Hiking Cinque Terra in Two Days.
Most travelers, including myself, dream of hiking Cinque Terra. If you’re in Italy, it’s a must-do at least once in your life. Here is my experience, and suggestions for next time…
We finally made it to Monterosso, the beginning of Cinque Terra. It’s the largest town in CT and has the most “beach” space, but the beaches are all rock. Tip: If you have sensitive feet, watch out. Or bring water shoes like the locals. The Public beaches are towards the south end; Northern beaches are all private and cost money.
We started in Monterosso with a reunion with my mom and step-dad. Naturally, I cried. We had a great lunch on the beach, catching up over the past seven months and made plans to meet the following morning to hike to Vernazza, the next town over.
Note: You can hike to all five towns in one day, but it does make for a long one. Seeing as my parents aren’t quite spring chickens anymore, we decided not to kill ourselves and broke it into two. #yourewelcome
Monterosso to Vernazza.
An early morning start, we jumped on the train with our bags and dropped them at our next hotel in Vernazza, just a 4 minute train ride. (Unfortunately, our hotel didn’t have our reservation so we had to stash our bags in a cellar with ants everywhere. Remember: Travel isn’t always glamorous. Leaving it to fate, we left our bags, and hoped we’d see them again. Preferably, not filled with ants). Then we took the train back to Monterosso to begin the hike into Vernazza. Tip: Most train stations have lockers too if you’re only doing a day trip and don’t have a hotel to leave your luggage.
Our hike began around 10:45am and we finished at 12:15pm, 90 minutes is the suggested time so we hit that mark. My step-dad is 71 years old and killed the trail! The hike starts with stairs straight up for the first 30 minutes and then intermittent ones throughout the remainder. However, the views of the coast, Monterosso and Vernazza are truly remarkable. If you want the classic Cinque Terra pictures, this is the hike to do. In my opinion, Vernazza is the best town, with the most iconic and picturesque scenery.
Naturally, we celebrated with a liter of beers at a cute cafe on the water in Vernazza.
Keep in mind, Vernazza is extremely busy during the day, but once all the day trippers leave, it’s quiet and peaceful for you to enjoy your Italian evening. I highly suggest using Vernazza as your home base and hiking to/from there.
Rest up with some wine and pasta and get ready for another epic day on the trail…
Vernazza to Corniglia.
This section took us about 1h15m. Corniglia. is a small town up on the cliffs; no beach front property here, and not much of a town center either, at least from what I could tell. Just beautiful views hiking in, but that’s about it. We took some pictures and continued on our way…
Corniglia to Manarola.
This portion was the longest at 2h15m. Normally, it’s only about 30-45 minutes when the Blue Trail is open. But unfortunately, due to a massive storm three years ago that whipped out the trail, they’re still rebuilding. Therefore, we had to take the red trail which was much longer and steeper. I know I’ve said this before, but the views are absolutely worth it! You walk through vineyards, cliffs, and stunning forests. I think this hike was my favorite of all – Hard enough that you feel you get a good workout, and definitely earned the view!
We stopped in Manarola for lunch and walked around the quaint town, which is larger than Vernazza, and extremely vertical. You can also swim here as the cove is more protected than some of the others, which seems to be a normal battle with nature.
Manarola to Riomaggiore.
The last of the hikes was the shortest, only 45 minutes, but was straight up and straight down.
Mom joined us on this leg, but it wasn’t easy. She was a trooper though!! Smiled and made friends all along the path, in typical Mary fashion 🙂
After wrapping up this infamous hike, we grabbed a celebratory drink down by the water and made our way back to Vernazza for one last dinner in Italy. Tip: If you feel like splurging, make a reservation at Belforte – It’s the restaurant that overlooks the harbor. Order the lobster pasta for two – you’ll thank me.
In my opinion, from hardest to easiest(er):
- Manarola to Riomaggiore – Shorter, but harder
- Corniglia to Manarola – Longer, but not as difficult
- Vernazza to Corniglia
- Monterosso to Vernazza
(Not sure if it would be different going the opposite direction, South to North)
2015 Bucket List Complete:
- HIKE ALL FIVE TOWNS OF CINQUE TERRA!
- Go to Portofino
- Take the ferry to the different towns if the weather is good. Easier and quicker than the train/bus
Overall Cinque Terra Tips:
- Don’t come during summer, WAY TOO CROWDED!
- Easier to hike from North to South (in my opinion)
- Monterosso to Vernazza could possibly be the hardest section, but the most famous. And definitely worth it.
- Stay in Vernazza
- Have to pay to hike from town to town. Lame I know. But you can buy your passes on the trail (7.50 EURO)
- Red trails are free, only Blue trails cost money.
- The Blue Marlin is the only place in Vernazza that cooks eggs for breakfast, but not until 9am.
- If you’re going to hike the entire trail in one day, start early, around 7/8am
- Google search for rooms in Cinque Terra and email places for dates and towns as they’re usually all booked if you’re last minute planners like us.
- If you want to go swimming, wear water shoes to protect your feet from the rocks. I know it’s lame, but the locals do it.
- Belvedere was a nice restaurant our hotel suggested in Monterosso, but I have to say it was average at best. Skip this and find somewhere else to eat.
- Don’t come here for your honeymoon. Too touristy, not romantic enough, I think. Or if you do, only stay a day or two and then head somewhere more secluded.
- *Idea: There needs to be a baggage service where someone takes your bag to the next town for you. That’s the biggest pain. You have to take the train or ferry to the last town and back in order to hike the route. Not very efficient.
- The hikes and views are beautiful
- Water is warm and clear
- When the ferry is running, it’s very efficient and I hear the views from the water are even better
- You have to pay in order to hike Cinque Terra — 7.50 EURO
- Sadly the Blue Trail was closed so we had to take the more difficult Red Trail from Corniglia to Manarola to Riomaggiore
- Too crowded during the summer (high) months
- You have to drink Lemonchello after every dinner – It’s good for digestion
- Americans everywhere – heard more American English and met more Americans in those three days than we have our entire trip