Hiking Cinque Terre? Here’s What You Need to Know!

Planning on walking the famed Blue Trail No. 2, or Sentiero Azzuro in Italiano, located in the gorgeous Cinque Terre? You won’t regret this fantastic 11 km hike along the coast of the Italian Riviera complete with visits to the charming Cinque Terra (five towns) along the way. I did it in November 2017. Here are some tips to make the most of this unforgettable trek.

Arriving in Cinque Terre

Most people arrive in Cinque Terre by train which is the best way in my opinion. Parking is limited and expensive. The train runs between the five towns throughout the day and a one day pass ran us 13 euros each. The pass also included admission into the Cinque Terre National Park which you must have to hike the trails. There are checkpoints at the start of each stretch between the villages so don’t skip this. The Cinque Terre pass also gains you access to the public toilets which would typically set you back 1 euro.

Train Stations and Trails

The train gives you options. Start anywhere you’d like, and if you get tired or run out of time, simply hop on the train at the next village and head back to your original starting point.

Monterosso to Vernazza – 3.5 km

We chose to begin at the furthest point from La Spezia for two reasons. The first being that it is the most challenging part of the trek, better to tackle on fresh legs. The second being that that put us walking into Vernazza which is one of the most picturesque views on the trail. Better to step into the view then have it at our backs!

Monterosso in Cinque Terre

We disembark at Monterosso which is the largest of the five villages. It is stunning! Walk along the beach to the trailhead and follow the red/white blazes. Begin your first ascent up a long, steep, stone stairway through hills cultivated with vineyards and olives; not to mention some jaw-dropping views! NOTE: the new trailhead is closed as of this writing, follow the signs to the old trailhead behind an orange building in the eastern part of the village.

Steep stone stairs on trail at Cinque Terre
Up, Up & Away!

Occasionally the trail flattens out and becomes wider. Some stretches fall into the no passing zone with exposure on the side of the sea. Could be vertigo-inducing for some but worth it for the fantastic scenery.

Those Views Though…

About halfway through you’ll come upon an interesting feature. A feral cat sanctuary complete with food in buckets for feeding, several cat houses, and a sign encouraging cuddling.

Sign at feral cat sanctuary in Cinque Terre
One More Reason To Arrive Early

All of the ups and downs on this 3.5 km section of trail may have you huffing and puffing, but when you round a corner to this view of Vernazza, you’ll be left breathless.

Woman looking at Vernazza, Italy for trail at Cinque Terre
Amazing View

From here you’ll begin your descent until you enter the town and pass through quaint lanes ending in the small harbor of Vernazza.

Vernazza to Corniglia – 4 km

What goes down, must go up!  After visiting the lovely village of Vernazza, we are back on the trail which continues fairly steeply to Punta Palma. Lots of stairs but hard to complain with views like this.

View of Vernazza on Cinque Terre Trail
Looking back on Vernazza

Continue on the path hugging the coast with quite a few ups and downs. Bring your trekking poles if you use them. Certainly makes it a lot easier on the knees and also offers a little extra stability on steep, narrow stairs. There are some very rocky, uneven patches on this section of trail as well.

View of village of Cornigia at Cinque Terre
First View of Corniglia

Continuing on you will reach a charming walkway leading to a gentle slope which will bring you to the smallest of the villages in the Cinque Terre, Corniglia.

Path to Cornelia on Cinque Terre
Almost to Corniglia

This village is on a small cape 100 meters above the sea making it the only village in the Cinque Terre that cannot be accessed from the ocean. Having worked up a sweat and an appetite we made our way through the square for some refreshment.

Corniglia, Cinque Terre
Salami and Cheese on Focaccia with Moretti Limone. Yum!

Corniglia to Manarola – 3 km

After a delicious lunch, we quickly discover a third reason you should trek in this direction. Ladarina! Ladarina translates into 377 steps. Yep, more stairs! The ladarina descend to the train station from Corniglia; or ascend if you’re coming from the other direction. See what I mean by reason number 3?

Picking up at the bottom of the stairs the trail runs alongside the train tracks towards a tunnel. As we’re trekking along, we notice that we’re alone. Although the path is not unusually crowded today, we have run across people on and off all day.

Coming upon an impassable chasm, we understand why. Evidently, we missed the closure signs. Disappointed, we turn back and retrace our steps to the train station. Thankfully it’s at the bottom of the ladarina, not the top! Boarding the train, we head to Manarola.

Manarola to Riomaggiore – 1.5 km

Manarola has a small piazza we walk through while making our way to the tiny harbor.

Manarola, Cinque Terre
The Road to the Harbor

While visiting the town, we learn that the next, and final stretch of the Cinque Terre trail, is closed as well due to massive landslides. This section contains the famous Via dell’Amore or Lover’s Lane. I console myself with gelato and head back to the station. On the train to Riomaggiore, I vow to return to complete the two closed sections someday.

Goodbye to the Cinque Terre

We make it to Riomaggiore in time for a lovely sunset even though it’s a little cloudy.

Riomaggore, Cinque Terre
Sunset in Riomaggiore

Hiking in Cinque Terre is an unforgettable experience. The views are stunning, and the towns along the way are just gorgeous. Hike all of it or a section or two. Sturdy shoes are a must, and hiking poles are useful. Be sure and check on trail closures before you finalize your route.

Have a question? Leave a comment or shoot me an email. Happy to help if I can. Happy hiking!