Cinque Terre is a protected coastal region in Northern Italy that’s comprised of five colorful villages perched along the mountains. An amazing way to travel through this UNESCO World Heritage Site is by hiking and experiencing its natural beauty.
Hiking Cinque Terre was my favorite experience during my trip in Northern Italy and here, I share practical tips for the trail. This post covers:
- ⛰️ Trail overview and details
- 📍 Map with all five trailheads pinned
- 🏠 Where to stay and store luggage
- 🎟️ How to buy the Cinque Terre card
- 🧦 What to pack for your hike
Planning a trip to Italy? This Italy guide covers things to know before getting there, including the best places to visit, how to get around, common scams and cultural differences.
- Is It Worth It?
- How To Plan Your Hike
- Hiking Trails and Reviews
Is It Worth Hiking Through Cinque Terre?
You can travel through Cinque Terre’s towns by train, ferry or hiking. Driving through Cinque Terre is not recommended because of the winding, narrow roads and the parking limitations and fees.
While hiking is not the most efficient way to travel through Cinque Terre (taking the train or ferry is), it’s a worthwhile experience on its own and a top attraction for many.
Below are four reasons to hike between Cinque Terre’s villages.
1. The Cinque Terre hike has spectacular views.
The villages are part of the protected Cinque Terre National Park and the hiking trails pass through stunning mountains, deep-blue ocean views and plunging cliffs. The entire hike is on a coastal trail next to the Mediterranean Sea.
2. Each trail between the villages is unique.
The trail is divided into four portions by the five villages. The sections of the trail are distinct enough that you will experience different sights, views, elevations and terrains throughout the hike.
3. You get to experience local life between the villages.
The Cinque Terre villages are picturesque, but they’re also touristy. Hiking between the villages allows you to experience a quieter side of the towns as you hike through vineyards, homes and churches.
4. The Cinque Terre hike is a choose-your-own-adventure.
You can hike the entire trail or you can hike portions of the trail. It’s possible to start the hike from any of the villages. If you decide to only do a portion of it, here are the best trails.
Hiking Cinque Terre at a Glance
Here is some general information on hiking Cinque Terre to help you plan your trip.
🏡 The Five Villages
Aptly called the “Five Lands” in Italian, Cinque Terre has five villages on the northwest coast of Italy. From north to south, they are:
- Monterosso al Mare, the most visited village due to its larger size.
- Vernazza, the most picturesque village with lots of sightseeing.
- Corniglia, the most tranquil village because it’s the hardest to get to (it’s not located on the waterfront like the other four villages).
- Manarola, the village with a postcard-like aesthetic due to the shapes of its buildings on a cliff.
- Riomaggiore, the village renowned for its steep cliffs and scenic harbor.
Scroll down for a map of Cinque Terre.
🌱 The Blue Trail
The main trail that connects all five of Cinque Terre’s villages is called the Blue Trail or Sentiero Azzurro.
You can start the trail in any direction and from any village. Most visitors start from either end: Monterosso al Mare or Riomaggiore.
I did Corniglia to Monterosso on day 1 and then Riomaggiore to Corniglia on day 2. Details on each part of the Blue Trail are below.
🥾 Trail Length
The Blue Trail is 7.5 miles long, stretching from Monterosso al Mare in the north to Riomaggiore in the south.
💪 Trail Difficulty
The Blue Trail is considered easy to moderate in difficulty. Most hikers will have no issues with it, but non-hikers may struggle with some parts. A guide is not required to do this hike.
Most of the trail is easy with clearly marked routes, but some portions have a lot of uphills and downhills. See below for details on each trail.
🗓️ Hiking Duration
You can hike the Blue Trail in about six hours in a day trip, but most visitors spend two to three days hiking it to also explore the Cinque Terre villages.
I hiked it in two days and felt that it left enough time for hiking and town exploration.
💰 Expected Cost
You need to buy a Cinque Terre Card if you plan to hike the part of the Blue Trail that’s between Monterosso al Mare and Corniglia.
There are several versions of the card and it starts at €7.50 (~$8.20 USD) for an adult for one day. Details on buying the Cinque Terre card are below.
Some of the Cinque Terre towns have attractions with a small entrance fee (less than €3) that are cash-only, so it’s a good idea to bring some euro bills or coins. The train stations also charge €1 for public toilets.
This Italy cost breakdown outlines my trip expenses, including how much I spent in Cinque Terre in two days.
☀️ Best Time to Hike the Blue Trail
The Blue Trail is open year-round, but can be randomly closed for maintenance. Here are two tips when timing your Cinque Terre hike:
- Tip #1: The best time to hike Cinque Terre is around May and October when the weather is pleasant and there are fewer tourists. I visited in May and had some rainy moments, but the trail was largely empty.
- Tip #2: If possible, try to hike Cinque Terre on a weekday when there are fewer tourists. Some parts of the trails are narrow, so there can be congestion on the weekends, especially during the peak summer time.
See below for details on the weather at Cinque Terre and what to pack.
How To Plan Your Cinque Terre Hike
When planning to hike the Blue Trail through Cinque Terre, you’ll need to:
- Book your Cinque Terre accommodation
- Store your luggage
- Buy the Cinque Terre Card
- Check that the trail is open
- Pack and wear the rights clothes
Where To Stay in Cinque Terre
When you’re deciding where to stay in Cinque Terre for your hike, keep these three tips in mind.
Regardless if you’re hiking or not, make sure to book Cinque Terre accommodations in advance because there are no major hotels in any of the villages.
🚂 Tip #1: You can use the train to stay in any of the villages.
All villages are appealing to stay in, with Corniglia being the only slight exception. The Cinque Terre Express train is convenient enough that you can easily move between the villages and not worry too much about which one to stay in.
The train runs every 20 minutes every day and takes only about 5 minutes between each village. For example, if you stay in Monterosso al Mare, you can drop off your luggage, take a 20-minute train ride to Riomaggiore and hike the Blue Trail back.
Train tickets in Cinque Terre cost €5 (~$5.50 USD) per ride, but you can get unlimited rides with the Cinque Terre Card, which also gives you access to part of the Blue Trail.
🌙 Tip #2: If you plan to stay in Cinque Terre for more than one night, stay in one village.
Since the Cinque Terre Express train is so easy and convenient, it’s not worth the hassle of moving your luggage around the different villages. I stayed at accommodations in Corniglia and Riomaggiore and wished I had just stayed in one location instead.
👟 Tip #3: If you want to minimize hassle, don’t stay in Corniglia.
Corniglia is the only village in Cinque Terre that’s not next to the waterfront. To get into town, you have to climb ~400 steps or wait for the shuttle bus.
The shuttle bus runs every 15 minutes, but you might have to wait for a few rounds if there’s a crowd waiting for it. When I stayed in Corniglia and waited for the bus, visitors were not making a line, so everyone just pushed to get into the bus when it arrived.
If you want to save money while visiting Cinque Terre, you can also stay in La Spezia, which is an eight-minute train ride from Riomaggiore.
Where To Store Your Luggage
If you need to store your luggage before check-in or after check-out, you have a few luggage storage options in Cinque Terre:
- Monterosso al Mare has a tourist information center next to the train station that offers storage, but note that it doesn’t offer overnight storage.
- Vernazza has a STAYLUGGAGE located a two-minute walk from the train station.
- Riomaggiore has a small luggage storage shop right next to its train station.
- Hotels will sometimes be willing to store your luggage for a few hours for a small fee even if you’re not staying with them. However, almost all of them won’t store luggage overnight.
Since taking the Cinque Terre Express train is convenient (i.e., it only takes five minutes between villages), the best option is usually to take the train to wherever you want to store your luggage and then take it to wherever you want to hike from.
Lesson Learned From My Luggage Logistical Hiccup
I originally planned to leave my luggage overnight at Monterosso al Mare, so I could hike to my accommodations in Corniglia and Riomaggiore with just a day pack.
When I found out that the Monterosso tourist center didn’t offer overnight storage, I tried to pay several hotels to store it overnight to no avail.
I ended up taking the train to my accommodation in Corniglia, dropping my luggage there, then hiking to Monterosso al Mare and then taking the train back to Corniglia the first day. This experience didn’t turn out to be painful or that time-consuming, hence why I suggest taking advantage of the train.
How To Buy the Cinque Terre Card
You’re required to buy a Cinque Terre Trekking Card if you plan to hike the part of the Blue Trail that’s between Monterosso al Mare and Corniglia.
During the off-season, between early November and mid-March, the Blue Trail is completely free, so a Cinque Terre Card is not needed.
🚆 Where To Buy the Cinque Terre Card
You can buy the Cinque Terre Card in person at any of the village’s train stations, or you can buy it in advance online at the official Cinque Terre Card website. I didn’t feel the need to buy the card in advance in May as there were fewer tourists.
🎟️ Cinque Terre Card Types
There are two types of Cinque Terre Cards you can buy: the Trekking Card and the Train Card.
- The Cinque Terre Trekking Card gives you access to the Blue Trail between Monterosso al Mare and Corniglia. You also get Wi-Fi access and toilet access at the train stations, both of which I found useful. For an adult, the Trekking Card starts at €7.50 (~$8.20 USD) for one day.
There are no public toilets in Cinque Terre. Each train station has a public toilet that costs €1 to use, so it’s nice that the Cinque Terre Card covers this. The restrooms are relatively well-maintained.
- The Cinque Terre Train Card gives you the same benefits as the Trekking Card as well as unlimited rides on the Cinque Terre Express train. For an adult, the Train Card starts at €18.20 (~$19.88 USD) for one day.
The two-day Trekking + Train Card is worth it if you plan to take the train more than three times (a train ticket costs €5). Since I had to move in between villages several times, this is the card type I bought.
Choosing Cinque Terre Trails
Here are two tips when choosing which part of the Blue Trail you plan to hike:
🔴 Tip #1: Check for trail closures in advance.
The Blue Trail is open year-round, but can be randomly closed for maintenance or due to bad weather. Before going on your hike, check the current status of the hiking trails here.
🥾 Tip #2: If you can only do half of the Blue Trail, the best trail depends on your preference.
- If you want more nature and fewer stairs, hike the Blue Trail between Monterosso al Mare and Corniglia (the northern half).
- If you like to see more terraced vineyards and want a more strenuous hike, trek the Blue Trail between Corniglia and Riomaggiore (the southern half).
All four hikes are coastal trails with amazing ocean views, but they’re unique enough that different portions of the trail will have distinct sights, views and terrains. Scroll down for details on what each Blue Trail portion is like.
What To Pack for Your Cinque Terre Hike
☀️ Cinque Terre Seasons
What you should wear on your Cinque Terre hike depends on the season:
- In the spring, the weather starts to warm up to 70°F, but it can also be unpredictable so make sure to bring waterproof gear. I hiked Cinque Terre in May and had a few rainy moments.
- In the summer, the weather will start to hit the low 80°Fs and rain will be rare. This is also the high season when the trails will be most crowded.
- In the fall, the weather will be similar to spring’s in terms of temperature, but heavy rains will be more common and the Blue Trail can get flooded.
- In the winter, the trail is considered off-season and temperatures will drop below freezing. Between early November and mid-March, the Blue Trail is completely free.
👕 What to Pack and Wear
Here is what else you should pack and wear when hiking through Cinque Terre:
- Athletic or hiking shoes. You can hike the entire Blue Trail in athletic shoes (my friends and I all wore running shoes even in the rain). If you’re concerned about traction or rain, consider wearing waterproof hiking shoes, especially if you’re doing the steep Manarola to Riomaggiore trail.
Note that appropriate shoes are required by law. Any open-toe shoes without a grip (e.g., flip-flops, sandals) are prohibited on the Blue Trail. You can face steep fines if you’re caught breaking the rules.
- Rain jacket. If you’re hiking Cinque Terre in the spring or fall, make sure to bring a rain jacket. My friends and I all brought rain gear in May.
- Reusable water bottle. Cinque Terre has public water fountains in the villages where you can refill your water bottle instead of buying overpriced bottled water. My hiking companions and I all brought our water bottles, which was convenient.
- Sunscreen. Make sure to wear some sunscreen, especially during the summer. A large portion of the Blue Trail is exposed with not much shade.
- Bug repellent in the summer. During the warmer months, mosquitos will come out. I’m a mosquito magnet, so I like to use this bug-repellent lotion.
- Swimsuit in the summer. During the high season when it’s warm enough, remember to bring a swimsuit if you plan to enjoy the beaches in the villages.
The primary tip I can give about preparing for the Cinque Terre trail is that you should treat portions of the trail like a real hiking trail and not as a last-minute activity, so make sure to bring appropriate attire and pack accordingly.
Cinque Terre’s Hiking Trails and Reviews
The Blue Trail is divided into four sections by the five Cinque Terre villages. Below is an overview of each section and my reviews of the hiking trails.
Cinque Terre Hiking Map
This Cinque Terre hiking map has each of the village’s trailheads pinned.
The Best Hikes
Having hiked all Cinque Terre trails, here are my recommendations:
- For the best views, do the Vernazza to Corniglia trail starting in Corniglia. All villages have colorful houses, but Vernazza is particularly picturesque.
- For the most challenging hike, do the short, but steep Manarola to Riomaggiore trail.
- For the most interesting hike, do the long Corniglia to Manarola trail that passes through homes, vineyards and churches.
- For the most popular trail, do the Monterosso to Vernazza trail.
Trail 1: Monterosso to Vernazza
🥾 Length: 2.3 miles
💪 Difficulty: Moderate. There are a lot of stairs on both ends near the villages, but it’s relatively flat otherwise.
⏰ Hiking time: 1 hour and 30 minutes
🍀 My take: I hiked this trail starting from Vernazza. The views, especially facing Vernazza, are breathtaking. This is the most popular trail due to its proximity to Monterosso, making it the most crowded trail.
Trail 2: Vernazza to Corniglia
🥾 Length: 2.1 miles
💪 Difficulty: Easy to moderate. There is some elevation gain, but the trail is mostly wide and flat with some rocky parts.
⏰ Hiking time: 1 hour and 15 minutes
🍀 My take: I hiked this trail starting from Corniglia and I found it similar to the hike between Monterosso to Vernazza with fewer tourists. The best views of Vernazza, the most picturesque village, are when you’re approaching it from Corniglia, not Monterosso.
Trail 3: Corniglia to Manarola
🥾 Length: 3.6 miles
💪 Difficulty: Moderate to challenging. This is the longest portion of the Blue Trail that has some narrow paths and elevation gain.
⏰ Hiking time: 2 hours and 15 minutes
🍀 My take: Corniglia to Manarola has some great views and I find this trail to be the most interesting one because the terrain varies a bit. This is also the only trail where you get to walk through charming vineyards and olive groves.
Trail 4: Manarola to Riomaggiore
🥾 Length: 1 mile
💪 Difficulty: Moderate to challenging. The hike near Riomaggiore is the steepest portion of the entire route and there are no handrails.
⏰ Hiking time: 1 hour
🍀 My take: I hiked this trail starting from Riomaggiore, which is the direction most people recommend. This hike has the steepest incline, but near Manarola, you’ll be rewarded with some of the best views of vineyards that you don’t get to see in other portions of the hike.
If you have any questions or thoughts, feel free to leave them in the comments below.
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