Tips for Hiking the Cinque Terra: From Monterosso to Vernazza

Our hike from Monterosso to Vernazza promised an adventure, yet it was tougher than any of us anticipated. A pinch of research would have clued us in, but we skipped that step. Similarly, we overlooked the weather forecast, adding another layer of unpredictability to our journey. “What could go wrong?”

Cinque Terre on the Italian Riviera

Stepping out into the crisp morning air, our hike from Monterosso to Vernazza promised breathtaking views along Italy’s rugged Riviera coastline. The allure of the Cinque Terre’s five iconic villages—Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore—beckoned with the charm of untouched Italy. Here are my Tips for Hiking the Cinque Terra.

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Table of Contents

Tips for Hiking the Cinque Terra
Monterosso to Vernazza

Our hike from Monterosso to Vernazza, already daunting, took an unexpected turn. As we reached the starting point, raindrops teased us, hinting at the challenge ahead. Soon, the sky unleashed a torrent, tempting us to retreat multiple times. I found myself offering hopeful lies to Kish about nearing the summit, fueled by a desire to see her pride in completing the hike. Deep down, I knew she would have preferred the comfort of a spa with a refreshing drink.

Despite this, Kish, ever the resilient spirit, tackled the steep steps carved into the mountain. Together, we navigated trails barely wide enough for our feet. A single misstep could mean a fall into the dark blue embrace of the Tyrrhenian Sea. Her determination underlined the journey, transforming our trek across the Cinque Terre into an even more memorable adventure. Through rain and uncertain paths, we discovered the beauty of Italy’s Riviera and the strength of our friendship.

Monterosso al Mare to Vernazza

  • Distance: 3.3 km (2 miles)
  • Elevation Gain: 188 meters (617 feet)
  • Difficulty: Medium to Difficult
  • Description: This segment offers stunning coastal views and can be steep and narrow in places. The trail includes a significant number of steps and uneven paths.
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The Descent into Vernazza

The day started off cool, but as we climbed higher and higher the clouds dissipated and the sun beat down on our backs. I tried to forget that this was only one leg of the 5-leg trek. Two hours of slippery rocks, muddy slopes, never-ending near-vertical stairways. The narrow trails at the top were intense and often without safety railings. But the views were astounding as we began the descent into the next town of Vernazza. The rain ceased and the sun became intense and without much shade from the rays of the August summer sun. It was hardly Mount Everest, but we really earned the lovely lunch we had in Vernazza.

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The Hike Between Vernazza and Corniglia

After lunch, we continued hiking Cinque Terre between Vernazza and Corniglia but returned fifteen minutes into the climb once Kish decided she had had enough. She said she’d meet us at the train station if we wanted to continue the hike. No argument we made could convince her otherwise, so we all turned around and caught the train to Corniglia instead.

Vernazza to Corniglia

  • Distance: 4 km (2.5 miles)
  • Elevation Gain: 207 meters (679 feet)
  • Difficulty: Medium to Difficult
  • Description: This part of the hike involves a steep climb out of Vernazza followed by a more moderate path with beautiful views of the coastline. The descent into Corniglia includes many steps.

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Corniglia

Once is Corniglia, we learned that the trail between it and Manarola was closed due to mudslides, so we wouldn’t have been able to do the whole hike anyway. We entertained ourselves in the local shops and ate a little gelato before making our way to the next part of the hike. The “Via dell’Amore” aka Lovers Lane is the easiest portion of the trail by far. It is completely flat and paved for easy access to both older and younger lovers. Love Locks– the popular trend of placing locks on permanent fixtures and throwing the key into the ocean symbolizes your love cannot be broken.

Corniglia to Manarola

  • Distance: 2.8 km (1.7 miles)
  • Elevation Gain: 100 meters (328 feet)
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Description: This trail is less strenuous than the previous ones and is partially paved. It offers scenic views of terraced vineyards and the sea.
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Monterosso

Monterosso has the best beach, but we were in Riomaggiore, readily take a dip in the Mediterranean Ocean, but I forgot to put my suit on under my clothes. Kish and Carolyn didn’t, so they stripped down and jumped right in. I looked for someplace to change into my one piece. Too bad there wasn’t anywhere to do that. So for the first, which assumes there was a second time, I got butt naked on a public beach. I tried to hide behind a large rock, but people kept walking behind me and I was always exposed, so I gave up after a while and just took it all off to put my suit on.

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The beach was different. Big boulders baked in the sun, making it nearly impossible to walk on. Slipping on the algae or stepping on what felt like hot coals. I waded into the warm water and promptly slipped and fell on the algae-covered boulders. I tried again and again I fell and lost my perception of which way was up.

Manarola to Riomaggiore (Via dell’Amore)

  • Distance: 1 km (0.6 miles)
  • Elevation Gain: Minimal
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Description: Known as “Lover’s Lane,” this paved and relatively flat trail is the most accessible segment and offers romantic coastal views. However, it may sometimes be closed due to landslides, so checking the current status is advisable.

Alternate Trail (if Via dell’Amore is closed) – Manarola to Riomaggiore via Beccara

  • Distance: 3 km (1.9 miles)
  • Elevation Gain: 280 meters (919 feet)
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Description: This alternative route is steep and more challenging, involving significant elevation changes and rocky paths.
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Swimming in the Mediterranean

I felt a hand reach down and help me back on the rocks. Her name was Andrea and she turned out to be a beautiful Brazilian model traveling alone. She sat with me while my friends chided from the sea. I decided I had gone far enough, opting not to drown while on vacation. We sat there baking in the sun, being crushed by the waves.

The swimsuit I packed was too large. I had lost a little weight recently and I hadn’t tried it before the trip. The waves pummeled my swimsuit top so hard, it came undone— twice.

Each time, the boys nearby cheered and applauded with enthusiasm. Andrea laughed and said, no worries, love, it’s Italy. I laughed, too; I’m sure they would have preferred younger boobs to my 40+-year-old ones. Or maybe not; they still look pretty good.

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Staying Afloat

During our hike through the Cinque Terre, a memorable moment unfolded by the beach. Andrea, a stunning model, became my unexpected savior when a massive wave dislodged me from my slippery spot on a large boulder. Reflecting on the event, it felt as though I had rescued her from the unwelcome attention of local onlookers. We settled into the shallow waters, engaging in conversation, while Kish and Carolyn displayed their aquatic prowess, darting through the water like porpoises.

Despite their playful invitations to join them, promising to keep me from sinking, I declined. The allure of Italy for me wasn’t a test of survival against the sea’s whims. Instead, I found contentment near the shore, embracing my role as a modern-day sea nymph amidst the backdrop of our adventure hiking Cinque Terre.

Tips for Hiking the Cinque Terra

The best times to visit the Cinque Terre for hiking are during the spring (late March to early June) and fall (September to early November), when you can also enjoy the Mediterranean views and take breaks at various scenic spots​. The weather is mild during these months, and the trails are less crowded than the busy summer season. November to March is the off-season when trails are less crowded, and hiking is free. In terms of difficulty, the trails vary considerably. The path between Monterosso and Vernazza is challenging with steep climbs and uneven steps, while the route from Vernazza to Corniglia offers a moderate hike.

As for fees: Access to the hiking paths requires a small charge. Hiking certain sections requires a Cinque Terre Trekking Card, which costs €7.50 daily. The Cinque Terre Treno MS Card, starting at €19.50, includes unlimited train rides between the villages, making it a convenient option if you plan to hike and use the train. This fee contributes to the maintenance of the trails and preservation of the area. Purchasing a Cinque Terre Card also offers additional benefits like access to trains and buses between villages, making it a worthwhile investment for a full day of exploring​ (Earth Trekkers)​​ (The Cinque Terre coast)​.

Trail Safety: Wear sturdy hiking shoes and bring plenty of water. Many sections are exposed to the sun, so sunscreen is essential. Some routes, like the alternative high paths, offer more challenging terrain but provide breathtaking views of the coastline​ (Earth Trekkers)​​ (The Planet D: Adventure Travel Blog)​.

Trail Conditions and Closures: Trail closures are common due to weather or maintenance. For example, the Via dell’Amore (Path of Love) is closed and expected to reopen in July 2024. Always check current trail conditions before starting your hike​ (Tripadvisor)​​ (Intentional Travelers)​.

Where we Stayed

Agriturismo Sostio a Levante
Località Montebello, 1, 19014 Framura SP, Italy
Website: [sostioalevante.com]
Phone: +39 0187 824

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