Easy Hiking Experience and More in Cinque Terre

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One of the best, perhaps the single best feature of the Cinque Terre’s signature trail – the Blue Path – is its variety of views: you see the villages from different angles, sometimes in isolation and sometimes several at a time, sometimes from the front and sometimes from behind, sometimes from far away and sometimes from close up.

As far as Vernazza is concerned, the good-bye is even more scenic than the welcome on the approach from Monterosso …

"View of Vernazza - Easy Hiking Experience and More in Cinque Terre"

… even though the view inevitably lacks the drama of the first encounter. Nothing ever looks as tempting again after you have been there and experienced it close-up. (Does this perhaps contain a more general lesson about life? You tell me.)

We are now on the trail to Corniglia …

"trail to Corniglia - Easy Hiking Experience and More in Cinque Terre"

… which is nearly as long as the route from Monterosso to Vernazza (approx. 3 km) but much less challenging. Once you have gained a little bit of height during the climb out of Vernazza, the trail essentially remains flat apart from a steep ascent roughly at the half-way point.

"trail VErnazza-Corniglia - Easy Hiking Experience and More in Cinque Terre"

If you can do only one of the two hikes, I would suggest to walk from Monterosso to Vernazza if you do not mind a bit of a sportive challenge since this is the altogether more scenic walk. But if you feel lazy, it’s probably best to take the train to Corniglia and walk in the direction of Vernazza.

While stage one of the Blue Path is equally challenging in both directions, stage two slopes downhill from Corniglia, the only one of the five villages that was built high on a rock.

But beware: the train does not do all of the climbing for you, and you will arrive quite a long way below the village centre which means that the first thing you will have to do is ascend a long and steep staircase. Still, this is the easiest available “easy hiking” option in the Cinque Terre, now that the wheelchair-accessible route from Riomaggiore to Manarola – all 1000 metres of it – has been closed for the foreseeable future.

Other than that, the two northern legs of the Blue Path are rather similar, sharing the same motives of sea, sky and mountains.

"On the way to Corniglia - Easy Hiking Experience and More in Cinque Terre"

The second leg, however, features better views of the terraced mountain vineyards …

"hillside vineyards - Easy Hiking Experience and More in Cinque Terre"

… several of which come into view when you are approaching Corniglia. Until the relatively recent arrival of mass tourism, wine growing was the local folks’ main source of income.

"vineyards and the sea - Easy Hiking Experience and More in Cinque Terre"

Also note that there is a bar on the final descent to Corniglia which serves the irresistible combination of freshly-squeezed orange juice and a splendid view of Corniglia.

"Corniglia seen from Vernazza trail - Easy Hiking Experience and More in Cinque Terre"

While sitting by the window, you may want to reflect why the lure of the five villages appears to grow in direct proportion to their distance. From up close, they can feel very much like touristic hell holes, but seen like this, shimmering in the mist like Camelot or Brigadoon, they look as though they were imbued with magical qualities.

Since only two of the four Blue Path stages were open during our visit, we returned the next day for sight-seeing in the two villages we had not been able to see on Day One.

It was an unusually hot and sticky day for June, and Manarola and Riomaggiore were full of people …

"tourist packed Corniglia - Easy Hiking Experience and More in Cinque Terre"

… which made it difficult to enjoy the experience.

But “you pays your money and you makes your choice”: off-season, you would have all of this more or less to yourself, but the risk of closed trail sections is also far greater.

Getting the best of Cinque Terre on your visit

The time window for a “perfect visit” is therefore small: the Monterosso-to-Vernazza-trail was only re-opened in March this year after seasonal repairs. It is also worth recalling that the biggest Cinque Terre catastrophe of recent years, the devastating flash floods of 2011, occurred in October. After that, the entire Blue Path was closed for months, and stages 1 and 2 were only re-opened in April and June respectively of the following year.

On Day Two, we also went to Porto Venere, which is not a part of the Cinque Terre group of villages – it is located a little to the south, inside the Gulf of La Spezia – but nevertheless included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can conveniently travel there by taking the bus from La Spezia* (leaving from Viale Garibaldi).

In Porto Venere, you can visit the Byron Grotto from where the poet is said to have swum all the way to Lerici (on the other side of the Gulf) to visit his friend Shelley …

"a visit to Porto Venere - Easy Hiking Experience and More in Cinque Terre"

… and walk up to the dramatically located San Pietro church which overlooks the entrance to the Gulf of La Spezia.

"leaving Porto Venere - Easy Hiking Experience and More in Cinque Terre"

We found this a very rewarding short trip, not least because we got to taste the local specialty, deep-fried anchovies which are served with equally deep-fried slices of vegetable. Highly recommended!

"acciughe monterosso - Easy Hiking Experience and More in Cinque Terre"

From Porto Venere, you can hike to Riomaggiore if you have the energy (14 km) or take the boat to one or several of the Cinque Terre villages. These boat trips are not cheap (€ 13 p.p. for the shortest possible trip, one-way to Manarola or Riomaggiore) but you will see things that you would otherwise not see, and the views of the villages from the sea are guaranteed to remain in your memory for a long time.

"approaching Riomaggiore by ferry - Easy Hiking Experience and More in Cinque Terre"

*For our easy hiking experience and more in Cinque Terre, we based ourselves in La Spezia, staying in a flat we found on AirBnB. You can do the same!)

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8 comments to Easy Hiking Experience and More in Cinque Terre

  • Glad you liked the tip, Justin! Thanks for dropping by!

  • Cinque Terre is now at the top of my list for places to visit.
    You really captured its beauty!

  • Don’t wait any longer, Jeff! Come visit and hike at least one of the 2 trails open. The sweat and effort would be so worth it!

  • Cinque Terre has long been at the top of my Italia bucket list of dreams! And to see the region along these trails must be magnificent. I can’t get over those views! One day I will make it and I’ll take this article along for the hike! By the way, you mentioned the wine but what I want to know is how it tasted? ;)

  • We had no more time to visit Lerici, but Porto Venere is definitely worth a visit, Céline!

  • Céline Berthelot

    I will look into Porto Venere and Lerici. Something new to my plans !


  • Rapallo is far from the 5 villages, Céline. It’s best if you want to go to Portofino. La Spezia is good because from there you can also easily and cheaply visit (with simple bus rides) two interesting and picturesque towns aside from the villages of Cinque Terre – Porto Venere and Lerici.

  • Celine

    Do you think that staying in Rapallo would be a good choice ?

    Is La Spezia an interesting place to stay in terms of things to do and for photography ?

    Thank you,

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