Julie Italy 82 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 April 2022. Get updates here.

Note: We did this hike in July 2014 but this post is frequently updated with new content.

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 2022).

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 €16 per person or €42 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.

More Information about Italy

Planning a trip to Italy? Read all of our articles in our Italy Travel Guide.

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Comments 82

  1. HI Julie,
    I will be visiting Cinque Terre on X’mas eve and stay over at Manarola. We wanna watch the Presepe, hope it’ll be beautiful.
    Do you have any idea whether shops are open and will it be difficult to hike? Heard that it’ll be cold & wet. Please advice. Thank you.

    I really enjoyed reading your blog and those pictures that you took. It’s really awesome!
    You’re so clear & precise on your trip which will definitely help all the travelers. Appreciate that & thank you very much.

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      Hello Peter. Wow, this sounds like such a unique experience! I have heard that the weather can be wet and chilly as well. You can still hike from town to town if it rains, but you could get lucky and have a nice day. From what I know, it doesn’t rain everyday, so you should have some nice weather while you are there. From our experience visiting coastal towns in Europe during the off-season, some, but not all, of the restaurants/shops/hotels are open. If you have a hotel booked/picked out, you could send them an email about what to expect during the time that you are there. Cheers, Julie

  2. Hi! I was impressed with your experience in Italy. I am planning to go there in july for about 6 days or so. Planning on staying 3 days in Rome and then 3 in either Cinque Terre or Amalfi Coast.

    Have you seen the Amalfi Coast? If yes, how was your experience?

    Also, in Cinque Terre, have you guys been staying one day?

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      Hello Claudia. Yes, we spend 3 days in the Amalfi Coast. You can read all about it here. We preferred the Cinque Terre over the Amalfi Coast, because we enjoyed hiking between the towns, swimming at Monterosso, and the towns are beautiful. We spent 2 full days in the Cinque Terre, one day for the hike and one day at the beach at Monterosso. Cheers, Julie

  3. Hi Julie!

    I’m really enjoying your blog. Thank you!

    I will be going to Cinque Terre the end of April with my two kids aged 14 and 17. We would like to hike the trail over two days. I read that some of the trails are closed. Do you know if this it still the case?

    Thank you.


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      Trail closures change on a daily basis. During our visit, one of the trails closed the day before our hike. So, if a trail is closed now, that may not necessarily be the case next month. You can try to get more information online as your trip gets closer. But the best thing to do is to check the trail status at the information booths at the the two endpoints of the hiking trail when you start the hike (in Riomaggiore and Monterosso). Cheers, Julie

    2. I am writing this as I sit in my bed in Manarola, recovering from a very challenging hike I did yesterday, April 27, 2019.
      Before thinking that you can easily do the whole hike in one day, visit the park’s website and check out their map of open trails: http://www.parconazionale5terre.it/Esentieri-outdoor.php
      You will note that most of the hiking trails along the coast are closed, typically due to landslides. The park officials have labeled the trails “Tourist, Hiking, Skilled, Closed”. The upper trails are mostly “hiking” but the trails leading down to the towns are marked “skilled” and that means just what it sounds like. You will need hiking boots or shoes designed for rough terrain. It can be very slippery, even if it has not rained recently, and you should be prepared to do some rock scrambling.
      The towns and the trails are very crowded. Hiking the short (less than 3 km(?), but steep and rocky) trail from Manarola, through Volastro, down to Corniglia, I encountered easily over 50 other groups – and that was those coming from the other direction. The town of Corniglia itself was more crowded than any other area I saw in Venice or Florence.
      I took the train back to Manarola from Corniglia around 3 p.m. on Saturday. The line for people trying to get on the train in Manarola was backed up at least 50 meters into the tunnel leading to the station. What a zoo! I can not imagine this place in peak season. My heart goes out to the locals who must deal with this onslaught of tourists (and, yes, I am one, too). It is a beautiful area, but much too small for the numbers that descend upon it.

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        Wow, thanks for writing in. This sounds crazy, not only how many hikers are now on the trails but also that so many of the trails are closed. We did this in July 2014. Two trails were closed. There was a steady flow of hikers on the trails but it wasn’t bad. But you’re right, what would this now look like in the summer months? Thanks so much for sharing your experience!! Cheers, Julie

  4. HI
    So much helpful information and tips
    My wife and boys,15 and 14 are travelling to Florence this August. We definitely want to visit the Cinque Terre. If we travel from Florence, can we get it all done in a day trip using public transport? Staying the night would be too complicated.
    We are keen hikers, would you suggest spending more time at 2 or 3 of the villages or go for al 5?
    Thanks in advance.

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      You can do this as a day trip from Florence. I’d start very early in the morning, preferably on one of the first trains of the day. You can get to La Spezia in 1.5 hours from Florence. With a combination of hiking and using the train for the longer or more difficult sections, you can see all 5 towns in roughly 8 hours. Have dinner in the last town before taking the train back to Florence. You can hike in either direction, it’s really up to you. Have fun! Cheers, Julie

    2. I agree that it is technically possible to do it all in one day. The limiting factor, however, is the large number of tourists you will encounter and transportation to and from the area. Be prepared for long lines at train or bus stations. I am here now in April and it is already overcrowded.
      Best of luck – and drink lots of water.

  5. Hi, Julie! Thank you for such a great blog. I’m travelling for about 9 months through Turkey and Europe on a budget. I have initially allotted 4 days in Florence (arriving from Rome 11am) and 2 days in Cinque Terra. But I am not sure if 3 days (+1, first day of arrival) is enough to see all the major sites/museums. So I’m thinking of arriving in Last Spezia at 9.30am and going thru the towns, etc, staying the night and leaving for Venice at 8.10am. In your opinion, do you think one day will be sufficient to cover Cinque Terra? Then, I can add one more day to Florence. Thank you for your input.

    (For other readers: there’s a train from Rome to Cinque Terra. Then you can go to Florence before moving on to Venice)

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      Hello Vincent. Wow, 9 months in Turkey and Europe…what a great experience! Yes, one full day is enough for the Cinque Terre. You can hike/train between the 5 towns in one long, busy day. That’s exactly what we did. On our second day we relaxed on the beach at Monterosso. More time just allows you to revisit your favorite town or two. But adding an extra day into Florence is a good idea…more time to visit the museums or even day trip into Tuscany for a day. Have a great trip! Cheers, Julie

  6. Hi Julie,
    I love your blog and all the practical information you include in your posts. I will be travelling to Italy with my two kids in July and I have been reading everywhere that Cinque Terre is to be avoided because of the summer crowds. What are your thoughts on that? Was it difficult to catch the train between villages because of crowds? Would you do the hike again knowing how hot it gets in July?
    Thank you.

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      You are the second person today asking about the crowds during the summer months. We did this in 2014. It was crowded but not terrible. However, it sounds like the crowds are worse now. We never had to wait for a queue for the train when we did this. The heat wouldn’t stop me from doing this but the crowds might. However, it’s a very cool experience. Since you have kids, you may be “forced” to visit the Cinque Terre during peak season. So the question is, are you OK dealing with the crowds in order to experience it with your kids, or do you save it and travel without the kids at a less crowded time of year?

      Since you are the 2nd person in one day to ask about the crowds, I am going to include a section on this post asking other readers about their experience in the summer months. Keep checking back to see if anyone writes in (but I’ve gotten surprisingly good results doing this on other articles.)

      Cheers, Julie

  7. Do you know anyone that has recently done the hike in July? I did it over the summer many years ago and it was great but heard that it has become overly crowded in July and just curious if it is still worth it.

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  8. Hi Julie,

    Excellent post! Very excited to go to Cinque Terre this coming fall.

    Regarding your camera equipment, what lens(es) do you recommend to bring to Cinque Terre? I have a mirrorless camera and will take a 16-70/4 (24-105mm FF equivalent). I am undecided whether to take a telephoto lens as well. From the numerous pics I’ve seen so far of Cinque Terre, it seems that my standard lens is more than adequate enough for coverage. Your thoughts?



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      Yes, your lens will be just fine. 99.9% of the photos on this website were taken with a 24-70 mm lens. I only use a telephoto when shooting wildlife/animals…which is rare. Have fun! Cheers, Julie

    1. February? I am so happy I found your comment (and this blog). My husband and I want to hike it over spring break in March. I was curious about the weather during that time of year, but it sounds like you had a great experience.

  9. Hello Julie,
    As others have said your posts are so very helpful. Thank you!

    I am going from Venice to Cinque Terre in mid October.
    What is the best train route and stations to get there from Venice?
    Do you think my husband and I can do Cinque Terre in a day and a half or do you need 2 days? There’s so much of Italy we want to see.
    My last questions are, Where would you stay?
    Where would you start your hike?
    What kind of camera should I bring along…a big DSLR or opt to get a smaller one? I want good photos for memories, I just didn’t know how hard it will be toting it all over the place.??
    Thank you for your help and Happy Travels,

    1. Post

      The main train station near the Cinque Terre is in La Spezia. The fastest journey I found was through Florence and this takes about 5 hours. Take a look at the Italiarail website and put in the 2 cities (Venice and La Spezia) and your date of travel. From La Spezia, you take the commuter train to the town you are staying in.

      Yes, you can do the Cinque Terre in a day and a half. If you take a morning train to La Spezia, you will have the afternoon and early evening of the first day. I’d pick one town and explore it and have dinner here. Then use your full day to hike the Cinque Terre.

      We stayed in La Spezia, mainly because it was cheaper than the Cinque Terre towns. It’s also convenient to the train station. However, I think it would be very nice to stay in one of the 5 towns if your budget allows it. If you want to hike, Riomaggiore or Monterosso would be the most convenient because they are on the ends. Or, you could do a hotel search on Booking.com for the entire Cinque Terre and pick your favorite hotel that comes up. Just depends on what is important to you.

      We started the hike in Riomaggiore and ended in Monterosso. I would do it this way again because it was great ending at the beach and having a drink at one of the restaurants that overlook the coastline in Monterosso.

      I carry the Canon 5D Mark iv and it’s a beast. It gets tiring but I LOVE the photos I get from it. However, the newer mirrorless cameras get rave reviews, take photos that are just as good, and they are smaller and weigh less. This type of camera would be a nice investment, especially if you want a good travel camera that isn’t a pain to lug around. I haven’t done it yet because I really love my Canon and haven’t taken the time to learn something new. 🙂

      Have fun in Italy! Cheers, Julie

  10. Wow…just happened to stumble on your site. Such great information. My husband and I are going to Italy in the fall. We will have a car for part of our trip wanting to drive the Tuscan region. We are wanting to visit Cinque Terra. We are in our mid sixties and I’m wondering if we can do those hikes. Would really love to. We are in pretty decent shape. What do you think? It should be a little cooler in the fall. Would love your advise on this. Also, we will visit Verona if we have time since you so highly recommended it.

    1. Post

      You could hike the Cinque Terre. The good thing about hiking here is that if you get tired, you can stop hiking and then link the towns by train. It’s a beautiful hike! We loved Verona, I’m glad it’s making it onto your itinerary! Cheers, Julie

  11. Hi, thank you so much for all the info! Just a few questions:
    1. We are coming from Milan. Do you know if we have to buy our ticket passes in advance or can we buy them the day of?
    2. Is the trail easy to find when you get to the town of Monterosso? (that is where we are starting)
    3. Any helpful tips for what to pack on the hike?
    4. If you did this all in one day, what time did you get there? If we get in around 11:05am, can we still do the whole trail or would it be more ideal to only do some of the towns?

    Thank you so much for all your help! I’ve been using your website and it is awesome 🙂

    1. Post

      Hello Savannah. You can buy your ticket passes the day you arrive in Monterosso to start your hike. In Monterosso, you can buy your pass at the railway station. It’s just a few more euros to buy the pass that allows you to use the trails and take unlimited trips on the train. This is a good idea just in case some of the trails are closed, forcing you to use the train, or if you get short on time. In Monterosso the trail starts just in front of Hotel Ristorante Porto Roca. If you look on Google Maps, you will see a dashed line…that is the trail. Bring sunscreen, hiking shoes or sturdy walking shoes, euros, your camera, a bottle of water per person, and your smartphone so you can use Google Maps if you need it. At each town you can buy food and drink. Starting at 11 am is a bit late day but it’s still possible to hike it all, if you are fast. It also depends on what time the sun sets. That’s why it’s a good idea to have the Treno Card so you can ride the train between towns if necessary. I love the trail between Monterosso and Vernazza…you get such great views of both of these cities. Have fun! Cheers, Julie

  12. Heading to Italy tomorrow, and finding your blog has really helped with some plans! Your writing is very honest and from the heart. Clear and concise. Many thanks for the great info and tips!

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  13. Hi Jules, love all the colorful pictures & especially your tour with all the best descriptions. Tuscany has always been on my bucket list to see. We want to take a cooking class. The cliffs along each coast are amazing! The Blue Grotto looked so interesting, & yes worth it! We miss you so very much, keep posting, & Tyler too, great writer, hmm, wonder where he got that from. Tell Tim to stop doing the “daddy show off stuff” I believe Kara needs more time in the cool water at the beache! She needs her feet!! Maybe a bathing suit too! Stay safe!!! Leslie:)

    1. Post

      Hey Leslie. I miss you too. Italy has been great, just arrived in Germany late tonight. You will love Tuscany. The food and wine is very good. Keep in touch!

  14. Hi Julie,
    I am so thoroughly enjoying reading about your trip. Your photos are spectacular! Those in Italy take me back to our trip a few years ago. We loved everything about Italy, so glad you’re having such a wonderful experience.

  15. Hi Julie

    Beautiful pictures. I was not aware of this area till now. I will bookmark this place for a potential family trip in future. Look forward to your next location report.


  16. Hi! I love the amount for detail you include in your descriptions. I feel like I’m there with you. I’m sure it’s hard to keep up with all the documenting but it’s so wonderful for us!

  17. I’m really enjoying following your world tour via your blog. Great pics! Thanks for sharing your adventure. Safe travels!

  18. Cinque Terra is in the top ten of my travel wishlist! I was hoping it would be a stop in your trip. 🙂 Thanks for sharing all of your photos and thoughts on the hike. And I’m with the kids…the paddle boat with slide is AWESOME! Happy travels!

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