The Cinque Terre are five villages are connected by a network of walking paths; starting at the south western town of Riomaggiore, and the continuing north east in order Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and finally Monterosso - that lie in a stretch of eighteen kilometers along the rocky and irregular coast of eastern Liguria. In 1999 this territory and the marine environment were declared a protected area.
The Cinque Terre has a very special charm and the scenery is spectacular and natural. Some of the towns are not the easiest place to reach, as only Riomaggiore and Monterosso are open to auto traffic. So the best mode to get to any of the towns is to arrive by train.
Riomaggiore is about 30 minutes from La Spezia and two and a half hours from Florence (Firenze). Monterosso is about one hour from Genova.
A good idea is to purchase a Cinque Terre Card, a pass that includes access to the paths and unlimited train trips between Riomaggiore and Monterosso. You can buy them at the La Spezia train station or at the information offices in Riomaggiore and Monterosso, near the train stops. You can get also get a walking map of the paths at the information office as there are many different paths and routes that you are able to hike in the Cinque Terre. During the summer months there is also a ferry boat which runs between the towns.
The Coast Route, known as “sentiero azzurro” (“blue path”), is the most popular, and it is this hike that we will focus on here. The path goes from Monterosso to Riomaggiore. Straight walking it will take you about five hours, but it is nice to spend a whole day, taking breaks to visit the villages and enjoy the sights.
You can start at either end but for this article we will start at Monterosso. This is the biggest of the five villages and it has a nice medieval centre.
There is a large sandy beach and if you walk along the promenade, you will reach the remnants of the castle of Monterosso. The coast route begins here: it goes up to the top of the promontory and then comes down again on the other side, towards Vernazza. There are wonderful dry-stone walls built in older times enclosing peoples vegetable and wine yards. The varied vegetation is a mix of Mediterranea, and the renowned lemons of Monterosso.
At an easy pace you will reach Vernazza in about two hours. From here the path goes up again and winds around the terraced hills. It takes another hour and a half to reach Corniglia. Most people will agree that the path between these three villages is the most beautiful part of the hike.
Corniglia is a good place to stop for some time. It differs from the other villages, as it is above the sea, on the top of a promontory. There are some nice cafes, where you can relax and enjoy the company of other hikers and local people alike.
The route from Corniglia continues along a long brick stairway, leading to sea level right next to the train station.
From here it is an easy walk to Manarola, on mostly flat ground along the beach. Manarola might be the most picturesque among the five villages. It has a quaint small harbour with some seafood restaurants.
Riomaggiore is twenty minutes away from Manarola and are connected by a wide pathway, with most of it carved in the cliff, Nicknamed the Road of Love, it is the last part of the hike. From here, you get a lovely view of the sea and the coastline.
Straight walking this hike of the Cinque Terre will take about five hours.
Here are the villages of the Cinque Terre as shown on Google Maps