Tips for Hiking the 5 Villages of Cinque Terre

Tips for hiking between the 5 villages of Cinque Terre, Italy.

The first time I went to Cinque Terre I absolutely fell in love. To this day, it’s still one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. Cinque Terre (pronounced Cheen-Kwah Terra) literally translates to Five Lands and refers to five tiny fishing villages along the north west coast of Italy.

Cinque Terre is well-known for its beautiful hiking trails through vineyards and high cliffs above the villages with breathtaking views over the Mediterranean Sea. Unfortunately, the first time we visited, there had just been a devastating flash flood that swept through the area causing massive landslides. All the hiking trails were closed.

The villages themselves were amazing, and we still had a wonderful time. But I knew one day I wanted to go back and hike these trails. That dream came true last summer. Keep reading below for our tips on visiting Cinque Terre, hiking the trails, and the best place to stay!

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Riomaggiore

Tips for hiking between the 5 villages of Cinque Terre, Italy.

We’ll start with the southern-most village, Riomaggiore. There is an flat, paved path between Riomaggiore and the next village (Manarola) called the via dell’amore which means the Street of Love. It takes about 30 minutes to walk. This is the only trail that was open the first time we went, but ironically, it was closed for repairs this time.

Tips for hiking between the 5 villages of Cinque Terre, Italy.

Even though the trail between the two towns was closed, there are still some hiking paths up into the vinyards above the town that offer panoramic overlooks of the village and ocean.

Tips for hiking between the 5 villages of Cinque Terre, Italy.

Riomaggiore is the best spot in Cinque Terre to watch the sunset. Get there a little bit early so you can grab a spot on the wall or on the rocks down below.


Manarola

Tips for hiking between the 5 villages of Cinque Terre, Italy.

The next village is Manarola. I want to say this is one of my favorites, but who am I kidding! They’re all my favorite! Since the trail from Riomaggiore was closed, we took the train. However if it’s open when you’re there, I highly recommend you take it! It’s the best way to get between the two villages. Even if you’re not a fan of hiking — it’s the easiest out of all the trails. It’s really more like a sidewalk. It’s right along the ocean and the view is beautiful!


Corniglia

Tips for hiking between the 5 villages of Cinque Terre, Italy.

Here’s where we started the real hiking! That little tiny town you see off in the distance is Corniglia, pronounced like the name Cornelia. This photo was taken on the trail from Corniglia to Vernazza.

Tips for hiking between the 5 villages of Cinque Terre, Italy.

The trail between Manarola and Corniglia was closed, so we took the train to Corniglia. From the train station, you have to climb 382 steps to reach the hilltop town of Corniglia.

Click here to see pictures of Corniglia from our first visit.

Tips for hiking between the 5 villages of Cinque Terre, Italy.

The trail from Corniglia to Vernazza starts here: {GPS Location} Take the main street (Via Stazione) up the hill, away from the train station until you see the trail (and the guard shack where they will be checking your trail pass) on your left.

Length: 2 miles
Time: 1 hour 45 minutes to walk

Tips for hiking between the 5 villages of Cinque Terre, Italy.

Just before you reach Vernazza, there’s a little restaurant high in the hills with an AMAZING overlook of Vernazza and the massive waves crashing on the cliffs below. I recommend stopping and having lunch here, if only for the view!! However the food was fabulous as well. How beautiful is this lemon cake made with local lemons? You’ll see the lemon trees everywhere throughout Cinque Terre.

Be sure to bring cash! The restaurant is cash only, and it’s a long way down (and back up) to Vernazza if you need to go to the ATM. Don’t ask me how I know.


Vernazza

Tips for hiking between the 5 villages of Cinque Terre, Italy.

Ahhh, Vernazza! If I had to choose, this really is my favorite village in Cinque Terre. Plan to spend some extra time here exploring all the narrow alleys and try to find the road above town that leads to a quiet cemetery with an unbelievable view. {Approximate GPS Location}

Tips for hiking between the 5 villages of Cinque Terre, Italy.

Vernazza was hit hardest by the floods in 2011. Thirteen feet of mud covered the village. Cars were literally swept into the sea. We spoke with one store owner who narrowly escaped with his life, just barely catching the last train out. They had just started to slowly rebuild the village the last time we were here.

Tips for hiking between the 5 villages of Cinque Terre, Italy.

This time, I was so, so happy to see Vernazza completely restored to its full glory. The first time we were here, the tower above town, Castello Doria, was closed due to the flooding. It was something I really wanted to do, so I was thrilled it was open this time! It is such an incredible view. Castello Doria is a must!!

Tips for hiking between the 5 villages of Cinque Terre, Italy.


Getting Around Cinque Terre

Buy the Cinque Terre Card at the train station which will give you unlimited rides on the trains, unlimited access on the hiking trails, and free Wi-Fi at the train stations.

The Cinque Terre Card is a must! They never checked it on the trains, but they check it on all of the trails. Even if you don’t want to do the hikes, you need access to the trails to get to the best overlooks and most photogenic spots. You can buy the card at all of the train stations in the five villages, and also the neighboring cities of Levanto and La Spezia.

The trains run between the five villages every 30-60 minutes during the day. This is probably plenty of time to see the village, unless you want extra time for eating or hiking. Usually you can arrive on one train and leave on the next.

Once on the train it only takes about 5 minutes to get from one village to the next. In the evening the trains run less often — more like every 2 hours — so if you’re planning to have dinner in one of the villages, be sure to check the train schedule so you don’t get stuck there!


Tips for hiking between the 5 villages of Cinque Terre, Italy.

The trail from Vernazza to Monterosso is probably the most challenging. It’s also a little tricky to find where it starts in Vernazza. From the main square with all the restaurants by the water, if you’re facing the water, look to your right at the row of colorful houses. On the right, in the corner, there’s a peach house with green shutters. There is a very narrow staircase there. Take the staircase up and turn left, and follow the path.

Tips for hiking between the 5 villages of Cinque Terre, Italy.

If you want a much easier hike, definitely hike from Vernazza to Monterosso (and not vice versa). The trail is much easier and Monterosso has the best beach of all five villages — so you can relax on the beach after your hike!

Be sure to bring water and snacks on your hike!

Length: 1.8 miles
Time: 2 hours to walk


Monterosso

Tips for hiking between the 5 villages of Cinque Terre, Italy.

This was taken on the trail from Vernazza to Monterosso. You can see Monterosso and the beach off in the distance. Towards the end of the trail, you’ll meet people coming up the trail hiking to Vernazza… And you’ll be so, so glad you read this post and started in Vernazza. ;)


Where to Stay

You can stay in any of the five villages, except I don’t recommend staying in Corniglia, just because of all the stairs! You want to stay as close to the train station as possible, because you’ll be on and off the train frequently, and you’ll also be carrying your luggage. If you stay in one of the villages, you might have to carry you luggage up some narrow, uneven stone staircases. Be sure to read the reviews on the hotel before booking.

A better option might be to stay in one of the neighboring cities of Levanto or La Spezia. They’re a bit bigger and offer more (and usually more affordable) accommodations and dining options. They’re only 5 minutes by train to Cinque Terre, so it’s almost like you’re staying there. Again, try to book a place as close to the train station as possible.

The first time, we stayed at Hotel Cinque Terre in Monterosso. The second time, we stayed in an Airbnb in La Spezia. Join Airbnb using this link to get $40 off your first booking.

If you do stay in La Spezia, please have dinner at Vicolo Intherno and get the lasagna!! I am still dreaming about that lasagna to this day. Hands down, the BEST lasagna I have ever had!! :)


Tips for hiking between the 5 villages of Cinque Terre, Italy.

Until next time!!