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Hiking the Cinque Terre

Manarolia town, Cinque, Terre. Photo by Pixabay

Vibrant villages clinging to cliffsides, turquoise waters lapping at hidden coves, and panoramic vistas that stretch as far as the eye can see. This is the magic that awaits you on a hike through the Cinque Terre, a string of five pearls nestled along the Italian Riviera.



Cinque Terre, which means "five lands" in Italian, is a coastal region in the Ligurian Riviera, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. It consists of five picturesque villages: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore, each with unique charm and character.

The villages are connected by a network of trails offering breathtaking views of the sea, cliffs, terraced vineyards, and olive groves. Hiking the towns of Cinque Terre is one of the best ways to experience the beauty and culture of this enchanting destination.


The most popular hike in Cinque Terre is the Blue Trail, also known as Sentiero Azzurro or Trail No. 2, which runs along the coast and links all five villages. The total distance of the Blue Trail is 11 km (7 miles), and it takes about 5 hours to hike the entire trail, not counting the time to explore and linger in each town.




The Blue Trail starts from Monterosso al Mare, the northernmost and largest village of Cinque Terre. It is known for its sandy beaches, colourful houses, and lemon trees. The first section of the trail goes from Monterosso to Vernazza, which is about 3.5 km (2.2 miles) and takes about 2 hours. This is the most challenging section of the trail, as it involves steep ascents and descents. It is also the most rewarding, offering spectacular views of villages and the sea.

Monterosso al Mare. Photo by Pixabay

Vernazza is considered by many to be the most beautiful village of Cinque Terre. It has a natural harbour, medieval castle, and church on a rock overlooking the water. The second section of the trail goes from Vernazza to Corniglia, which is about 4 km (2.5 miles) and takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes. This section is relatively easy and flat and passes through olive groves and vineyards.


Vernazza. Photo by Pixabay

Corniglia is the only village not directly on the sea but perched on a cliff 100 meters above the water. It is the smallest and quietest village of Cinque Terre and has a rural atmosphere. If you arrive here by train, you must climb the Lardarina, a long staircase of 382 steps that offers panoramic views. The third section of the trail goes from Corniglia to Manarola, which is about 3 km (1.9 miles) and takes about 1 hour. This section is also easy and flat and follows the coastline.


Corniglia. Photo by Pixabay

Manarola is another charming village with a colourful cluster of houses on a rocky promontory. It is famous for its nativity scene illuminated with thousands of lights during Christmas time. The fourth and final section of the trail goes from Manarola to Riomaggiore, which is about 1 km (0.6 miles) and takes about 20 minutes. This section, also known as Via dell'Amore or Lover's Lane, has romantic benches and locks along the path.




Riomaggiore is the southernmost and oldest village of Cinque Terre. It has a steep main street that leads to a small harbour and a pebbly beach. It is also an excellent place to enjoy local cuisine, such as anchovies, pesto, and focaccia.


Riomaggiore. Photo by Pixabay

To hike all five villages of Cinque Terre, you need to buy a Cinque Terre Park Card that gives you access to the trails and other services in the national park. There are different options for purchasing the card depending on your needs and preferences.



Alternatively, you can take a train or a ferry between the villages to save time or skip some parts of the trail.


The Blue Trail is the most popular and scenic one. Here are some of the other hiking trails:


Photo by Pixabay

The High Trail, Path 1, runs along the ridge of the Cinque Terre and offers panoramic views of the sea and the mountains. It is a long, challenging trail that covers about 40 km (25 miles) and takes about 12 hours to complete.


The Red Trail, Path 3, connects Levanto to Portovenere through the Cinque Terre. It is a moderate to difficult trail that covers about 34 km (21 miles) and takes about 10 hours to complete.



The Green Trail, Path 4, connects Monterosso to Riomaggiore through the inland villages of Soviore, San Bernardino, and Campiglia. It is an easy-to-moderate trail that covers about 15 km (9 miles) and takes about 5 hours to complete.


The Black Trail, Path 5, connects Monterosso to Levanto through Punta Mesco. It is a moderate trail that covers about 10 km (6 miles) and takes about 3 hours to complete.


The Yellow Trail, Path 6, connects Vernazza to Levanto through Madonna di Reggio and Foce Drignana. It is a moderate trail that covers about 12 km (7 miles) and takes about 4 hours to complete.


 

How to buy the Cinque Terre Park Card


The Cinque Terre Park Card is a visitor pass that allows you to access the services and attractions of the Cinque Terre National Park, such as hiking trails, buses, toilets, and museums. It also supports the preservation and restoration of the territory.


There are two types of Cinque Terre Park Cards: the Cinque Terre Trekking Card and the Cinque Terre Treno MS Card. The first one gives you access to the hiking paths. The second one also includes unlimited train travel on the La Spezia - Cinque Terre - Levanto line.

The prices of the Cinque Terre Park Cards vary depending on the duration, age, and category.





You can find the complete price list on the official website of the Cinque Terre National Park: https://card.parconazionale5terre.it/en


You can buy the Cinque Terre Park Cards at every train station, at the Tourist Information Points in Cinque Terre, Levanto and La Spezia or online.



How to get here


To travel to the Cinque Terre, you can fly to Pisa, Florence, Genoa, or Milan and then take a train to La Spezia or Monterosso, the main gateways to the Cinque Terre.



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