Cinque Terre Hiking Trails: 21 Tips to Know Before You Go.

by Bianca @ Italian Fix

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cinque terre hiking trails

“It’s the most romantic place you’ll ever see,” said my pretty Irish friend.

She pitched me that line 13 years ago, on our way to the train station to buy tickets to the Cinque Terre. That was “back in the day” when I was a student in Florence. I was more than ready to escape the Tuscan heat for the seaside.

On a Friday in July, we took the train to the first village. When I hopped off the train I squealed, “Seriously! This is amazing!” That was just the view from the train platform.

I still love hearing that phrase. I’m blessed to hear it every summer from my guests when they join my week long tours to the Cinque Terre.

My driver collects our guests from the sweaty train station. As we descend into the village of Riomaggiore, all that city commotion just washes away.

I love watching their faces as each hairpin curve delivers another peekaboo view of the village, and the entire Italian Riviera and all the way to French coastline.

If I could bottle those smiles and save them for a rainy day, I would.

You Wanna Hike Cinque Terre Trails.

But … you have about 500 questions.

I know!

It’s a place that’s crazy to figure out, and for first timers it’s really confusing. Because the Cinque Terre is a cluster of villages, not just one place, it can be so much “work” just trying to figure out logistics before you even figure out where to book a hotel. Florence is simple. Cinque Terre is HARD.

If you’re traveling on a wing and a prayer, I’d like to offer some help.

I get so many questions on Facebook and Instagram about traveling to the Cinque Terre. I wanted to clear up some confusion now.

Local Cinque Terre Hiking and Trail Advice Is Key.

You can “research” your way to crazy town on the Google, right? Trying to figure out your Italian holiday is pretty much like having a second job.

Of course, I think going with someone who has local knowledge is key. But I own an Italian travel company, so of course I’m biased!

But seriously, it’s taken me over 10 years of working, traveling, living and guiding tours in the region to find my favorite places, restaurants, people, experiences, hole-in-the-wall eateries, secret beaches and hiking trails. My friend Christina, who lives in Riomaggiore full-time, (I split my time between Italy and Vancouver Island, Canada) tells me that I eat out in Italy more than her. Which I thought was pretty funny — but true.

So, yes, you can come and hike and enjoy the Cinque Terre with me one summer. I’d love that.

Or you can go on your own and wing it, which in that case read on. (And be sure to check out our private Cinque Terre tours – where we’ll hike gorgeous trails together and reward you with food and vino. Seriously.)

The Top 21 Cinque Terre Hiking Trail Questions, Answered.

1) I’m going in winter? Will the trails be open?

Yes, they’re open year round.

2) Are the trails free?

Most of the trails are free.

The exception is the sentiero azzurro, also called the blue trail or trail Number 2. It’s the most popular. In high season (when people are checking tickets) you’ll pay for that.

3) How much is a hiking pass for the blue trail?

The current price for 2018 (remember you only pay for the blue trail) is €7.50. Two-day passes save you a whopping 50 cents at €14.50.

4) What is the Cinque Terre Card?

The Cinque Terre Card bundles the price of the trains between the villages (but not ferries) and a hiking day-pass. It’s €16. A 2-day pass is €29.

5) Should I buy the Cinque Terre Card?

Train tickets between any of the towns in the Cinque Terre (and La Spezia and Levanto) now cost €4.00 per trip (as of 2018), so even if you don’t plan to hike at all but are going to be taking the train more than twice in a day, buying the Cinque Terre Card is worth it.

6) Where should I stay if I want to hike?

There are no “bum” villages. Stay anywhere, they’re all amazing! And great for hiking. See my what to do in the Cinque Terre article, which has a free itinerary and some accommodation tips.

Many people get confused and want to pack their belongings between the trails and move hotels for the night. That’s not necessary. You can easily catch the train to each section of the trail head you want to conquer and sleep in the same place for your stay.

7) How do I get to the Cinque Terre?

You can take a train to any village.

You can drive, but parking can be drama filled.

The Cinque Terre means “five lands” which are the five villages of Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare. But just think of the region as a spider web of trails, towns, and villages. This stretch of coastline is a mix of tiny hamlets, like Groppo, and bigger towns like La Spezia and Levanto.

You can find train schedules on the Trenitalia website here. The train passes through all the villages, and you can walk to the small hamlets or take the green bus.

8) I heard the xxxxx trail is closed? Is it?

Be careful what you find on the internet regarding trail openings and closures; there’s a lot of conflicting information. Why? Because trails open and close all the time for landslides and maintenance.

Long-term closures on the blue trail (sentiero azzurro / Trail #2) are still in effect between Riomaggiore and Manarola (Via dell’Amore) and Manarola to Corniglia.

Don’t get too freaked out by trail closures — there will always be plenty of trails to hike when you arrive.

9) Do I need a map for the trails?

Depends. You don’t need a map to do the main trail (sentiero azzurro). The trail is marked with paint and it’s easy to follow. For more complex trails, head down to my buddies Nicola and Christine at the gear shop in Manarola for advice.

10) Do I need hiking boots?

The trails are hard packed dirt or loose stones. Ideally, wear running/tennis shoes or sturdy hiking sandals. Hiking boots are overkill (if you’re doing just a day or two).

11) What should I pack on the trails?

A small day-pack with one liter of water. I bring sun protection, a bathing suit (if the weather is warm you can swim after), and a snack (you’re in Italy. On vacation. It’s mandatory to ingest something every 75 minutes). If it’s inclement weather, pack a change of clothes.

In truth, you’re never far from food and shelter — this area is tiny! (Says the Canadian.)

12) What is the Cinque Terre?

It’s an Italian National Park, called Parco nazionale delle Cinque Terre. That means that building laws are strict, and development permits are harder to come by than a clean public restroom. Translation: almost impossible. Which means that you’re not gonna see a Hilton built there, or a neon sign. Or cars and vespas buzzing around freely.

The waterways around the five villages are protected by the L’Area marina protetta Cinque Terre. Large vessels (like yachts) can’t dock here, and you’re not going to see a jet ski. It feels clean and uncontaminated.

The Cinque Terre is recognized by UNESCO as a place of worldwide importance to cultural and natural heritage. As of 2017, Italy has 52 total sites inscribed on UNESCO’s list, making it the country with most World Heritage Sites.

13) I like to skip the crowds. Where should I hike?

There are dozens of trails that run well beyond the five Cinque Terre villages. One to check out is between Monterosso and Levanto. That takes about 3 hours. The other is from Riomaggiore to Portovenere. That takes about 5 hours (without a map or a guide it can be confusing).

You can see the full list of trails on the Park’s site here, but it’s pretty confusing. When you’re there, just ask the villagers for the trail heads and reference a free paper map. You can get a map at the tourist offices located near or in the train stations.

Alternatively, we’d love to have you join one of our hiking Cinque Terre tours – all you have to do is show up and we’ll lead the way, off the beaten track into stunning secret valleys.

14) I only have a half day in the villages, but still want to hike.

Cool! No problem. Train into Riomaggiore, walk to the top of the village (near the car park) and ask a local where the trail head that leads to the Santuario di Montenero (Montenero Sanctuary) starts. It’s about 45 minutes one way.

15) I just have one day, and I’m coming for something easy and fun.

With very little orientation, you can hike the section between Monterosso and Vernazza (the blue trail/#2/sentiero azzurro). It’s 2 hours. It’s steep in parts, but you get a postcard shot of Vernazza from that trail.

You can also book one of our private Cinque Terre tours for the day, and we’ll have you covered! We’ll bring the fun, too.

16) I’m active and want a challenge. Which trail should I take?

I love the trail I list on my One Day in Cinque Terre post. Or the section between Monterosso and Levanto (it’s 3 hours). If you can read a map, hike Riomaggiore to Portovenere (it’s about 5  hours). You can hire local guides like Marco (he works with me) or Pall to take you.

17) I’m traveling with kids — are the trails safe?

Yes, you can bring kids! Our young daughter is a trail pro. She first traveled from the cushy view from my husband’s back, then as a toddler (dawdler!). This summer her and dad will be trail running when I’m hosting my tours.

18) I’m super confused and stressed out by all this planning. I keep finding conflicting information.

Yup, the information on the trails always changes and some websites don’t get updated. Also, know that the pages that come up first in the searches are usually the oldest information (it’s how Google works), making the articles as useless as week old focaccia.

The easy thing to do? Just stop searching on the interwebs and trust when you’re there, you’ll have a great time. You’ll find what you need to find and life will provide what you’ve come to see. So take a chill pill and just show up.

When you arrive, grab a free paper map and pick a trail that you feel like walking that day. You don’t need to prep, bring dehydrated food, walking sticks or weird high tech clothing. Just wear what you have, and do what you can, with what you have right now. And if you really, really don’t want to stress out about it – check out our Cinque Terre tours and we’ve probably got a fab itinerary lined up for your day.

19) I’m coming in winter, is it too cold?

For hiking it’s probably great. See my easy Italian weather cheat sheet to help you decide.

20) I wanna get away from it all. What village should I base myself out of?

If you want to pretend that the world has gone away, stay in the village of Volastra, high above Riomaggiore. Population: 200 seniors. There are some great trails that leave from there. I base one on of my hikes from that village.

21) Bianca, do you offer day hikes?

Yes! I’ve got a team of local experts who have lovingly curated a lineup of incredible Cinque Terre experiences – hikes, wine tastings, insider-intel nooks and crannies included. Check out our Cinque Terre tours and take your pick.

You can come on one of my group, multi-day tours and I’ll take care of you. I also accept a few private clients a year.

If you have more questions, just ask them here.

Before you go, check out more of my Cinque Terre advice and recommended experiences:

Leave a comment! What’s the single most confusing things about finding info on hiking the Cinque Terre trails?

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Ashley
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Ashley

Great advice! We will be traving to the Cinque Terre in the beginning of June for our Honeymoon. We are staying in Monterosso. How late do the trains typically run to the other towns?

Sopania Khun
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Sopania Khun

Hi Bianca, Firstly, can I just say (although I’m sure you hear it a lot), your blog is FANTASTIC! The information is clear and easy to read. I’m planning a 3 night, 4 day trip to Cinque Terre and have done so much googling it’s actually made me more confused… Read more »

Lucia
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Lucia

Hi Bianca We shall be disembarking MSC cruise at 10am on 20 June and will only have 1/2 day to see Cinque Terre. Do you think we will manage and do you have some suggestions. I notice there is a ferry that also goes up to Positano, if time permits… Read more »

Estelle Smith
Guest

Hello I’ve been bringing teenage GROUPS to the Cinque Terre for a number of years. The group size is usually about 48 people and we have always stayed at the Youth Hostel in Levanto using the train between the towns. BUT I am ready for a change. I am looking… Read more »

imrin
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imrin

hey bianca, My wife and i are visiting cinque terre on 28th july in the evening in riomaggiore .. We have our train out of monterosso on 30th july at 5pm. So basically we have one good day on 29th july. what do you suggest we do in matter of… Read more »

Sierra Downey
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Sierra Downey

Buongiorno Bianca, I am currently studying abroad (ok, well, my semester ended in May :P) in Viterbo, and my friend and I would like to hike Cinque Terre soon. My question, is–if we want to hike to all the villages in a linear fashion–which village should we begin with to… Read more »

Nancy
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Nancy

Can you use credit cards for the trains? We want to take the train from La Spezia to Monterosso and then hike to Vernazza and then hike to Corniglia and then train to Manarola and train to Riomaggiore and train to La Spezia. So that’s 4 train rides and 2… Read more »

Annabelle C
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Annabelle C

Bianca, Thank you so much for all this advise! My husband and I are coming from the states for our first time and we can only dedicate 3 days to the Cinque Terre area. We will be returning i’m sure to do your tour, it looks fabulous. Since we cannot… Read more »

Jessica
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Jessica

Thank you for the advice. What about dogs? How dog friendly are the hiking trails and the towns?

Ingrid Dcosta
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Ingrid Dcosta

HI Bianca, Your blog has been really helpfull. Thanks for that. We would be either 2 or 4 females. we would be travelling in July. During our stay at florence we plan to visit Cinque Terre. we wanted to do a small trek and may be train ride to the… Read more »

Geremy
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Geremy

Hi Bianca, I am traveling to Italy in late March. I’m starting my trip in Venice and then plan to move from Venice to cinque terre, to Florence, then to Rome. What is the best way to get to the Cinque terre area by train? I saw you mentioned there… Read more »

Tanisa
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Tanisa

Hi Bianca! I am a fellow Vancouver island citizen and I am so glad I found your page. I will be in Cinque Terre for 5 days and I have a few questions. My first, how to I get from Milan to Monterosso the fastest as that is where I… Read more »

Racheal
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Racheal

This was SUPER helpful, thank you so much!! My husband and I are planning on coming to Cinque Terre in June. I wasn’t planning on looking at booking a tour but since you’ve already posted so much info on here and have been so helpful I think I’ll check it… Read more »

Marijane Trombly
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Marijane Trombly

This is complicated. My husband and I are coming into Florence August 26 at 8 Am on the cruise ship, Insignia. We leave the next day at 8 PM. My husband and I really want to take an overnight hike, staying in a hotel or a B&B. Do you have… Read more »

Chris
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Chris

Bianca, Great information. Sadly, we only have a full day in May and I plan on hiking Trail #2 from Monterosso to Riomaggiore. Next time I’m booking with you for a longer trip! Question: Are there any issues with hiking on a Sunday in terms of trains and information office… Read more »

Fran
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Fran

Thanks for all your great advice! I’ve wanted to visit Cinque Terre since we moved her 6 months ago…and we finally got the last minute long weekend chance – this weekend! I’ve been pouring over your great info and we’re ready to wing it and enjoy. 😉

wayne Barrett
Guest
wayne Barrett

Hi thanks for great info.We are visiting Cinque terre in June this year with 2 other couples having discovered it last september on a day trip from Genoa.We will be hiking for five days around the area and then having 2 days in Pisa before heading home [uk].We will be… Read more »

Olga Mallo
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Olga Mallo

Hi Bianca , I would like to make my trip to Cinque Terre a solo one. What do you think and . or recommend? I also would like to spend about 3 days after that in a farmhouse in Tuscany maybe near Siena. Hoe do you recomend to ttavel form… Read more »

Erin
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Erin

Hello! Thanks for all the great information. My husband and I will be driving. Can we park and leave our car at a train station? I don’t want to try and drive into the town.
Thanks!

Heather Arbour
Guest

You’re website is absolutely amazing!! I have been searching and searching for information on Cinque Terre for a last minute trip my husband and I are planning, and until I came across your site, I felt hopeless with all the information about the place floating around! Just a few kudos… Read more »

Jason
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Jason

Hi Bianca, What is a good restaurant in Riomaggiore that could accommodate a larger group for an early dinner/late lunch? Friends were talking about Vertical Bar, what would you recommend?

Mandie
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Mandie

Thank you – just thank you! Your blog has been beyond helpful to me in planning my vacation and I’ve referenced it a few times since I’ve been here. Truly appreciate your knowledge and honesty!

Joe Eriser
Guest
Joe Eriser

HI… your info is very helpful. I have developed a bit of a problem with heights. If the trail’s are narrow or if they have steep drop-offs, I will likely have issues on the trail. Are most of the trails of this nature. The views and scenery are spectacular. I’d… Read more »

Tariq
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Tariq

We are staying in Vernazza 25-27 April 2017. We will have a 10 month old with us. We do not want to hike the complete trails as it will be difficult for us with a small child. We are thinking of doing part of Vernazza to Monterosso trail uptill the… Read more »

Mira
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Mira

Wow !!! I loved all your articles. So helpful. Few questions. This will be our first time in Italy. Our kids are 5 and 8. What’s the best town from the 5 should we stay at considering we have kids and what’s the best top 2 or 3 hikes you… Read more »

Ross Montelbano
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Ross Montelbano

I’ll be making my 6th trip to Cinque Terre in June with my wife. I know quite a bit about the area and agree with your assessment of the area. I have to tell you, this is the best and most complete into that I have ever read and I… Read more »

Raphael Slattery
Guest

I am wanting to travel to Cinque Terre however a lot of people say that I would not like it as i am not very fit. on the whole is it hard, big steps and would i just be wasting my time. My partner is very fit. It looks beautiful… Read more »

Joanna
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Joanna

Hi pretty! I need to tell you- your writing style is soo amazing. I am like- I have just started reading your article and in another minute I have found myself looking at comments . Wow. That was quick reading. So many great hints – thank you for that. With… Read more »

Shelley
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Shelley

Hello! Thanks for the info! We will be traveling with a 3-month old and plan to hike with him in a carrier/baby backpack. Is the section from Vernazza to Monterosso safe to do this with him, and if so, which direction do you recommend? Grazie!

Talina
Guest
Talina

Hi there, I’ve got 8 days free after a work trip in London in 2 weeks and was thinking of getting a train to Nice, spend 2/3 nights in that area and then travelling to Cinque Terre. I’m travelling alone so I’d like to be in areas that have a… Read more »

Liz
Guest
Liz

super advice about chilling out. Not as easy as it sounds, but so much saner to adopt the Italian way. a nice glass of wine doesn’t hurt either. It is all good in Italy.

yu main
Guest
yu main

Savvy article , I was fascinated by the specifics . Does someone know where my business would be able to locate a fillable UNESCO HR 5-1 example to use ?

Eloise
Guest
Eloise

Hi there, I am going to CT in late September and wanting to know if ferries will be operating at this time of year. If so, do the ferries only stop at certain towns? I have checked the average weather and it looks like it can still be quite mild… Read more »

Sandy
Guest
Sandy

Hi My daughter and I have only one full day on Friday 7th July and we wanted to be able to go from where we are staying in Florence, and do a day trip to take in Pisa and Cinque Terre. The only travel company we have found doesn’t do… Read more »

Kunj Shah
Guest
Kunj Shah

This was a good conversation with you! I have been stressing myself silly as I just couldn’t seem to plan the hows and the wheres.

Thank you. Might pop a question when I’m lost again.

Love
Kunj

Selma
Guest
Selma

Hi! Love your info! Please help…We ( family of 5 with a 9yr old, 7 year old and a 9 month old in a backpack on dad’s back ) are visiting the Cinque Terre in July, arriving by cruise ship on a Saturday ( not great, I know ). Arrive… Read more »

Kelly
Guest
Kelly

Your posts have helped me so much!! I had 1 day to plan a 2 day, spur-of-the-moment trip here on our way to a wedding and you answered every question I had and didn’t have yet 🙂 maybe I’ll run into you in Cinque Terre and thank you in person!

Hedvika
Guest
Hedvika

Hello, thanks for your tips – they were very valuable during our Cinque Terre stay. But based on FAQ No.10, I did not bring my hiking boots – and I wish I had. Well, we did two hikes, the first day from Portovenere to Passo Telegrafo and the second day… Read more »

Amanda Snyder
Guest
Amanda Snyder

Hello can you tell me the best hotel around thats outside of Cinque Terre any advice since we will have a car and I seen that most cars are not allowed in the village so just wondering whats nearby that we can take the train in everyday!
Thanks!

Marli anderson
Guest
Marli anderson

Hi I am planning in doing the hike in 2 weeks. Is it safe to do solo? I will stay in monterosso, will hike from there to vernazza and corniglia day one, them take the train in corniglia back to monterosso. Day 2 will take the train to regiomaggiori and… Read more »

Pearl
Guest
Pearl

Hello. Your blog is just fantasic. I am planning a short trip to CT and your 3nights 4days fit it to a T. Would you please give me some transport advice on getting to/from CT? I am travelling from Annency. So was thinking taking the night bus. Theres a few… Read more »

Hannah Bennett
Guest
Hannah Bennett

Hi. I am going to Cinque Terre in September for 3 days. We are getting the bus from Venice.. staying in La Spezia the first evening then staying in Valdipino for one night and camping in Levanto on the last night. Is it easy to get from Valdipino to the… Read more »

Cori
Guest
Cori

Hi,
We are visiting CinqueTerra at the moment and all the trails are closed. Just wanted to share that they do close at times for any one referencing this article.

Cindy
Guest
Cindy

It has been recommended that we stay in Lerici for our 2 night stay in the Cinque Terra area. Can you catch a train over, or must you ferry? Thoughts on that as home base?

Kelvin
Guest
Kelvin

Hi Bianca, great site you have for CT! I will be in Turin and plan to visit CT thereafter. Should I be booking train tickets from Turin to Monterosso or to La Spezia? A little confused there. Am then heading to Istanbul thereafter but not sure which is the nearest… Read more »

Alejandra
Guest

Hi Bianca! thank you for your site, it is very helpfull, we have a question, it is possible to do wild camping on any of the villages? We would like to spend couple days on the park and we’re doing the travel by foot. And a last one 🙂 if… Read more »

Karla
Guest
Karla

Hello! My husband and I will be traveling to Montefalco, Umbria August 28-September 15. We recently renovated the north tower in the village and have been there several times. We would like to venture out and explore more of Italy. I’d love to see Cinque Terre — I’m an avid… Read more »

Khalid
Guest
Khalid

Hi Bianca, Fellow child of the 416 here — first off, like everyone else, I’m super grateful for your site and it’s very generous of you to take the time to respond to everyone’s questions. My girlfriend and I are planning on doing a day trip from Genoa to CT… Read more »

Angie
Guest
Angie

Thanks so much for the great information!

JR Vidro
Guest
JR Vidro

Planning a trip for 2019, we don’t know Italian, how critical is it to know the languages? Excellent blog!

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