Is hiking necessary in Cinque Terre Italy

Cinque Terre: hiking on the Italian Riviera

Tours and information
Tour tips • March 26, 2019
by Peter Righi

On the Italian Riviera, it is wonderful to hike through vineyards and olive groves with a view of the sea - especially in spring. Peter Righi introduces us to the most beautiful tours in the Cinque Terre National Park and has practical tips.

The Cinque Terre, the five villages on the bizarre cliffs south of Genoa, are known to many at least as a postcard motif. But the picture-perfect coastal landscape with its colorful villages and steep vineyards is also a spectacular hiking area in which walking and enjoying can be wonderfully combined.

Around 120 km of hiking trails lead through the Cinque Terre National Park, which is also a World Heritage Site and includes the romantic coastal villages of Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. The national park administration tries to connect the natural and cultural landscape between the coast and the mountains in the hinterland, the villages steeped in history and places of spirituality with well-tended (and newly marked) hiking trails. The hiking trails are particularly popular in spring, when the rich vegetation on the mild coastal strip is in full bloom.

Hiking with a view of the sea

The old paths high above the sea lead with fantastic views through sunny vineyards and olive groves as well as along dry stone walls and steep slopes overgrown with gorse, cacti and milkweed. No new buildings, large castles and no car traffic disturb this picture. In the midst of this spectacular natural and cultural landscape, old villages and places of pilgrimage appear again and again. In contrast to the gently sloping beaches south of La Spezia, the Cinque Terre coast is rugged and rocky. The hiking trails are also steep in many places and can only be safely walked with suitable, sturdy shoes.

Monterosso is the northernmost and with 1,500 inhabitants largest of the five villages in the Cinque Terre. Those who are smart travel by train from medieval Levanto or La Spezia, because there is hardly any space for cars along the cliff and the coveted parking spaces are not exactly cheap. The train station is right in the center, the trains run every half hour between the villages and the hiking trails are well signposted. The other places, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore in the extreme southeast of the Ligurian Riviera are spread over a coastline of only 9 km in length.

Good shoes are a must

In the Cinque Terre there is a legal guideline for correct footwear. Those who enter the hiking trails in the national park with insufficient footwear (sandals, flip-flops) must expect sanctions. With the measure, the authorities want to prevent the numerous injuries that tourists repeatedly suffer from unsuitable footwear. For the time being, a campaign by the national park administration is informing about the “flip-flop ban” - in future, however, fines of between 50 and 2,500 euros can be expected for wearing flip-flops.

3 tour tips: hiking in the Cinque Terre

The "Sentiero Azzurro" - the light blue path

The "Sentiero Azzurro" is the best known and most popular route. It has emerged over the centuries as a village connecting route and, apart from the sea route, was the only “road” between the towns. The route from Riomaggiore to Monterosso is approx. 12 km long, the highest point is reached in Prevo. The route consists of easy paths, mule tracks and stairs (approx. 2 km), the rest consists of the beach promenade - the much-visited “Via dell’Amore”. My recommendation: You should take your time on this hike, visit the places or take frequent breaks along the way. It is best to walk the route in stages.

Nobody is as well known and remains as he is: The Sentiero Auzzuro "- the blue path that connects the villages of the Cinque Terre. There is so much to see, so much to marvel at - you should take your time for this path here the journey is once again the goal.

The "Sentiero del Crinale" - the high path of the Cinque Terre

The "Sentiero del Crinale" is a historic connecting route that goes back to Roman times and runs along the watershed that separates the coast from the inland. The entire route, a considerable part of which runs within the Cinque Terre, begins in the west in Levanto and ends in the south-east in Portovenere. It stretches for more than 40 kilometers and reaches a height of 800 meters, with a height difference of about 1,300 meters. The high path crosses several hiking trails that run both towards the sea and towards Genoa and the Val di Vara. It is advisable to divide the route into stages and to spend the night along the way.

It goes back to Roman times - the historical connection route "Sentiero del Crinale". In three stages it leads along the watershed between the coast and inland and offers fascinating panoramas over one of the most beautiful sections of the Ligurian coast.

“La Via dei Santuari” - The Way of the Pilgrimage Churches

Every place in the Cinque Terre has its own pilgrimage church in the hinterland. The five churches, which are connected to the places by steep donkey paths, are not only visited by hikers, but also by churchgoers and pilgrims. The "Via dei Santuari" is a route steeped in history from Monterosso to Vernazza, which can be covered on foot, on horseback or by bike. On the terraced plots, vegetable gardens and picturesque villages, you can experience an incomparable panorama over the Cinque Terre. A simple hiking trail that can also be divided into different stages.

Every place has its pilgrimage church - that's the way it is in Cinque Terre, where every place by the sea in the hinterland has a stately pilgrimage church. Steep donkey paths connect the churches with the sea and vice versa and are still used today as they were in days gone by.

Practical tips

Cinque Terre Card: The four main hiking trails in the Cinque Terre National Park are chargeable. There are two types of tickets that Cinque Terre Card Trekking and Cinque Terre Card Treno (including train) that contain different periods of validity and services.

The Cinque Terre Card (day pass) is available at the entrance to the hiking trails and this year it costs 7.50 euros. Other admission tickets, e.g. for only one hiking route, are not available. But you can also use the bus on the parking lot free of charge with the card. With the Cinque Terre Card Treno for 16 euros you can also use the train (you have to stamp the ticket before boarding). The other ways are not chargeable. Click here for the Cinque Terre Card 2019.

Hiking trails app: The National Park Administration's hiking trails app provides all information about the condition of the trails. The app is free.

Ultra run event: “Sciacchetrail” is the name of a small ultra run that leads through the Cinque Terre villages at the beginning of April with 47 km and an altitude of 2,650 meters. The special thing about the “Sciaccetrail-Lauf” is that it is limited to 300 participants: www.sciacchetrail.com.

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