The Cinque Terre Is a national park and Unesco Heritage site with some of the best trails in Europe. The five villages are quite close together but with high temperatures in Summer and rugged terrain in places and stairs! here are a few things you might want to know before attempting this brilliant way to shake off some of those decadent Italian meals.
The most popular route is the the Sentiero Azzurro, or “Blue Trail”. Taking about 6 hours to walk the Sentiero Azzuroi requires the purchase of the Cinque Terre card which will cost between €5-7 euro/day for trail and museum access admission. Technically the trails are free but with this card you are safely covered. At many points along the trail there are little huts framed with signs and guides to collect your money and answer any questions.
Like any hike or run be prepared. Whatever time of year things can change; wear layers. Be equipped with sunscreen, a hat and a long sleeve shirt and for the end - a bathing suit. In summer although Cinque Terre is framed by the sea temperatures in the summer months can soar so it advisable to set out nice and early in the morning. At times trails can be closed due to rain and landslides but there are plenty of options…like the train!
For example, at the time of writing this the trail between Manarola and Cornelia is closed due to a landslide. The options are to follow the much higher 6d route up through the vineyards and onto the steep (continuous) mountain side - or jump on the train for a short trip and continue on your route.
The trail starts fairly relaxing from Riomaggiore, Manarola and then Corniglia, before taking on a gradual and at times very steep incline through the remaining villages. If possible carry a Camelbak or similar water bottles as it can be quite expensive to buy en-route. The route is definitely a proper trail with jagged rocks, mud, sand and steep inclines and declines making it absolutely necessary to wear proper trail running or hiking shoes shoes - and believe it or not is possible to get lost with merging and intertwined trails. Maps can be purchased from the kiosks along the way if necessary. And remember a camera is a MUST!
The entire trail is best started from Riomaggiore. The paved level path provides 20 minutes (10 minutes running) of tremendous scenic views before arriving in Manarola. Known as Via dell’Amore (The Path of Love), tourists attach locks to rocks fences and poles to signify their love for their partner. From Manarola the path continuing on to Corniglia is also relatively easy with spectacular gardens and sea views. At Corniglia you’ve reached the highest point and the smallest village far above the ocean. A gruelling 365 steps reaches you to the centre of town if you are up for a challenge. For many Corniglia is a good turning around point. Onward the trail is much more undulating. However reaching Vernazza you are rewarded with a beautiful, photogenic seaside village. Your final destination is the beach resort of the Cinque Terre - Monterosso. Time to drench the sweaty weary body in the inviting sea before a short train journey back to the start. A job-well-done!