Cinque Terre is another one of those beautiful Pinterest/Instagram/Facebook destinations. It's an area of 5 fishing villages along the coast of the Italian Riviera. It's also blowing up with tourists.. There are many ways to hike Cinque Terre, all varying in degree of difficulty. You can hike all 5 villages, you can take the train, or some combination of the two. We started in Riomaggiore and made our way to our least favorite and most touristy resort town, Monterosso al Mare.
Trip Length: 4 Days
Trip Distance: ~ 2 miles a day, sometimes 3 or 4.
Trip Rating: Easy/Average
Getting there: The easiest way to get to Cinque Terre is to fly to Genoa (Genova), and then take a train from Genova Piazza Principe to Riomaggiore. When you land at the Genoa Airport, take a quick cab ride to the train station. Click here for a useful map of the walking trails.
Day 1: Riomaggiore and Manarola
We got to Riomaggiore around 4PM after a morning of traveling and trying to communicate in English. We were starving and didn't want to purchase anything at the train station to spoil our appetite. In fact, we were so hungry that we had dinner at 2 restaurants and also ate gelato afterwards. We originally set out to eat at La Grotta, but they weren't open for dinner service yet so we hopped right next door to their sister restaurant Il Grottino. We got the seafood pasta and white wine at both places. La Grotta's comes wrapped in tin foil making it *special*, but we actually thought that Il Grottino's tasted better. Or maybe we were just really really hungry.
After eating way too much food, we explored around the area of Riomaggiore. There are some nice docks and small beaches to explore. The town itself seems like a port town and there isn't too much to do here. It looks like some people rented boats out, so that might be a good day activity as well. Once the sun was about to set, we headed out to Manarola, which is a quick 20 minute stroll through scenic Via dell’Amore (you may need to check if the trail is closed for maintenance). This trail is known as "Lover's Lane" and offers beautiful views of the sunset and coastline. We arrived at Manarola and spent the night at Hostel 5 Terre. It was ~35 EUR per person, not bad at all.
Day 2: Manarola and Corniglia
We were really excited for Manarola because we had heard of a swimming hole that's good for deep water swimming. Little did we know that there would be some cliff jumping as well! We spent the entire day hiking, swimming, eating, and laying under the sun. Before lunch, we did a nice 2 mile steep hike up past the town, per the recommendation of our hostel. In the map, it is the Green Trail #6. Then we had lunch at Trattoria dal Billy, a hidden spot through the town of Manarola, next to the Church Piazza. The lunch there was great! We had some really interesting and unique fish options, and of course we couldn't resist getting more pasta.. and more wine. Manarola was probably one of my favorite towns in Cinque Terre because of the swimming and mix of tourism/small town feel. Manarola is probably the town where the "classic" Cinque Terre picture is taken from too.
After hours of swimming, we headed to Corniglia, around 1.5 miles with 900 ft elevation change. It look us an hour to get to Corniglia. That night we stayed at Ostello Corniglia, around ~25 EUR per person. The town of Corniglia is very quiet and small. There weren't that many places open at 9PM, so we asked around for the only restaurant that was open, ate there, and proceeded to drink wine, lots of wine.
Day 3: Corniglia and Vernazza
Day 3 was a day of relaxation and laziness for us. There is a nude beach hidden in Corniglia. Head towards Guvano beach. You have to walk through a dark tunnel to get there. Go above and to the right of the train platform head down a narrow flight of stairs, follow a brick coastal wall and turn right, until you come to an industrial tunnel with a metal gate. Ring the bell to the left. Someone on the other end will buzz you in. Walk through the 10-minute-long path to a private vineyard.
Unfortunately for us, we got midway there and decided to take a nice late morning nap, with a view of the beach. After our nap, we wandered around the (super) small town. It took us maybe only 20 minutes to see everything in Corniglia. But secretly we were only there for the gelato, supposedly the best in Cinque Terre. We couldn't resist and all got 2 scoops. There was a lot of eating on this trip.. We also had been eating the seafood pasta non-stop on this trip. We really needed some fruits and vegetables, so we went to a local grocery store and bought some things to snack on before our inevitable seafood pasta lunch. After fueling up on more carbs, we started the 2+ mile 1000 ft elevation change hike to Vernazza.
This hike is the most extensive direct hike through the towns. Because Cinque Terre is a tourist spot, the trails are marked perfectly and lined with stone steps. Although the terrain is quite easy, the hiking may be strenuous because it feels like you're on the stairclimber. The hike takes you through beautiful olive groves and wild flowers. It really felt like more of a quick workout than a hike. There were so many photo opps along the way, so it took us around 2 hours to finish the hike.
When we arrived at Vernazza, we were ready to explore the big town and seek out the best pesto! Vernazza is known for its pesto, so we made sure to have some at Ristorante Pizzeria Vulnetia. Vernazza feels like a city after spending the night in Corniglia. There's a lot more going on, and a lot more tourists. There is a nice beach where you can lay under the sun, or enjoy an espresso at one of the many outdoor tables. This is also a good spot to pick up your gifts. There are international shipping options, or you can carry it home with you in your luggage. Make sure to try some foccacia! That night we stayed at a rented room with A ca da Nonna for ~35 EUR per person.
Day 4: Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare
The next morning we set out for Monterosso al Mare, a 2 hour hike from Vernazza. This was around 2 miles, and there were options to veer off and go on the side trails. This was the most strenuous hike, with lots of narrow winding paths. We had more stuff in our packs now after shopping in Vernazza. But again, the hikes were really enjoyable and offered amazing views. I would highly recommend hiking over taking the train! You don't wanna be "that person" carrying a rollaway suitcase anyway. Near the end of the hike, you'll know you're getting close to Monterosso because you will pass some really nice 5 star resorts (we stayed in a hostel called La Sirene).
Monterosso is the biggest resort-feel town in Cinque Terre. It was so big that we actually requested a map from our hostel to get around. That day, we spent our time wandering the town. We planned to go to the beach, only to find that YOU HAVE TO PAY ?!?! There is a tiny area where it's free, but it's so crowded that I felt like I was laying on top of a bunch of random strangers. Dinner was the best part of Monterosso. We had the fish stew at Belvidere. It was unbelievably fresh and delicious. Plus the pot that it came in was cool. If we could do this trip over again, all of 4 us agreed that we would make our time at Monterosso shorter (only a night instead of a full day), and spend more time in Riomaggiore, Vernazza, or Manarola. Afterwards, we wandered around some more, ate some gelato, drank some wine, and called it a night.
- Passport, money
- Larger backpack ~60L
- Casual clothes, swimsuit, quikdry towel
- Chacos (didn't need hiking shoes or sneakers on this trip)