I Hiked The Italian Riviera In Cinque Terre And The Experience Changed My Life


The village of Manarola, Cinque Terre, Italia 

Photo of I Hiked The Italian Riviera In Cinque Terre And The Experience Changed My Life by Deepa Subramanian

Cinque Terre (Chink-weh Tay-reh) which means five lands is a dramatic stretch of five cliffside towns of Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare along the Ligurian sea. Apart from being famous for the scrumptious food, luscious wine, scenic coastline and gorgeous mountainous scenery; the hiking trails of Cinque Terre is one of the most beautiful in Europe. It is also one of the most visually appealing sights & rewarding ways to enjoy the Italian coastline.

All you hiking enthusiasts it’s time to put Cinque Terre on your bucket list!

The village of Vernazza whilst hiking.

Photo of Vernazza, SP, Italy by Deepa Subramanian
Photo of Vernazza, SP, Italy by Deepa Subramanian

Here are a few hiking details from my trip to the prepossessing towns of Cinque Terre

When to visit Cinque Terre:

I visited Cinque Terre in early May which was a perfect time to hike whilst enjoying the weather. The ideal time to hike is in April, May or September, October, November with great weather and fewer tourists. The peak summer months of July, August can get really hot and flooded with a lot of tourists on the hiking paths. Winter months can create unsafe hiking conditions with frequent rainfalls making the trails slippery to hike.

Large sections of the previously famous Via dell’Amore trail from Riomaggiore to Manarola was destroyed by rock slides in the year 2013/2014 and it still remains closed as of now.

Via dell'Amore hiking path from Riomaggiore

Photo of Riomaggiore, SP, Italy by Deepa Subramanian

Picture Credit: Deepa Subramanian

Monterosso al Mare hiking path

Photo of Monterosso al Mare, SP, Italy by Deepa Subramanian

Picture Credit: Deepa Subramanian

Where to hike in Cinque Terre:

There are multiple trails to hike the towns but the most popular one is the 11 km coastal path which is also the most rewarding and scenic path. You can start your hike either from Riomaggiore or Monterosso al mare. The hike between Monterosso to Vernazza is the most strenuous part and the hike between Riomaggiore and Manarola is the easiest. So it all depends whether you want to keep the difficult part for the end or get done with it first. The entire hike to cover all five towns nonstop takes about 5 hours. The ideal thing would be to split the hike into two days giving you sufficient time to explore each town in leisure.

- Trail #2 is the easiest and the most frequented path which is the coastal path known as the Blue path.

- For a more challenging hike and for experienced hikers trail #1, #4, #6, #9 and #10 is best suited with least number of tourists and more rugged and off beaten path.

- Trail #3, #5 #7 and #8 are part of the Cinque Terre sanctuaries which are also pretty difficult to hike. Whilst buying the tickets do get a map of all the path trails for your reference.

You can also use the train to commute between towns which take about 5 minutes. Also, taking a boat from one town to the other is quite fascinating offering spectacular vantage point of the cliffside towns.

What you’ll see while hiking:

The trails connecting the five towns offer a spectacular mix of scenery and surroundings. Each town is distinctively beautiful and has its own characteristic trait and scenery. On one side you will see always see the turquoise shaded wondrous ocean and on the other side the surroundings keep changing between tiny houses of the locals and their beautiful and colourful gardens, terraced vineyards, olive and lemon groves, pretty bougainvilleas and other alluring flowers, huge cactus at the edges of the cliff and other succulent plants. The trail between Monterosso and Vernazza is the most challenging but also has the most rewarding and rugged views of the Ligurian coast.

Photo of Cinque Terre Riviera, Via Roma, Vernazza, SP, Italy by Deepa Subramanian

Picture Credit: Deepa Subramanian

Buying the Cinque Terre trekking card:

If you plan on accessing the trails, you need to buy the Cinque Terre trekking card.

Cinque Terre Card includes the following services:

- Access to all the hiking trails

- Wifi connections at hotspots in the park

- Reduced price ticket to access the 7 civic museums in La Spezia

- Restrooms

- Use of the buses that operate within the park

- Guided tours organized by the park

Cinque Terre train multi-service card includes:

- The above-mentioned services

- Unlimited use of the regional trains operating between La Spezia and Levanto including the five villages of Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso

The cost of the Cinque Terre Trekking Card:

One day ticket - 7.50 Euro per adult, 4.50 Euro per child, 6 Euro per senior citizen and 19.60 Euro for a family of two adults and two children.

One day ticket plus train access - 16 Euro per adult, 10 Euro per child, 13 Euro per senior citizen and 42 Euro for a family of two adults and two children.

Two days ticket - 14.50 Euro per adult, 7.20 Euro per child, 10 Euro per senior citizen and 31.50 Euro for a family of two adults and two children.

Two days ticket plus train access - 29 Euro per adult

Where to buy the Cinque Terre trekking card:

- Railway stations of the five villages, La Spezia and Levanto

- Tourist information centers of the park

- Piazza Garibaldi in Monterosso

- Information center near the parking area of Riomaggiore

Hiking the Cinque Terre trails:

Personally, I wanted to start with the easiest part of the hike and hence I started off from Riomaggiore. The paths starting from Riomaggiore are quite easier and paved and gradually it gets more challenging. Also, if you feel overwhelmed at any part of the hike; you can always take the train from the nearest station and visit the next town. I was in Cinque Terre for three days in total and I wanted to explore and laze around in each of the towns so I split the hike into two days.

Please do carry enough water and small snack bars with you whilst hiking and definitely wear comfortable sneakers

Photo of Riomaggiore, SP, Italy by Deepa Subramanian

Picture Credit: Deepa Subramanian

From Riomaggiore to Manarola:

Riomaggiore is my favourite of all the five towns. It has got such a great and young vibe to it. The arrangement and the colours of the houses perched on the cliff are absolutely mesmerizing seen from the ocean. You should definitely take a boat ride or just walk down the rocky path towards the ocean to get this view. Riomaggiore has multiple restaurants and you should totally try out one of the pizzerias here. The quaint and small port of this village is also a pretty sight where you’ll see multiple small boats docked. It also houses a castle. This town has a few rocky beaches and there are a couple of spots for cliff jumping too.

The path between Riomaggiore and Manarola is around 2km which would take you approximately 40 minutes to hike depending on your speed and the mandatory stops to take pictures of the gorgeous place.

Since the Via dell’Amore route was closed during my visit, I had to take an alternative route to reach Manarola which was a bit steep to start with but got really easy towards the end.

Photo of Riomaggiore, SP, Italy by Deepa Subramanian

Picture Credit: Deepa Subramanian

From Manarola to Corniglia:

Manarola is the most photographed town of Cinque Terre which keeps flooding the internet as well. I am sure you’ll know where to head for that shot right away after reaching to this part of Cinque Terre. Manarola has got the perfect postcard kind of look to it and it looks like a dream at night with all the lights of the houses lit.

The hike between Manarola and Corniglia is also around 2km and is relatively easy with the views of the magnificent ocean on one side throughout. To reach Corniglia you can either take the coastal route or take the more challenging path through the terraced vineyards and olive groves.

Photo of Manarola, SP, Italy by Deepa Subramanian

Picture Credit: Deepa Subramanian

From Corniglia to Vernazza:

Corniglia is the only town of the five which is perched on top and not by the water. This town is known for its terraced vineyards and has a very relaxing vibe.

The path between Corniglia to Vernazza is about 4km and takes approximately 2 hours. At this part of the path, there are multiple steep and narrow steps which ascend and descends until you reach Vernazza. The path takes you to the highest point of Cinque Terre from where the views are spectacular.

Photo of Corniglia, SP, Italy by Deepa Subramanian

From Vernazza to Monterosso:

Vernazza is my second favourite town. There are multiple restaurants and bars with amazing views. You can take a break in Vernazza and treat yourself with some mouth-watering gelato, lemon gelato being one of my favourite here. You will also spot a lot of street performers here which adds to the chilled out atmosphere. I just sat by the pier next to the water with a few slices of focaccia and the sound of the gushing waves just did the trick of relaxing us. You must definitely try out the focaccia here, cheap and delish!

Now comes the most difficult part of the hike. It takes about 2 hours to reach the last of the five towns, Monterosso al Mare which is a 2km hike. The path is pretty narrow and steep but it is very much rewarding with spectacular views of four other towns.Totally worth it!

Monterosso al Mare is the biggest and the most commercial town of all the five with lots of hotels, street bars and restaurants and cars around. Visually this town might not be the most appealing but it offers a beautiful beach with beach bars and beach beds where you can relax and get soaked in the sun.

Photo of Vernazza, SP, Italy by Deepa Subramanian