Dreaming of 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. Here are some tips to make the most of this unforgettable trek.
Arriving in Cinque Terre
The best way to travel to the Cinque Terre is by train. Parking is limited and expensive. Trains run between the five towns throughout the day and a one day pass will cost you 13 euros. Included with the pass is 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.
The train gives you options. Start anywhere you’d like, and if you get tired or run out of time, you can 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. First, it is the most challenging part of the trek, better to tackle on fresh legs. Secondly, that put us walking into Vernazza, one of the most picturesque views on the trail, from a higher vantage point.
Disembarking at Monterosso, the largest of the five villages, we walk along the beach to the trailhead and begin following the red/white blazes. The first ascent goes 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.
Occasionally the trail flattens out and becomes fuller. A few stretches fall into the no-passing zone with exposure on the side of the sea. The sheer drops could be vertigo-inducing for some but are worth it for the fantastic scenery.
Halfway through we come upon an interesting feature. A feral cat sanctuary complete with food in buckets for feeding, several cat houses, and a sign encouraging cuddling.
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.
From here we begin the descent into town, passing through quaint lanes until we find ourselves at 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 steeply to Punta Palma. Lots of stairs but it’s hard to complain with views like this.
The path continues hugging the coast while going up and down along the mountainside. Bring trekking poles, if you use them. Much more comfortable on the knees and offers extra stability on the steep, narrow stairways. There are some very rocky, uneven patches on this section of trail as well.
A charming walkway leads us down a gentle slope surrounded by orange and lemon trees. Heady from the aroma we step into the smallest of the villages in the Cinque Terre, Corniglia.
Located on a small cape 100 meters above the sea makes this the only village in the Cinque Terre that cannot be accessed from the ocean. Having worked up a sweat and an appetite we make our way through the square for some refreshment.
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 encountered other people on and off all day.
Arriving at an impassable chasm, we understand why. Disappointed, we turn back, retracing our steps to the train station. Thankfully it’s at the bottom of the ladarina. Boarding the train, we head to Manarola.
Manarola to Riomaggiore – 1.5 km
Manarola has a small piazza we walk through before making our way to the tiny harbor.
While visiting, we learn that the next, and final stretch of the Cinque Terre trail, is closed due to massive landslides. This section contains the famous Via dell’Amore or Lover’s Lane. I console myself with gelato while watching old men putter with their sturdy little boats before heading back to the station. Closing my eyes, I silently vow to return to complete the two closed sections.
Goodbye to the Cinque Terre
We make it to Riomaggiore in time to watch the day’s last bit of sunshine get swept behind the clouds. Joining the locals as they do their vasche (laps), we wander lazily up and down the main street, feeling a part of the scene.
Hiking in Cinque Terre is an unforgettable experience. The views are magnificent, and the sherbet-colored towns dotting the rugged coastline are spectacular.
Hike the whole trail or a section. Sturdy shoes are a must, and hiking poles are useful. Be sure and check on trail closures before you finalize your route. Enjoy your time in this beautifully isolated and utterly enchanting corner of the Northern Italian coast.