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A cluster of five picturesque villages nestled along the rugged Italian Riviera coastline, Cinque Terre is at the heart of every trip to Italy and easily makes its mark on the top places to visit in Italy. The five remote villages of Cinque Terre, namely Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso, are marked by colorful vintage houses built along a rocky terrain, thanks to an independent development untouched by decadent modern culture.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is famous for its fresh seafood that comes straight out of the ships that bob up and down in the harbor. Pies and pasta served with the pesto sauce authentic to the Ligurian cuisine, dry white wine and lemon dessert vines highlight the unique combination of a rustic coastline with Italian antiquity.
Cinque Terre is not just about its gastronomic delights. The Mediterranean flora and fauna make Cinque Terre walking trails home to some of the best coastal hiking trails in the world. If you’re planning a trip to Cinque Terre, you should definitely check out few of the Cinque Terre hiking trails enlisted below.
The ‘Sentiero Azzurro’ or the Blue Path Trail, spanning the length of all five villages, is the longest and the most renowned trails in the Cinque Terre. The Blue Path Trail provides hikers with enough room to savor the trail as well as take in the rich heritage of the villages along the path. You can head from Monterosso to Riomaggiore down south or the other way round, up north; however, first time hikers are recommended to commence from Riomaggiore and further move up so that they can choose to skip paths and hop onto trains as the difficulty level increases.
- Distance: 12 km / 7.5 miles
- Start/end-point: Monterosso / Riomaggiore or the other way round
Update: Due to a heavy landslide in 2012, this trail suffered extreme damages. It is not accessible for hiking as of now since it is under going reconstruction. The trail is expected to be ready and open to travelers by 2021.
The Riomaggiore Ring Trail comes about a full circle from Riomaggiore to Riomaggiore. This is one of the simplest hikes, even for novice hikers. Although the hike can be undertaken in both clockwise and anticlockwise direction, it is advised to take the way up from the village parking and head in a clockwise direction towards the XI century parish church—the Sanctuary of Montenero. The church offers a spectacular display of beautiful offerings under an ornate ceiling. You also get to enjoy a breathtaking view of the sea coast from Montenero before you take the short trail down to Riomaggiore via a multitude of steps.
- Distance: 3.5 km / 2.2 miles
- Start/end-point: From Riomaggiore to Riomaggiore
Spanning from Riomaggiore to Manarola, the Via dell’Amore or ‘the Way of Love’ is a beautiful hiking trail along the coastline. This twenty-minute romantic “stroll” along a flat, well-paved trail is undoubtedly the easiest of the Cinque Terre walking trails. The romantic atmosphere of the rock-cut trail is attributed to a concoction of interlocked hearts over the entrance gate, lover sculptures, benches along the way and a little tunnel with ‘love graffiti’ on the walls towards the end.
- Distance: 1km / 0.6 miles
- Start/end-point: Riomaggiore Railway Station / Manarola Railway Station
Update: This trail is temporarily inaccessible since it was damaged due to a heavy landslide in 2012. Due to the ongoing construction work, the main trail is closed and only a small part upto 200 meters from Manarola is accessible. It is expected to open by April 2021.
The trail 7a from Corniglia to Manarola via the sleepy little town of Volastra is better known as “Porcina.” The beginning of the trail is tough thanks to a steep path of ascending steps, and it is this very part of the hike that has it famed for being relatively difficult. However, once you’re through the toughest part of the journey, a panoramic view of Corniglia greets you at multiple points along the way before you reach the Sanctuary of Volastra flanked by wine growing stone terraces. From there, a 30-minute hike via the small village of Groppo takes you towards the square which houses the beautiful church of San Lorenzo. A breathtaking panoramic view of Manarola from here is the perfect ending to this hike.
- Distance: 5.5 km / 3.4 miles
- Start/end-point: Corniglia / Manarola via Volastra
Update: This trail has been closed for a long period now and is out of bound for travelers since it is not safe. Only the first 300 meters from the Manarola side is open for hiking. It is set to reopen in 2021.
Due to its narrow winding paths flanked by a drop on one side and steep ascent/descent along an unpaved rocky wavy, the Vernazza-Monterosso hike is one of the toughest hikes in Cinque Terre. This 2-hour walk is a daunting journey along the northernmost trail of this region. Nevertheless, adventurers who are up for the challenge go up the hike in droves. If you are attempting the trail, do make sure you have loads of water, a good pair of hiking shoes, and walking sticks with you before starting out. Hikers on this route are handsomely rewarded with a spectacular variety of vegetation along the way, and Vernazza’s winding alleyways and a panoramic view of almost all of Cinque Terre’s villages make this taxing trail worth the trouble.
- Distance: 3km / 2 miles
- Start/end-point: Vernazza / Monterosso or vice-versa
Cinque Terre is jammed-packed with tourists looking to lounge on the coasts and swim in the placid waters during the vacation times. We’ve picked out two periods when it would be suitable for a visit, depending on your tastes and preferences.
If you want to enjoy Cinque Terre hiking in its prime, without any dangers of sudden rains or uncalled landslides lurking nearby, the summer months of April and May would be the best time to visit. By then, the storms would have passed, the Mediterranean trees and plants are in full bloom, and a cheerful sun brightens the colorful embankments.
However, wanderlust souls wanting to explore Cinque Terre hiking trails in peace can also choose the spring months of March or the autumn months of September and October. These offbeat seasons boast milder weather and less crowds, so are perfect for travelers visiting for the sole purpose of hiking many Cinque Terre trails.
Given that there are so many options to explore from, hundreds of nature-hungry souls flock to Cinque Terre every year to breathe in every possible nook and corner of the region. While you may not be able to cover the vast expanse of these trails in a single trip, at least some of the above-listed trails should certainly be on your to-do list when you are in Italy. If you’d like to explore more options other than hiking while in Italy, you can explore these Italy tours.