Easy Hiking Experience in Cinque Terre – How to Get the Most Out of Your Trip

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"Walking the trail - tips for Easy Hiking Experience in Cinque Terre"

Italy’s Cinque Terre National Park is home to the Mediterranean’s most famous network of hiking paths. So famous in fact that nearly all our acquaintances have, over the years, reacted with stunned disbelief when we told them that we – despite living so close to the Cinque Terre’s home region of Liguria – had never been. Imagine you meet an art historian from the Greater Paris region who confesses that, after several years of living near the city, he has still not yet made it to the Louvre: that was the kind of raised eyebrow that we regularly got.

So we finally went last week. Going to the Cinque Terre from our part of the coast, I must add, involves quite a journey, nearly five hours by train. Liguria is the Chile of Italy: narrow but long, very long, and there were moments during our trip when I questioned the wisdom of travelling halfway around the world (that’s how it felt) for the mere pleasure of a walk. In the end, however, I must say that it was well worth it.

The Cinque Terre is really quite good, combining an excellent blend of everything that makes a Mediterranean hike such a uniquely joyful experience: the sea, …

The sea along the trail - tips for Easy Hiking Experience in Cinque Terre"

… mountains …

"some mountains along the way - tips for Easy Hiking Experience in Cinque Terre"

… and the benefits of civilization (you are never more than one hour away from a cup of coffee and a good, if perhaps overpriced meal in one of the five villages) with staggeringly unique views.

For most of your hike, at least one of the Cinque Terre villages will be in sight, sometimes two or even more, shimmering colourfully like precious gems in the lush, sub-tropical landscape. That is a really stunning experience.

"view of the villages - tips for Easy Hiking Experience in Cinque Terre"

On a more practical level, the Cinque Terre Train is also a great asset. It circulates frequently and all through the day between the five villages, providing you with a freedom to tailor your hiking schedule to your personal needs and whims that you rarely get in other popular hiking areas.

How to get the most from your easy hiking experience in Cinque Terre

The essentials first. The Cinque Terre National Park covers a section of the west Italian coast near the border between Liguria and Tuscany where Northern and Central Italy meet. There are about 100 hiking paths in the National Park, but the Blue Path is by far the most popular, attracting an estimated 95 percent of all visitors. The Blue Path connects all five villages which is why it can be neatly divided into four sections. Unfortunately, however, two of these sections were closed when we arrived.

This is the first advice we want to give you: be flexible and always have a Plan B ready. Some of the paths in the National Park run closely by the sea and are closed during storms. Landslides are an even bigger problem, particularly on the Blue Path where the route makes it impossible to lay out a detour. If even a small part of the path becomes impassable, the Park’s administration has no alternative but to close down the entire section.

"narrow trails - tips for Easy Hiking Experience in Cinque Terre"

To enter the Blue Path, you need a ticket, the so-called Cinque Terre Card. (Other trails, meanwhile, are for free.) This ticket costs € 7.50 per day p.p. (all four sections), with only small discounts being available for multiple-day tickets.

You can buy these tickets at one of the counters that mark the entrance to the trail on either side of each village (there is no charge for visits to the villages themselves).

Generally, you are well advised to purchase a Cinque Terre Train Card that covers your entrance fee plus all train travel to and between the villages. You will need such a ticket specifically if you base yourself in the nearest big town, which is La Spezia (something we strongly recommend) and can purchase it at La Spezia train station for €16 (from April to November) or €13 (in the off-season).

As you will agree, this fee structure provides a strong argument in favour of doing all your Blue Path hiking in a single day. Particularly since this can be easily done, the trail stretching for no more than approx. 12 km in total.

But you must start early – be ready to take the 7.00 or 7:50 train out of La Spezia – to stay out of the midday sun, at least during the summer months. Between June and August, you don’t want to start the ascent to Vernazza at 3:00 in the afternoon, believe me. (It is hard enough as it is.)

"steep trails - tips for Easy Hiking Experience in Cinque Terre"

The good news is that the Blue Path’s two open sections (the other two will remain closed for at least another year) make up three quarters of the trail’s entire length.

Start your hike in Monterosso, the Cinque Terre’s northernmost outpost, turn left out of the station and look for the signs to Vernazza. Monterosso and Vernazza are both seaside villages, but the trail is nevertheless nearly alpine in character, going up one side of the rock and down the other.

"more steep trails - tips for Easy Hiking Experience in Cinque Terre"

Monterosso is the largest and least attractive of the five villages, while Vernazza – rising out of the Mediterranean waves and steeply climbing towards the top of a tear-shaped promontory – is the star attraction.

You catch a first glimpse of Vernazza when you start your descent on the far side of the rock …

"view of Vernazza from trail - tips for Easy Hiking Experience in Cinque Terre"

…before the village disappears again behind rocks and thick bushes, and it is only about 30 minutes from the end of the hike when a full view of Vernazza suddenly opens up. This is probably the walk’s most uplifting moment.

"Vernazza - tips for Easy Hiking Experience in Cinque Terre"

After such an epiphany, the village itself, inevitably, is a bit of a turn-off. The trail is – over its total length of 3.5 km – well capable of accommodating a large number of visitors without everybody getting in everybody else’s way, but in town all the hikers meet to join the large number of people who have come there only for the sights minus the hiking. It can, in other words, get pretty crowded.

Base yourself for a few days in La Spezia, like we did in an AirB&B apartment. We’re even giving you €35 for your first rental anywhere!

"in town in Vernazza - tips for Easy Hiking Experience in Cinque Terre"

Just have a quick drink or a sandwich, you won’t want to linger for long. Besides, there is no time, since we must be off for stage 2 of the trail.

Next week: More tips to get the best out of your easy hiking experience in Cinque Terre!

2 comments to Easy Hiking Experience in Cinque Terre – How to Get the Most Out of Your Trip

  • Obviously, one goes to the Cinque Terre for the hikes. And it is very much worth the effort! The hike to Monterosso to Vernazza is the more arduous in comparison to the hike from Vernazza to Corniglia. It has several steep but very doable areas. With frequent stops to catch your breath and with the minimum level of fitness, this can be considered an easy hike (Mrs. Easy Hiker can attest to that. If she made it, anybody can!) The scenic views are to be had from every level. Obviously, the steep climbs will eventually get you to the peak (and down again) so you can get your photos from there too. Be sure to hike the Cinque Terre, Celine. It’s an awesome experience!

  • Céline Berthelot

    Mr.,
    I greatly appreciate this article as the Cinque Terre will probably be my next destination.

    How fit do you think a person has to be to do some hiking ? For photography, do you have to climb very high to catch the best views of a village ? Is it very steep ?
    Thank you also for the pictures on instagram !

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