A Challenging Hike with Rewarding Views of the Cinque Terre Villages and the Mediterranean Sea
Distance: 6.6 km (4 miles) Round trip from Monterossa to Vernazza and back. 8 km (5 miles) from the free parking area above Monterosso.
Elevation gain: 175 meters (575 feet)
Hiking Time: 3 hours hiking time (round trip) from town to town. 4 hours from the free parking area above Monterosso.
Difficulty: Moderate. This is not a paved trail and there are many steep sections with uneven surfaces and lack of shade cover. Depending on the time of the year, it can be hot.
Cinque Terre, a UNESCO World Heritage site, encompasses a picturesque series of ancient towns perched above the Mediterranean Sea. Located about 100Km or 60 miles southeast of Genoa, you will find the Cinque Terre villages (Cinque Terre means “Five Lands” in Italian), Monterossa al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. Your friends at lostinbeautifulplaces.com thought we’d share why the Cinque Terre is one of our
Cinque Terre was first settled in the 12th century and has since been a land of fishermen and farmers. Until very recently, the small villages were only accessible by boat or mule trail. Under constant threat of being pillaged by pirates and slave traders, villagers constructed stone fortresses to protect themselves and their possessions. Terraced vineyards and orchards were developed over the centuries and prize-winning agricultural products were exported from the area to places far and wide. Local delicacies such as anchovies, red and white wines, pesto, focaccia bread, and honey gelato are all specialties from this region that have been produced for centuries.
Today, Cinque Terre is a popular tourist destination that attracts visitors from around the world. Each of the villages is now accessible via train, boat, bus, car or hiking trail. This article will focus on hiking trails and car parking options since we had a rental car and hiked between the towns.
The Blue Path Trail
The ‘Sentiero Azzurro’ or “Blue Path” trail links the five villages of Cinque Terra together along rugged seaside paths that pass through vineyards, orchards, and forests. The entire trail is 12km long and can be hiked in about 6 hours, one way. During our visit the southernmost section between Manarola and Riomaggiore were closed. Be sure to check the National Park website to check current trail conditions. .
From November to around mid-March (there are no exact dates), entry to the Blue Path trail is free. During the remainder of the year, a Cinque Terre Card must be purchased in order to access the trails. Tickets are sold at the entrance to the trails and cost 7.50 Euros per day, per person. Combination tickets can be purchased for 16 Euros per person, per day that includes access to the train within the park.
Getting to Cinque Terre
From Genoa: 1.5 hours on the train towards La Spezia. Cost is 9 Euro per person, one way.
From Pisa: 1.5 hours on the train towards La Spezia. Cost is 11 Euros per person, one way.
From Florence: 3 hours on the train towards La Spezia. Cost is 25 Euros per person, one way.
From Milan: 2.5 hours on the train towards La Spezia. Cost is 32 Euros per person, one way.
Within the park: The Cinque Terre trains offer six stops: La Spezia (southeast of the Cinque Terre), the Cinque Terre towns of Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso, and the town of Levanto (northwest of the Cinque Terre) Single, one way, one ride tickets between can be purchased between towns for 2 Euros per person. Purchasing the Cinque Terre Card for 16 Euros includes unlimited train runs on the La Spezia – Levanto line, use of the buses and access to all walking paths and entry to museums.
Although the center of each of the towns is closed to car traffic, all of the towns are able to be reached by car. Parking fees cost 15 Euros per day at each of the parking lots. Spaces fill up fast. This is not a problem, as free parking is available for visitors willing to walk a bit further than the paid spaces. Look for cars lined up along the road before reaching the paid lots. Be careful not to park in the spaces marked for residents. Click here for a link that has detailed parking information.
Monterosso to Vernazza Hike
The route between Monterosso and Vernazza is the most popular and also the most difficult path on the Blue Path trail. It leaves from the east side of the old town of Monterosso. Walk down to the waterfront and then up the small road leading to the Hotel Porto Roca until reaching the sign for Vernazza. After taking the stairs down to the path, a ticket booth comes into view. A park ranger collects fees and issues tickets. Only cash is excepted at the trail locations.
From the ticket booth, the trail begins climbing a steep staircase that passes ancient vineyards, citrus orchards, olive groves and diverse forests. While hiking up the 550 steps of the staircase, there are many places to stop and catch a breath, or snap photos of the
After 45 minutes of climbing, the trail levels out and traverses over a seaside cliff until the path opens up and gives spectacular views of Vernazza. In this section, there is a small “cat village” with signs stating that homeless cats are in need of food. We were able to spot two chubby felines sleeping and they didn’t look like they were starving! After passing the cats, there are a series of lookout points overlooking the beautiful town of Vernazza. Be sure to get some photos here. The featured photo at the top of this article was taken from this area.
The rest of the hike to Vernazza is downhill and offers breathtaking views the entire way down. Once the trail approaches Vernazza, views of the harbor with its boats, swimmers, and sunbathers come into view. After a few more minutes, we were walking shoulder to shoulder with the hordes of tourists in the small village. We were surprised how crowded Vernazza was, but after walking around for a few minutes and getting our bearings, we found small streets to wander through on our own. Cafes and restaurants near the waterfront were very crowded, but we were able to get a table right away for a delicious lunch of traditional Anchovies and Focaccia bread than a yummy gelato.
After spending a couple of hours in Vernazza, we headed back up the trail towards Monterosso. The way back was a bit easier, since the steep stairway into Monterosso was hiked downhill. The sunlight had changed since our hike in the opposite direction and the coastline was awash in the afternoon sunlight. We strolled through the historic streets of Monterosso before walking back to the free parking area above town. By the time we reached our rental car, we were exhausted from both the hiking and the overwhelming beauty of the area. We would gladly do it all over again and we highly recommend this hike to anyone interested in seeing this spectacular section of the Italian Riviera.
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