Hiking on seaside cliffs, colorful vistas, culture and cheap local wine by the carafe. Cinque Terre has EVERYTHING we love. It’s really is as indescribable as they say.
Cinque Terre or “five towns” is a string of five villages along the Italian Riviera dating back centuries. The cliffside hiking trails connecting the villages together were our main draw to the area. Villages can also be reached individually by train as well (once your legs trie from hiking). You can lodge in one village and hike or train to a new one each day. Lodging in multiple villages is not recommended, due to their steep nature. You’ll get the most from your days by lodging in one place.
We stayed in the first of the villages, Monterosso. We chose this Village as it’s the largest and has the longest coastline. Additionally, Monterosso is situated on the far side of the string of villages meaning we could hike in one direction without backtracking. Monterosso has many dining options and a hillside winery for tasting (Buranco, they make the best wine). You can choose to stay in any of the villages or the surrounding towns. We were very happy with our choice of Monterosso. Our apartment was in the old town of Monterosso, and cost about 50 euro a night in the low season. No cars are allowed in Cinque Terre, so if you’re arriving by car you’ll need to park it before going into the villages. Everything can be reached by foot once there.
If you’re a frequent reader / follower, you’ll know we HATE traveling in the high season. We much prefer the shoulder season, as crowded tourist attractions are just not our thing, if we can avoid it. Cinque Terre is one place I would dread in the high season. (See our post about visiting Santorini, Greece in the shoulder season HERE) The hiking trails between the villages are very narrow and crumbling down the hillside in some areas. During late October, we had the trails almost to ourselves. The weather was just cool enough to make a strenuous hike very pleasurable. Additionally, accommodations are less expensive and we got the best sunset dining views without a wait.
Each of the villages is unique in it’s own way, however they each share the bright burst of color and old Italian village vibe. They all specialize in local wine and seafood, with grapes grown on their hillside and fresh fish caught that morning. While we loved visiting (and eating in) each of the villages. We found Riomaggiore to be our favorite of the villages to visit, as the colorful views of the city from their port are not to be missed. We urge you to visit each of them!
There is an entrance fee for the hiking trails that can be purchased at the head of the trail for one or multiple days (option to include train fare exists). Our 3 day hike / train pass cost 40 euro each. A steep fare, but the fees go toward maintaining the trails and are put to good use. In my opinion, the trails are just as beautiful as the towns themselves.
Monterosso to Vernazza:
Second in steepness and rigor only to the Vernazza – Corniliga hike, this is a great first day, new legs, hike! At it’s start, you immediately climb hundreds of earthy steps up into hillside vineyards. Make sure to look back at the view of Monterosso. This hike should take 2-3 hours depending on how often you stop to gape at the views and catch your breath.
Stop in Vernazza for a coffee and to take in the small city, before continuing on your journey.
Vernazza to Corniliga:
The steepest and longest of the hikes. We hiked this after hiking from Monterosso and stopping for coffee in Verenazza. After the Monterosso hike, this hike was a challenge, however the views around every turn make you forget the burning in your legs. This hike will take 3-3.5 hours if you’re not met with hike traffic. The trail is very narrow and most of the time you’ll be hiking single file.
We grabbed lunch in the Corniligia town square of pizza, salad with a 1/2 bottle of local wine.
Corniglia to Manarola:
At the time of the post (Oct 2017) the hiking trail between Corniglia and Manarola had been temporarily closed due to land slides. Other travelers we encountered claimed it’s still possible to attempt but very steep and dangerous. The alternate route, which is much longer and steeper than the original route, takes you high up through the hill town of Volastra. We attempted this hike after trekking from Monterosso to Vernazza and then to Corniliga. After 1 mile of hiking straight up, we turned back and headed for the train and a bottle of wine.
When you make it to Manarola, there is a gorgeous hike through the vineyards with views of the sea and the city below. In the summer, the vineyards allow tasting, but any time of year is wonderful for walking through the vineyards. Both the mountains and see are unobstructed from the vineyard walk.
Manarola to Riomaggiore: “Via dell’Amore”
The route between Manarola and Riomaggiore has been “temporarily” closed for the past few years, but expected be reopened in 2019. The Beccara trail, marked as an alternate route, has also been closed. Read more about it HERE. Large gates prohibit you from entering or exiting the trail. However its still accessible, kind of. We came across a couple as they were climbing over the gate to finish the hike in Riomaggiore. They claimed the hike was “easy”, that climbing the gates was the most difficult. They hopped over em pretty quickly though. Of course, the train is a slightly safer / quicker / more boring route. There is a beautiful walking route along the exterior cliffside of Riomaggiore that is well worth visiting.
While we didn’t have time, Portoverne and Portofino are absolute stunners. We’ve saved them for next time 😉
Have you been to Cinque Terre? Which was your favorite town?
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