Trekking in the Cinque Terre: the most beautiful trails
The Cinque Terre are the perfect place to organise a vacation if you want to spend time in the open air, immersed in nature, admiring breathtaking panoramas and unique views. Lovers of trekking and hiking will be able to take advantage of a well-developed network of 120 km (approx. 75 mi) of trails connecting the villages of the Cinque Terre.
Seas, cliffs, forests, vineyards, and multicoloured houses: read on if you want to discover the most beautiful itineraries in the Cinque Terre.
Trekking in the Cinque Terre: the itineraries
The two main paths that cross the Cinque Terre are the Sentiero Azzurro and the Alta Via delle Cinque Terre, but there are many variations and alternatives that allow you to visit hidden places and admire the wonders of this area from different perspectives.
This route is certainly the most famous in the Cinque Terre National Park and is also not particularly demanding.
Starting from Riomaggiore, the Sentiero Azzurro crosses the Cinque Terre in a pleasant up and down along the Ligurian coast to Monterosso. The trail can also be done in reverse, and to return to the starting point, there is a convenient train that crosses the mountains of the Ligurian Apennines between numerous tunnels. This trail can be divided into four shorter stages so visitors can go to all of the colourful villages that give the national park its name.
- Difficulty: Easy
- Distance: 11km
- Duration: 5 h (excluding breaks)
- Start: Riomaggiore
- Arrival: Monterosso
- Useful advice: The area can be subject to landslides during bad weather, so we recommend checking the state of the path before setting off and possibly looking for an alternative trail. This path is subject to payment and requires the purchase of the Cinque Terre Trekking Card (available from this link).
Alta Via delle Cinque TerreThis trail starts in Portovenere and arrives in Levanto, crossing the entire Cinque Terre National Park in length. It is a more demanding hike that can also be divided into five short stages. This itinerary runs at a higher altitude than the Sentiero Azzurro but encounters several junctions where it is possible to deviate the path and reach the villages of the Cinque Terre. Dedicated hikers may be able to complete this trek in one day.
- Difficulty: Medium
- Distance: 40km
- Duration: 12 h (excluding breaks)
- Start: Portovenere
- Arrival: Levanto
- Useful advice: It is difficult to find water sources along the trail, so make sure to have a good supply of water with you.
Stairs to MonesteroliThis itinerary is one of the most evocative of the Cinque Terre and consists of a stairway with 1,100 steps overlooking the sea to the small, almost uninhabited village of Monesteroli. The best starting point for this excursion is Campiglia, from which it takes about 40 minutes to reach the beginning of the staircase. This path also allows you to admire the Nozzano Fountain, built in 1805 by Napoleon's troops.
- Difficulty: medium
- Distance: 4km
- Duration: 1.5 h (excluding breaks)
- Departure: Campiglia
- Finish: Monesteroli
- Useful advice: The steps can be very demanding and slippery in places
Via dei Santuari
The Via dei Santuari is an itinerary connecting five sanctuaries located on the hills overlooking the Cinque Terre.
The route starts from the Sanctuary of Nostra Signora di Soviore, not far from Monterosso, and continues at high altitude to the sanctuaries of Nostra Signora di Reggio, Nostra Signora delle Grazie di San Bernardino, and Nostra Signora della Salute di Volastra. This itinerary ends in the vicinity of Riomaggiore, at the Sanctuary of Nostra Signora di Montenero, where one can enjoy a spectacular view of Punta Mesco and the islands of Palmaria and Tino. It is possible to walk the Via dei Santuari in one day, or to divide the route into five short stages.
- Difficulty: Medium
- Distance: 22km
- Duration: 7 h (excluding breaks)
- Start: Sanctuary of Nostra Signora di Soviore
- Finish: Sanctuary of Nostra Signora di Montenero
- Useful advice: During the itinerary you can take advantage of some water points at the Sanctuary of Soviore, Sanctuary of Reggio, San Bernardino and Volastra. All 5 sanctuaries are individually connected to the villages of the Cinque Terre, so it is also possible to visit them without following the Via dei Santuari.
Considered one of the most beautiful itineraries in the area, the Sentiero dell'Infinito (Infinity Trail) starts in Riomaggiore and arrives in Portovenere, passing through important points of interest such as the Montenero Sanctuary and the villages of Cas Lemmen and Campiglia. The itinerary offers a unique view of the Ligurian coast and the islands of Palmaria and Tino, but at the highest points, such as the Telegrafo hill, you can also admire the panorama offered by the Gulf of La Spezia and the Apuan Alps.
- Difficulty: Medium
- Distance: 12km
- Duration: 5 h (excluding breaks)
- Start: Riomaggiore
- Finish: Portovenere
- Useful advice: This path is rarely affected by landslides, so it can be an alternative to the other routes when those are not accessible. The itinerary does not have any specific difficulties but is not recommended for those who suffer from vertigo.
What to know before hiking in the Cinque Terre
Means of transport
There are several alternatives for reaching the Cinque Terre and moving between the various villages:
- Train. This is certainly the most convenient option because it allows one to move quickly and effortlessly throughout the Cinque Terre and also to the neighbouring villages. This solution is very economical and can be useful for those who cannot trek on foot or for those who have to carry bulky weights, such as suitcases.
- Walking. The more adventurous may decide to move around the Cinque Terre on foot, given the dense network of paths connecting the different villages. The trails that connect the Cinque Terre are short and not particularly demanding, but require a small amount of preparation and the right equipment.
- Car. The Cinque Terre can also be visited by car, but this option is certainly not the easiest. The Provincial Road 'Litoranea delle Cinque Terre' is often narrow and very busy, and it is also very difficult to find parking. It is not uncommon to find cars parked along the roadway outside the designated spaces.
- Ferry. It is possible to reach the Cinque Terre by ferry from Portovenere, Levanto or La Spezia. The service only operates from March to November and allows you to reach all the villages of the Cinque Terre with the exception of Corniglia, which has no port.
- Bus. The bus service does not connect the villages of the Cinque Terre but only serves a few short routes to facilitate movement to points of interest. One example is the route that connects Riomaggiore to Monesteroli, for those who want to visit the small uninhabited village without tackling the 1100-step path.
You may consider using several means of transportation to travel within the Cinque Terre. One of the most common ways involves walking along the Sentiero Azzurro and returning to the starting point by train.
Cinque Terre Trekking Card
Access to the Sentiero Azzurro, the most famous itinerary of the Cinque Terre, is subject to payment and requires the purchase of the Cinque Terre Trekking Card, which offers numerous advantages to those wishing to visit the area. In addition to allowing access to the Sentiero Azzurro, this card offers the possibility of joining guided tours, using the bus service, access to public restrooms, using the public wifi network in designated areas, and benefiting from preferential prices for the civic museums of La Spezia.
The daily price of the Cinque Terre Trekking Card is €7.50 for adults, but the National Park offers different rates for children, larger groups, and those who want to stay for two days. The card can be purchased from this link.
Cinque Terre Train Card
This card is an alternative version of the Cinque Terre Trekking Card and, in addition to all the benefits offered by the former, also includes the possibility of travelling second class on all regional and fast regional trains on the Levanto - La Spezia route, which connects all the villages of the Cinque Terre.
The daily price is €18.20 for adults, but the National Park also offers different rates for children, larger groups, and those who want to stay for several days. The card can be purchased from this link.
The Cinque Terre are a very popular destination, so in high season the trails may be very crowded. In summer, temperatures are also very high, especially in the middle of the day, so the best months for trekking in the Cinque Terre are April and May or September and October.
Rain and bad weather every year cause erosion to the trails, which are often subject to landslides, so it is advisable to always check the condition of the trails before embarking on a hike, and to check whether all routes are open and feasible. For this information, contact the Cinque Terre National Park or the tourist office directly.
Prohibitions and rules
The authority responsible for managing the Cinque Terre National Park has provided certain restrictions for the safety of travellers and to safeguard the fragile ecosystem of the Cinque Terre. In particular:
- It is forbidden to use open or smooth-soled footwear on the National Park's hiking trails. Therefore, it is prohibited to walk on the trails in flip-flops or sandals, otherwise you run the risk of being fined.
- It is not possible to camp freely within the National Park and there are no equipped camping areas.
- Dogs must be always kept on a leash.
- It is forbidden to pick flowers, plants, and fruit.
- It is forbidden to feed wildlife.
- It is strongly inadvisable to use the trails in the event of bad weather and weather warnings. The sale of the Cinque Terre Card may be suspended on certain occasions.
What to bring: our advice
The trails in the Cinque Terre National Park are not particularly demanding, but in some sections the ground can be slippery. To tackle the trails in this area, it is strongly recommended to use hiking shoes with a sole tread that guarantees grip and traction (e.g. Michelin®, Vibram® or GTF). You can use low-cut shoes for more freedom of movement, or you may prefer mid-cut boots for greater ankle protection.
In the summer months the temperatures are very high, so our advice is to use a shoe without a waterproof membrane, as non-waterproof shoes will be more breathable and allow your feet to stay cooler. If you prefer to have a waterproof shoe, you can opt for the GORE-TEX® Surround® membrane, the most breathable possible, featured in the 9.81 N.AIR.G 2.0 GTX® model.
Water sources are not very common, so it is a good idea to carry at least two water bottles to stay hydrated, especially if the temperature is high. It is recommended to use ample amounts of sunscreen to avoid sunburn, and to use a hat to protect your head from the sun's rays, which can cause sunstroke during scorching summer days.
Since the area of the Cinque Terre is dense with trails and its vegetation is often thick and rich, it may be difficult to find your way along some sections of the itinerary. We recommend you take a trekking GPS with you so that you can easily find your way and do not get lost when walking along infrequently-used trails, especially in the low season.
Lastly, we recommend putting a first aid kit in your rucksack. The trails in the Cinque Terre are very crowded in the summer so it is not difficult to find help if you need it, but it is still always a good idea to have a first aid kit, which can also be useful to other people you meet along the way.