โ›ฐ๏ธ Hiking Cinque Terre: Firsthand Review & Tips

Colorful houses on a mountain cliff sticking out into the ocean.
๐Ÿ€ Lukiih’s Overall Rating8.0
๐Ÿฆ„ UniquenessVery High
๐Ÿ˜Š EnjoymentHigh
๐Ÿ’ฐ ValueModerate
๐ŸŽ’ PreparationModerate
๐ŸŒŸ Book a TourView Price
Overall Rating is based on a weighted average of factors (learn more).

Cinque Terre is a protected coastal region in Italy, and the best way to explore it is by hiking through the five picturesque villages perched along the mountains. Hereโ€™s my honest review and firsthand tips.

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๐Ÿ€ Lukiih’s Overall Rating

8.0
Hiking Cinque Terre is one of my top recommendations โ€“ don’t skip it.

My overall rating is based on a weighted average of four factors travelers consider important when assessing an experience.

Verdict

Hiking Cinque Terre was the highlight of my Italy trip. The coastal hiking trails pass through exceptionally picturesque villages, breathtaking ocean views, and plunging cliffs.

The hike is affordable, even after accounting for accommodation, transportation, food, and entrance fees.

Moderate preparation is required, as you need to check trail closure, buy a hiking card, book accommodations, and pack accordingly.

The trail is accessible, as skipping the more difficult portions is possible.

A woman standing in front of a background with colorful buildings on a mountain by the ocean.
Manarola, Cinque Terre

Planning a trip? Here’s what to know about Italy.

๐Ÿ† Where Does It Rank?

Hiking Cinque Terre ranks as my #1 thing to do in Italy. Here’s how it compares to other experiences on my trip:

#ExperienceLocationOverall Rating
1โ›ฐ๏ธ Cinque Terre HikeLiguria8.0
2๐Ÿฅ– Cicchetti by CanalsVenice7.6
3๐Ÿ’ง Lake Como Day TripLombardy7.3
4๐ŸŽจ Sistine Chapel / Vatican CityRome7.3
5๐Ÿท Tuscany Wine TourFlorence7.1
6๐ŸŒŠ Trevi FountainRome6.8
7๐Ÿšฃโ€โ™‚๏ธ Gondola RideVenice6.6
8๐Ÿ–ผ๏ธ Uffizi GalleryFlorence6.5
9๐ŸŸ๏ธ ColosseumRome6.4
10๐Ÿฐ Brunelleschiโ€™s DomeFlorence6.4
11โ˜€๏ธ Michelangelo PlazaFlorence6.3
12๐Ÿฐ St. Mark’s SquareVenice6.3
13๐ŸŒน Rose GardenFlorence6.1
14๐Ÿง€ Parma Day TripEmilia-Romagna5.9
15๐Ÿ Pasta Making ClassFlorence5.7
16๐Ÿƒโ€โ™€๏ธ Spanish StepsRome5.5
17๐ŸŒ‰ Rialto BridgeVenice5.1
18๐ŸŒณ Boboli GardensFlorence4.9
Overall Rating is calculated usingย Lukiihโ€™s rating system.

Myย Italy itineraryย features the above experiences.

โœˆ๏ธ About My Trip

For context on my review, here’s what to know about my trip:

  • ๐Ÿ€ย Self-fundedย โ€“ I finance my trips and don’t receive sponsorship, so this review reflects my honest opinions.
  • ๐Ÿ—“๏ธ 2022 โ€“ This post has updated 2024 information, but I hiked Cinque Terre in 2022.
  • โ˜€๏ธ Low season โ€“ My Italy trip was in May when it was less crowded and expensive.

๐Ÿฆ„ Uniqueness: Very High

The Uniqueness Score is based on how rare and memorable an experience is.

Rarity: Very Rare

Hiking through Cinque Terre is a rare experience, as less than ten comparable hikes exist worldwide.

๐Ÿ’Ž What Makes It Rare?

  • The beauty of the five picturesque villages on coastal cliffs is unparalleled.
  • The villages are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so it’s a protected area that has preserved the traditional way of life.
A map of a blue trail connecting five pins near the coast.
Blue Trail (map by Google Maps)

๐ŸŒ What Makes It Less Rare?

  • The famous Almafi Coast boasts hikes with similar spectacular views.
  • Outside of Italy, there are a few hikes with stunning ocean views, but they lack comparable beautiful villages: Spain’s Camino de Ronda, England’s South West Coast Path, Portugal’s Rota Vicentina, and Australia’s Great Ocean Walk.
View of a mountain side by a blue ocean.
Cinque Terre’s coastal view

Memorability: Very High

Hiking through Cinque Terre is one of my most memorable experiences in Italy.

๐Ÿ“ธ What Makes It Memorable?

  • The views of the postcard-perfect villages from the hiking trail are unforgettable. I’ve done several iconic hikes, but the views of the villages are genuinely unique.

Read on for the best views on each trail.

A view of many colorful buildings on a mountain by the ocean.

Vernazza

๐Ÿ’ค What Makes It Forgettable?

  • The views are stunning, but I wouldn’t call them epic.
  • The food in the villages wasn’t outstanding, especially compared to how good it was everywhere else I visited in Italy.

๐Ÿ˜Š Enjoyment: High

The Enjoyment Score is based on how much happiness and reward an experience provides.

Happiness: High

I found hiking through Cinque Terre very fun and delightful.

๐Ÿ˜ƒ What Makes It Enjoyable?

  • The terrain varies throughout the Blue Trail, making the hike more interesting. The trail also passes through local vineyards, homes, and churches.
Colorful buildings surrounded by lush moutanin.
Houses by the Blue Trail

๐Ÿ˜ฅ What Makes It Less Enjoyable?

  • As with many hikes, weather conditions on the trail can vary. The trail is next to the ocean, so it can get rainy, windy, and muddy, which I experienced.
  • Some parts of the trail are very narrow, so there can be congestion on the weekends.

The best times to hike are May and October when the weather is pleasant and there are fewer tourists. 

Reward: Moderate

Hiking through Cinque Terre is a moderately rewarding experience.

๐ŸŒŸ What Makes It Rewarding?

  • Although not difficult, the Blue Trail requires some stamina. It’s 7.5 miles long, takes about six hours, and has some steep portions.

๐Ÿคท๐Ÿปโ€โ™€๏ธ What Makes It Less Rewarding?

  • The trails near popular villages like Vernazza are well-paved and can become crowded, especially during high season. Since this hike is a choose-your-own-adventure in a touristy place, most visitors only hike part of the trail.
Two people climbing down a steep set of stairs down a mountain.
Steps on the Blue Trail (photo by my friend, Nami Sumida)

๐Ÿ’ฐ Value: Moderate

The Value Score is determined by the price divided by the duration of an experience. All prices mentioned here are in USD.

Cost Estimate: $230 PP

Hiking Cinque Terre over two days costs about $230. Hereโ€™s how the costs break down:

Expense CategoryApproximate Cost
๐Ÿ Food$45/day, as food prices are high in the village.
๐Ÿ  Accommodation$40-$100/night, depending on where you stay.
๐Ÿฅพ Hiking Card$28-$65 total, depending on the type of card you get and the travel season.
๐Ÿš† Transportation$15-$30 total, assuming you’re coming from Milan and depending on which train you take.
๐Ÿฐ Attraction$5 total, as several attractions have small entrance fees.

I last checked prices in April 2024. At about $115 per person per day for everything included, I consider this experience moderately priced.

There are many things to do in the villages that will increase your budget, including snorkeling, boat tours, and Italian cooking classes. You can also hire a Cinque Terre hiking guide if you like.

Lukiih Spent: $240

I spent $240 over two days in Cinque Terre, and below is my breakdown.

Expense CategoryTotal Cost
๐Ÿ Food$101
๐Ÿ  Accommodation$88*
๐Ÿฅพ Hiking Card$35
๐Ÿš† Milan to Cinque Terre Train$14
๐Ÿฐ Attraction$2

*I was able to split accommodation costs with two other people.

A mountain view with the ocean and yellow flowers.
Cinque Terre trail (photo by my friend, Nami Sumida)

See my Italy trip expenses.

๐ŸŽ’ Preparation: Moderate

The Preparation Score is based on the required skills & fitness, transportation, and bookings & packing. The higher the score, the less preparation is needed.

Skills & Fitness: Basic

You need basic skills and fitness to hike the Cinque Terre trail.

  • ๐Ÿฅพ Skill โ€“ The trail is straightforward and relatively close to the villages, so you don’t need outstanding hiking skills.
  • ๐Ÿ’ช Endurance โ€“ The Blue Trail takes at least six hours and has steep portions, so some stamina is helpful. However, you can go slowly and break up the hike by spending more time in each village.

Scroll down for details on the hiking difficulty.

Transportation: Moderate

Cinque Terre is located near La Spezia in northwestern Italy. The hike typically starts in one of the endpoint villages, Monterosso al Mare or Riomaggiore. The journey to the trailheads is straightforward but takes a while.

  • ๐Ÿš† Method โ€“ The best way to get to Cinque Terre is by Italy’s excellent train infrastructure. You can start the trail in either direction and from any village.

Driving through Cinque Terre is not recommended because of the winding, narrow roads, and parking limitations and fees.

  • โฐ Duration โ€“ Getting to Cinque Terre from Florence, the closest major city, takes three hours. If you are in La Spezia, the train ride is only 10 to 30 minutes.

Booking & Packing: Minimal

To hike Cinque Terre, youโ€™ll need minimal booking and packing:

  • ๐ŸŽŸ๏ธ Tickets โ€“ A hiking card is required to hike portions of the Blue Trail.
  • ๐Ÿ  Reservation โ€“ If you plan to hike it over two days, book accommodation in advance, as options are limited.
  • ๐ŸŽ’ Packing โ€“ Wear appropriate clothes and shoes if you plan to do the entire trail.

The Blue Trail is open year-round but can be randomly closed for maintenance due to bad weather. Check the status of each trail before starting your hike.

How To Guide & Tips

Interested in hiking Cinque Terre after reading my review? Below is a practical how-to guide and firsthand tips.

Which Are the Villages

Cinque Terre, or the โ€œFive Lands,โ€ is famous for its five picturesque villages:

  • Monterosso al Mare โ€“ the most visited village due to its larger size.
  • Vernazza โ€“ the most picturesque village with lots of sightseeing.
  • Corniglia โ€“ the most tranquil village, partially because itโ€™s the most difficult to get to. Itโ€™s located on a cliff, unlike the other four villages, which are more accessible.
  • Manarol โ€“ the village with a postcard-like aesthetic due to the shapes of its buildings on a cliff.
  • Riomaggiore โ€“ a village renowned for its cliffs and scenic harbor.

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How Difficult Is It

The Blue Trail is considered an easy to moderate hike. Most hikers will have no issues with it, but non-hikers may struggle with some parts.

  • A guide is not required โ€“ Most of the trail is accessible with clearly marked routes.
  • Some portions of the trail have steep inclines โ€“ See below for details on each trail.
  • Rely on the Express Trail โ€“ Cinque Terre has a train that stops in every village. You can quickly move between the towns, cut your hike short, and start or stop your hike from any village.

The train runs every 20 minutes and takes about 5 minutes between villages. 

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How To Buy the Hiking Pass

A Cinque Terre Card is required if you plan to hike the part of the Blue Trail thatโ€™s between Monterosso al Mare and Corniglia.

During the off-season, the Blue Trail is free between early November and mid-March, so a card is unnecessary.

You can buy the card at any of the villageโ€™s train stations or the official website. I didnโ€™t need to buy the card in advance as there were fewer tourists in May.

There are two types of cards:

  • Cinque Terre Trekking Card โ€“ This gives you hiking access. You also get Wi-Fi and toilet access at the train stations, which I found useful.
  • Cinque Terre Train Card โ€“ This gives you the same benefits as the Trekking Card and unlimited rides on the Express train.

The two-day Trekking + Train Card is worth it if you plan to take the train more than three times. I bought this card type because I had to move between villages several times.

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Where To Stay

Cinque Terre can be hiked in one day, but part of the charm is visiting the villages, so I recommend staying for one to two nights.

  • Book ahead โ€“ There are no major hotels in any of the villages, so accommodation is limited.
  • Stay in one village if you’re staying multiple nights โ€“ The Express train is so easy and convenient that moving your luggage around is not worth the hassle. I stayed at two accommodations in Corniglia and Riomaggiore and wished I had stayed in one location.
  • Stay in La Spezia to save money โ€“ La Spezia has more affordable options and is an eight-minute train ride from Riomaggiore.
  • Corniglia is the most inconvenient village โ€“ It’s the only village not next to the waterfront, so you have to climb approximately 400 steps or wait for the shuttle bus, which runs every 15 minutes.

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What Are the Trails Like

The Blue Trail is divided into four sections by the five villages.

Trail #1: Monterosso to Vernazza

  • ๐Ÿฅพ Length: 2.3 miles
  • ๐Ÿ’ช Difficulty: Moderate. There are a lot of steep steps on both ends near the villages, but itโ€™s relatively flat otherwise.
  • โฐ Hiking Time: 1 hour and 30 minutes
  • ๐Ÿ€ Lukiih’s Experience: I hiked this trail starting from Vernazza. The views, especially facing Vernazza, are breathtaking. Due to its proximity to Monterosso, this trail is the most popular, so it was easily the most crowded one.
A view of a bay with blue water and colorful buildings.
Monterosso al Mare

Trail #2: Vernazza to Corniglia

  • ๐Ÿฅพ Length: 2.1 miles
  • ๐Ÿ’ช Difficulty: Easy to moderate. There is some elevation gain, but the trail is mostly wide and flat with rocky parts.
  • โฐ Duration: 1 hour and 15 minutes
  • ๐Ÿ€ Lukiih’s Experience: I hiked this trail starting from Corniglia and found it similar to trail #1 with fewer tourists. The best views of Vernazza are when youโ€™re approaching it from Corniglia, not Monterosso.
Colorful houses on a mountain cliff sticking out into the ocean.
Vernazza

Trail #3: Corniglia to Manarola

  • ๐Ÿฅพ Length: 3.6 miles
  • ๐Ÿ’ช Difficulty: Moderate to challenging. This is the longest portion of the Blue Trail, with narrow paths and elevation gain.
  • โฐ Duration: 2 hours and 15 minutes
  • ๐Ÿ€ Lukiih’s Experience: Corniglia to Manarola has some great views. This trail is the most interesting because the terrain varies as you walk through charming vineyards and olive groves.
A person walking on a narrow trail next to the side of a mountain.
Narrow trail between Corniglia and Manarola.

Trail #4: Manarola to Riomaggiore

  • ๐Ÿฅพ Length: 1 mile
  • ๐Ÿ’ช Difficulty: Moderate to challenging. The hike near Riomaggiore has steep hills and is the steepest portion of the entire route. Note that there are no handrails.
  • โฐ Duration: 1 hour
  • ๐Ÿ€ Lukiih’s Experience: I hiked this trail starting from Riomaggiore, which is the direction most people recommend. This hike has the steepest incline. Near Manarola, youโ€™ll be rewarded with some of the best views of vineyards that you donโ€™t get to see in other portions of the hike.
A mountain view with vineyards and a group of colorful houses.
Trail view between Riomaggiore and Manarola

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How To Store 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 doesnโ€™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 youโ€™re not staying with them. However, almost all of them wonโ€™t store luggage overnight.

Since the Express train is convenient (i.e., it only takes five minutes between villages), the best option is to take the train to wherever you want to store your luggage and then take it to wherever you want to hike.

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What To Pack

Here is what to pack and wear when hiking through Cinque Terre:

  • Athletic or hiking shoes โ€“ You can hike the Blue Trail in athletic shoes (my friends and I all wore running shoes, even in the rain).

Appropriate shoes are required by law. Open-toe shoes without a grip (e.g., flip-flops or sandals) are prohibited on the Blue Trail. You can face steep fines if youโ€™re caught.

  • Rain jacket โ€“ Bring a rain jacket in the spring and fall.
  • Reusable water bottle โ€“ The villages have public water fountains where you can refill your water bottle instead of buying overpriced bottled water.
  • Sunscreen โ€“ Wear sunscreen, especially during the summer. A large portion of the trail is exposed with little shade.
  • Bug repellent โ€“ During the warmer months, mosquitos will come out. Iโ€™m a mosquito magnet, so I use this bug-repellent lotion.
  • Swimsuit in the summer โ€“ When itโ€™s warm enough, remember to bring a swimsuit to enjoy the villages’ beaches.

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Italy Trip Planner 2024

To make your travel preparation easier, download the trip planner below. It has destination-specific travel information, itinerary, map, and packing list.

My trip planners are built on Notion, which I use for all my travel planning. I genuinely love this tool and creating an account is free.

Three Notion template screenshots are shown: travel information, itinerary, and map + packing list templates.
Preview of Italy trip planner.

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