Cinque Terre hiking is the best way to see this beautiful region of Italy. Once we arrived in Monterosso, I heard several people talking about it as we walked around town getting groceries for the stay. There several signs in the village encouraging people to take on the hike that takes you through the five towns that make up Cinque Terre. After spending a couple of days in Monterosso and then Corniglia, I began to understand that the epic photos that are posted on Instagram and Facebook from Cinque Terre are from the trails along the hiking paths. At that point, I knew I wanted to do it. I wanted to see ALL of these awesome views. I wanted to capture my own!
I spoke with two different sets of locals in town over the next couple of days. One group of friends told me the Cinque Terre hiking experience would be extremely hard due to the path being under construction from Corniglia to Riomaggiore. They said that it was typically not that difficult but with the coastal path not available, the tougher path ‘through the mountains’ gives people a difficult time. They also reiterated that most people don’t do the whole path from Monterosso to Riomaggiore in one day. They said it was best to split it into two days.
Another lady and her daughter that I spoke to at the mini-market, said that it would be “easy” for a guy of my size and condition, as I was attempting to understand where the blue path actually started in Monterosso. She said it would take about 5-6 hours. I was encouraged by her insight.
With this broken knowledge, I decided I was in and would conquer the Cinque Terre hiking adventure. In my mind, I was going to do the whole path from Monterosso to Riomaggiore starting in the morning.
Out of the Airbnb around 7:05 am, I was pumped to see what the path offered. Because we were on the northern end of Monterosso, I had to make my way along the coast a bit, head through the tunnel, and then begin my search for any road sign that told me where the Blue Path began. Finally, I spotted a broken looking Vernazza sign (the next town) and decided that was my beginning point. Sure enough, around the corner, there was a path and steps that led up the first of many hills. That initial climb got my heart going and, after a short break about 20 minutes into it, I was moving.
I am not going to break down my entire Cinque Terre hiking adventure step by step but I will share a few things to consider, a ton of photos, a video that I put together, and my comments/highlights of the journey.
Few things to consider if you decide that the Cinque Terre hike is something you want to add to your list:
- Be prepared with proper equipment. As you can see from some of my photos, the path is not always easy.
- Make sure you are in pretty decent shape. I saw a few people along the way that looked like they were damn near dead. With the current construction, there are several spots that are extremely difficult. I believe this was much more difficult than the walk to get the Best View of Machu Picchu.
- Hydrate! I had one full water bottle and used the fountains when entering each town. The Italian water is delicious and safe.
- If you are trying to save money, leave early! I ended up not having to pay for any of the checkpoints because only one was open (I think it’s 5 Euro total to walk the Blue Path). I tried to pay at that open booth but she waved me on for free since there was so much construction. Score!
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions on the directions. I took two wrong turns that cost me 20 minutes each. Both ended up giving me beautiful views so it was worth it.
- Don’t wear headphones. I had mine but never put them in. The waves crashing, nature talking, the wind. Take it all in! That is why you are there.
- Stop and talk with others. It’s a great excuse for a break and you will meet people from all over the world.
Below are the detailed numbers posted by a local organization in Cinque Terre. As you will see, I disagree with their shared information in my comments below based on my hike.
MONTEROSSO – VERNAZZA
Difficulty: They say -> Average
Length: 2.2 miles
Duration: 1.5 hour
My Comments: ‘Average’ for an experienced hiker. Though much of it has steps and some railing, there are many difficult parts to this leg. I completed in less than an hour.
VERNAZZA – CORNIGLIA
Difficulty: They say -> Average
Length: 2.5 miles
Duration: 1.5 – 2 hours
My Comments: Similar to above. It’s not so ‘Average’ in my opinion unless you are doing these types of treks often. Beautiful coastline! I completed in a little over an hour.
CORNIGLIA – MANAROLA
Difficulty: They say -> Easy
Length: 1.9 miles
Duration: 1 hour
My comments: Under construction – Difficult! The 587 path was the one available and it was very steep. Some big steps up the hill were necessary and I was winded on a couple occasions. This was about 1 – 1.5 hours for me. I blew 20 minutes going the wrong way in Corniglia as well. Up and down a ton of steps for no reason. Oh well.
MANAROLA – RIOMAGGIORE
Difficulty: They say -> Easy
Length: 1 mile
Duration: 30 minutes
My comments: Dear God! Because it was under construction, I had to take the 531 Trail which was brutal. It’s basically a slippery rock path up the mountain. Not necessarily a trail. You have to hold on at times, pace yourself, be cautious of most of your steps and have good footing throughout. The scenic view at the top is wonderful. Coming down on the Riomaggiore side of the hill was not as bad but still tough. At this point in the hike, many more people were on the path and several were contemplating giving up already (assuming they started in Riomaggiore and were making their way to Manarola). I am glad this was my last leg. Took me at least an hour.
- Leaving early. It was extremely quiet on the trail early and it gave me a sense of oneness with nature. I recommend leaving by at least 7 am if you want to beat the heat.
- Walking through the towns. It was such a unique experience to be winded from the walks up the hills and through rough terrain, then to walk the beautiful paths of the narrow streets/walkways in the scenic towns of Cinque Terre. Midway through the attached video shows a taste of what that was like (2:40 mark).
- Stopping to ‘smell the roses’ along the way. As you can tell with all of the photos and videos, I really took it all in. The beauty of Cinque Terre, Italy is truly unique and the hike gave me a chance to take it all in and reflect on our Journey so Far.
- Not quitting. Because each town is along the train line, it’s a great option to stop at any of the five towns to grab the train back to where your home is (Monterosso in my case). That said, I pushed through when it entered my mind in Corniglia and, especially, Manarola. Manarola was a very tough decision because I was about 4 hours into the hike at that point but I was glad I pushed through.
- Completing the Cinque Terre Hiking adventure in about 5 hours even with all of the construction and two 20 minute errors. I spoke to several people later that told me my time was quite fast.
Overall, my Cinque Terre hiking experience was a wonderful time. I felt so good after completing it (my final numbers showed over 11 miles) and I will carry those beautiful epic Instagram-made views in my head forever. Best of luck if you attempt it. I hope all of the construction is completed for you….
Traveled July 2017