For €7.50 per person you can hike the trails and take the buses connecting the 5 towns, and for €18.20 per person or €48 euros for a family of four, 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.

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!

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


Note: This post contains affiliate links. When you make a purchase using one of these affiliate links, we get paid a small commission at no extra cost to you.

All rights reserved © Earth Trekkers. Republishing this article and/or any of its contents (text, photography, etc.), in whole or in part, is strictly prohibited.

Comments 124

  1. Avatar for Edwin

    Hello there,

    Very clear trip description, really helpful !

    One question.
    Is there an advantage in doing the hike from the south (Riomaggiore) to the north (Monterosso) or doing it the other way around, or doesn’t it really matter ?
    E.g. it’s not that if you would start the hike from Riomaggiore it would be always/more uphill and if you would start from Monterosso it would be mainly/more downhill ?

    Kind regards.

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Great question. I don’t think it makes much of a difference, which way you go, but some people have commented that it is a harder walk from Monterosso to Vernazza, rather than Vernazza to Monterosso. But it was really nice ending in Monterosso and going for a swim, since that town has the largest beach. If you are relatively fit, you shouldn’t have any problems doing this in either direction. If you are going in the summer, the heat is the hardest thing to deal with, and maybe the midday crowds. Cheers, Julie

  2. Avatar for Peter Reiter
    Peter Reiter

    Thanks for the very well written, easy to read article.
    We are a very fit 50 something couple from Australia who do a lot of hiking (Everest base camp 3 years ago was a highlight!) We like active holidays, so we’re looking forward to this part of our trip to Italy.

    We will be staying in Monterosso and have 2 full days in the Cinque Terra area.

    My plan is to hike out of Monterosso, head along the paths you described here, and just see how we go. We’d also like to spend a little bit of time in each town, so don’t want to rush. Potential goal: get to Riomaggiore, and get the train back to Monterosso.

    Possibly the following day, go the reverse… get the train first up to Riomaggiore, and walk back to Monterosso (finishing with a swim, as you did).

    If we ran out of time, we could do part of the journey on day 1, train it back, and then pick it up again the next day.

    Does this sound feasible?

    Also… you may or may not know, but we’ll be there in mid June… are we likely to encounter hot temperatures as you’ve described, or are we early enough in the summer to avoid the big heat?

    Thanks for your time and super reporting!

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Hello Peter. Yes, your plan makes sense. If you do a lot of hiking, you could easily get to Riomaggiore at the end of your first day…but how much you spend in each town will be the bigger deciding factor. Mid June can still be quite hot in Italy. In Europe, in general, the hottest heat waves have been occurring within the last week of June into mid July (we’ve been there for two of them in the past few years). If it’s hot while you are there, you could split the hike into 2 days, hiking in the morning and swimming in the afternoon. I hope you have a great trip to Italy and we will be heading your way in a few months…Tyler is studying abroad this coming semester in Sydney. Cheers, Julie

  3. Avatar for Joy. Douglas Strome
    1. Avatar for Julie Post
  4. Avatar for Tara Cannon
    Tara Cannon

    Great post. We just did the Vernazza – Monterosso trail the other day (August 2022), had breakfast and a swim in Monterosso and then returned to Vernazza (where we were staying) by train. We dragged our teens out of bed at 7am (not always the easiest thing) but were so glad we did. We were able to enjoy the trail totally crowd-free and mostly in the shade.
    Note: Vernazza is really beautiful but yes, very crowded during the day. We still loved it though – making the most of the early mornings and evening when the town was quieter.

  5. Avatar for Anouk

    This hike is still on my bucket list, but didn’t do it the one time I visited the Cinque Terre. We stayed in Levanto, one town before Monterosso and not 1 of the 5 official cinque terre towns. We hiked from Levanto to Monterosso, which was a 7km hike with a bit more than 1000ft elevation. We all felt it was a hike with amazing sights and ending in Monterosso with lunch and a swim was amazing, so highly recommended as well!

  6. Avatar for Larry Boudon
    Larry Boudon

    We spent two days in Cinque Terre and did the hikes between Monterosso and Vernazza, and Corniglia and Vernazza. I agree that the Monterosso-Vernazza trail is the toughest. Those stairs just don’t end! We stopped midway from Corniglia to Vernazza at a bar where we ordered slushy drinks and enjoyed the view from the nearby terrace. It was a nice break. We stayed in Riomaggiore and visited Manarola by train. We truly enjoyed our time there.

  7. Avatar for Rich

    Hi and thank you for all the help offered in your incredible site! Our family will be visiting Vernazza for 4 days in early August and wondered if the trails are open for early morning or late afternoon/early evening hikes in order to avoid the crowds and heat? Thanks again for all you do!

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      There is not an opening or closing time for the hiking trail. They are always open but the checkpoints are only manned from roughly 9 am until the afternoon. If you start early and no one is at the checkpoint, you won’t have to show your ticket. But you will need to purchase a ticket (we recommnend the Treno Card since it also includes train transportation should you need it) since you won’t finish before 9 am and the ticket price helps pay for maintenance of the trail. But yes, starting early is a great idea! Cheers, Julie

  8. Avatar for Kristen

    Thanks so much for this play by play!!
    Looking forward to this hike in early September. Hoping the weather stays nice.
    I know you mentioned parts of it are a true hike. We are a young very active couple, I’m not worried about how strenuous it will be, but more so about foot wear. We are on a 3 week trip, and trying to minimize luggage. We do have some fancier dinners on the trip, so bummy clothes and running shoes won’t work for the whole trip.
    I’m wondering if you think these would suffice for the hike:
    I would wear socks with them for the rockier hikes. Just trying to multi-task so that once we get to the beach at Monterosso I can just slip the socks off and be beach ready!

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      For the most part, yes, I think those shoes will do fine. I have hiked in shoes similar to those in Greece, for the very same reasons you just listed, and I did fine. Your feet/socks will get dirty, so keep that in mind. The rockiest, most difficult part of the hike that we did was the first section between Riomaggiore and Manarola, the hike up and over the hillsides (since the main trail was closed). If you start with this and do fine, you should be good to go for the rest of the hike. Cheers, Julie

      1. Avatar for claudia

        Hi There!

        Going in September too.
        Sorry but I’m confused. Isn’t the Riomagiorre to Manarola trail closed at the moment (expected to open in 2024)?


        1. Avatar for Julie Post

          Yes, the lower trail between Riomaggiore and Manarola is closed. You can hike an upper trail between the 2 towns. We experienced the same issue when we did this hike in 2014 and hiked the upper trail. Cheers, Julie

  9. Avatar for Pete

    Thank you for the education on hiking the Cinque Terre. Our family is headed to Italy in July and the tail-end of the trip includes 2.5 days in Cinque Terre. We are staying in Corniglia because it is quieter than the other towns and because it is central. I reviewed the trails on the latest Google maps satellite view and it looks like portions of the trails have been repaired after the landslides but other landslides have yet to be repaired. Interesting how often these landslides occur. Your comments have helped me in planning our trip. We hike often and know how grueling hiking in mid-90s weather can be. Glad there is a beach or rocky harbor to swim in at the end of the trail.

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
Load More Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *