One of the things we were most looking forward to on our 3+ week honeymoon was hiking all five towns in Cinque Terre in one day! Both Beth and I love to hike. We are not ones to do multi-day hikes but give us any day hike and we are there. Cinque Terre has been on our list to visit for a couple years now and it did not disappoint.
After spending a couple of days exploring Rome we were looking forward to a slower pace in Monterosso where we stayed. But of course on our first full day we set out to hike all five towns in one day! We were based in Monterosso and stayed there for four nights and thoroughly enjoyed that town. As for our big hiking day we left our Airbnb at 7:00 AM and made it back at 6:00 PM taking time in each town to explore, eat, and swim. It was a near perfect day of with plenty of sunshine and maybe 80 degrees.
Our Route and Coastal Path Closures
With the landslides back in 2011, two of the main trails are closed. The easy coastal path from Corniglia to Manarola and Manarola to Riomaggiore were still closed. There are still paths between the towns making it possible to hike all five towns in one day, but be warned they are significantly more difficult! We took the detours which are detailed out in this post. It was well worth it and the alternative trail between Corniglia and Manarola, while difficul, was the best section of the hike. Follow this link for the alternative path we used.
Our exact hiking trail totaled 14.87 km or 9.24 miles. This does not include any walking in the towns.
- Monterosso to Vernazza – 3.6 km or 2.23 miles
- Vernazza to Corniglia – 3.45 km or 2.14 miles
- Corniglia to Manarola to Riomaggiore – 7.82 km or 4.86 miles
- First section is trail route 587 to 586, approximately 5 km to from Corniglia to Manarola
- Second section is trail route 531 from Manarola to Riomaggiore
Monterosso to Vernazza
The first leg started at the end of the beach of Old Town Monterosso. No one was at the gate yet to check for our passes so we continued forth. The path went up the mountains with plenty of stairs and even a random cat sanctuary in the middle of the trail. It was a moderate 3.6 km to the beautiful Vernazza.
Coming down the path into Vernazza had some of the best views of the day. Vernazza is known as the beauty queen of Cinque Terre. The way the harbor is situated does make it quite charming. When we arrived it was still early in the morning so there weren’t many people milling about. We didn’t take too long exploring Vernazza as nothing was really open.
But I did leave my foot print there… Literally. While walking about the harbor area I stepped into some fresh concrete with my right foot. Not really my fault either as there was nothing marking the freshly laid concrete. No one besides Beth saw it happen. I felt bad but I didn’t want to venture over to the Italian guy pouring more areas off in the distance. Would have been an awkward conversation. Needless to say my right foot was heavier the rest of the day.
Vernazza to Corniglia
On to the second leg of the hike! We made our way out of Vernazza which was more confusing than I expected. Eventually we found a sign and followed it out. There was a person manning the gate now so we bought our Cinque Terre hiking card and headed out. Looking back towards Vernazza leads to another magnificent view of the coastline and of the town.
This was another moderate hike coming at 3.45 km. Very similar to first leg with it going up the mountain and then back on the other side. Not much in the way of flats and the descent was shorter as Corniglia sits up high over the Ligurian Sea.
Corniglia is often overlooked among the five towns of Cinque Terre. We were pleasantly surprised by how peaceful it was, it was one of our favorites. The town Corniglia sits way above the sea so there is not an easy accessible beach. By the time we arrived at Corniglia we were ready for a break. We stopped in one the bakeries and grabbed some delicious pesto focaccia. Pesto in this region of Italy is simply amazing. Focaccia became a staple for us during our trip for a quick snack or light meal.
Corniglia to Manarola
With the coastal path being closed we had to use one of the alternative routes, 586 to 587. We got to the 587 trailhead which is near the path that goes towards the train station. Do not go down the path towards the train station, instead literally go the opposite direction, it will seem like the wrong way. This trail was very difficult and was the longest but also had the best views. My personal favorite of all the trails.
It starts with a steep climb out of town with no stairs. Once you reach the top you are afforded a nice view of Corniglia looking back. We even chatted with a fellow American family who was hiking the trail and they were happy enough to take our picture! Most of our time hiking was by ourselves. There were not many people on any of the trails.
After the steep climb it levels off for quite a bit. This section was the only flat section of any of the trails as it meanders through many vineyards. Incredible views in all directions, take your time here taking in the views.
Eventually the trail starts to descend and goes through Volastra. Stop here if you need a break as there are a couple of restaurants or just a bathroom break. We did not, making our scramble down into Manarola a little more hectic, the bathroom was needed! The stretch into Manarola was beautiful!
Once in Manarola we set out to find a restaurant to eat at it. It was more difficult than expected as all the day trippers were in full force by now. We eventually settled for Porticciolo and loaded up on some pasta with fresh fish.
We still weren’t ready for our last leg so we went to the “beach” at Manarola. Really just a rocky swimming hole but I am glad we did. The water was so refreshing after hiking for hours.
Manarola to Riomaggiore
Once again the coastal trail closure made us take an alternative route, trail 531. To get to the trail head you have to walk back through Manarola towards the entrance. There is a set of stairs that go straight up and are easily visible from when you first hiked into Manarola from Corniglia (look at the third picture above). It wasn’t a very long hike but it literally just goes straight up and then straight down. It was very steep and we were exhausted by this point (if you can’t tell by the picture) so we tried to take it easy so we wouldn’t hurt ourselves. My rudimentary calculations put a slope grade of 31% over 0.6 miles on the initial ascent, which means really freaking steep.
We finally made it to the last town, Riomaggiore! It was a lot bigger than we expected as walked to the waterfront through the tunnel. By the time we made it to the main part of town it was 5:00 PM. Our plan was to take the last boat from Riomaggiore to Monterosso and we made it just in time as it left at 5:30 PM. We had just enough time to get a celebratory gelato!
Once on the boat we were happy to relax and take in the views of all five towns from a different vantage point. While stopped in Vernazza we saw some daring people do cliff jumping, it was quite entertaining watching one of them try to convince the other to go. It was a remarkable day but we were also happy to see Monterosso, our temporary home in Cinque Terre.
Cinque Terre Hiking Tips
Here are a couple of tips based on our hiking experience in Cinque Terre
- Shoes are needed, do not even try to attempt it with just flip-flops… Thankfully we didn’t see anyone who did
- Bring a water bottle as you can refill in each town at one of the many fountains
- Start as early as possible to avoid crowds in the town
- The alternative route stretch from Corniglia to Manarola and then to Riomaggiore are the hardest
- Spend at least 30 minutes in each town!
- Pick one or two towns to really explore, swim, and eat
- No need to bring all your gear as the trains and boats will get you back to your place to sleep
Wow! It was easily one of the best days of our honeymoon. We really loved the hiking as it was really fun to see five unique towns. One thing to keep in mind, seeing each town at a different part of the day may have skewed our perspective. For example, we really loved Corniglia as it was so quiet with zero crowds. On the other hand we went into Manarola and Riomaggiore they were packed with day trippers which turned us off slightly. Luckily when in Cinque Terre the mornings and evenings are really nice with no day trippers in sight. All of the towns are beautiful and would have loved to explore each of them even more. We were based in Monterosso for four nights and fell in love with that town but that is for another post!
Anyone planning on hiking all five towns in Cinque Terre in one day?