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Travel Guide of Cinque Terre: getting around and hiking trails

Updated on November 12, 2014
The Cinque Terre's coast from the sea
The Cinque Terre's coast from the sea

Cinque Terre are part of the Unesco World Heritage programme for being an outstanding monumental area

Le Cinque Terre In Italy region of Liguria, is an area of 10 kilometres surrounded by rather high mountains that run very nearby the coast shaping a quite rugged landscape, where brooks and water fall from these high ridges into the sea. The sloppy territory largely unstable, squashed between Mountains and sea, didn’t facilitate inhabitancy but somehow human kind found a way to dominate this particularly inhospitable land. Cinque terre is a territory so breathtaking and dramatic that it has been considered a Unesco World Heritage protected region. The first signs of built up area can be found along a winding and difficult path that follow an ancient roman road alongside the coastal hillside. Once can notice very few maritime villages along the coast; this was due to the frequent incursion of Saraceni pirates; only Vernazza was fortified as the only natural harbour of Cinque terre. However, no matter how rugged and full of obstacles the territory was, the first inhabitants managed to level the land in terraces in order to plant vines. They achieved success and the Rossese wine was officially praised 1817 by Giorgio Gallesio and agronomist and botanic from Savona. In fact By the 16th century the Rossese was much appreciated and very in demand even in France, England and Belgium. During the centuries others wines were produced in the area but unfortunately in 1920 a disease destroyed the vineyard and today the production of wine has almost disappeared. Today Cinque terre are less and less cultivated and where once there were vineyards now there are shrubs and plants of Mediterranean maquis that very quick spread on the ground that once had lost.

The five villages

Most probably, Le cinque terre are best known as five villages called: Manarola, Monterosso, Corniglia, Rio Maggiore e Vernazza. These rather beautiful five villages(Cinque means five in Italian) are connected through narrow roads, paths and itineraries that would take the visitor to discover dramatic ridges most hidden hamlets and great sceneraries. All of them except Corniglia slope down to the sea.


The village is the only one to have a proper beach and a promenade. The village is rather beautiful with typical ligurian traditional coloured houses but retains less character compared with the other towns. The streets are not so narrow and there is also a block of modern town houses. The village takes its origins back in 679 AD but not much has been left from that period. The less charm Monterosso it is an ideal place to find accommodation with a good range of hotels restaurants and bars and the beach is the largest of all in the area.

Rio Maggiore

It clings against the hillside of a steep valley from which descends to the sea. Rio Maggiore it is the eastmost of the villages and takes its origins from an ancient greek settlement. There is also an old castle of which little has been written about. Its origins take back to probably 800 and it was a fortness to defend from pirates attacks. Rio Maggiore still retains its community village character which is little affected by tourism. The boats at night set off to fish anchovies and during the day its inhabitants are busy in Via Colombo where all the activities are concentrated.


It is famous for the walk that takes to Rio Maggiore, called la via dell’ amore. The first settlements are from the Roman age from which takes its name. It is a lively village where the port is full of boats. There are two small swimming area, one consists of just rocks that people use as a beach to wade out into the sea. There are also some re-known restaurants and café’ like the famous ice cream café 5 Terre Gelateria e Creperia.The Restaurant La Cantina dello zio Bramante offers some fish specialities like acciughe dish (anchioves).


It stands at the mouth of a creek and it was the only safe place where was possible to build a fortified port. Vernazza can be seen from the boat as a compact little village that lean toward the sea. Can be reached by the trail from Corniglia and from above, looks like a spiral of reddish houses going down to the sea. It is a lively place, especially at night where restaurants and bars are busy especially in the summer. There are two clock towers, a beach, the port and two squares with bars, umbrella and tables. The beach it is not very spacious but it is safe for children an ideal place for families. In the nearby Pizzeria Fratelli Basso you can eat the Ligurian speciality Farinata, a sort of focaccia made with chickpea flour.


It is perched at the edge of a steep hill and is the only village that cannot be reached by sea. To arrive there one need to climb 377 steps of a stairs way called Lardarina. If you are not at all amused to reach Corniglia by foot, there is the train that stops there. Bushes, Mediterranean vegetation and lemon trees would be the gentle landscape surrounding the train railways. The tranquil village on the top of this hill offers a chanceto relax eating olives from the nearby restaurant in the communal piazza



This area offers some of the most beautiful hiking trails in the world. To fully understand the precarious balance of the countryside and the difficult relationship between those who have lived and still live over there, one must take the strenuous paths and trails of Cinque terre. The most popular itinerary is the one the crosses all the five villages starting from Rio Maggiore to Manarola alongside the very famous Via Dell’ Amore ( TheLove Walk) which is a costal path dug into the dramatic cliffs. This path has been in part replaced to avoid the most dangerous winding tracks and to link the two villages. The next step would be to reach Corniglia from manarola which consists of a long number of steps but it is relatively easy. Going far afield towards Vernazza and Monterosso means walking for at least 3 hours . During the summer season ferries are running along the coast linking some of the villages Monterosso, Riomaggiore and Vernazza while Corniglia can be seen in the distance.

From Rio Maggiore to Monterosso

The path starting from the Castle in Monterosso offers a spectacular view and challenges anyone who wants to have a difficult walk. The path along the ridge is very exciting in terms of length and highness. The walk follow the steepest line towards the ridge and allows to admire the vegetation and the vineyards alongside with pine woods, chestnut and groves. Once arrived in Mesco the visitor will be welcome by the most impressive and open view on the sight of Islands belong to Golfo della Spezia. The itineraries across the spectacular countryside through the villages and sanctuaries are considered an important step to better understand the culture and tradition of Cinque terre.

Two important sanctuaries can be admired on the way to Vernazza walking past Monterosso: The Church of Nostra Signora di Soviore one of the most popular in Eastern Liguria and the Nostra signora di Reggio from Vernazza when ascending on a trail which is better well paved .

From San Bernardino To Corniglia:

The walk is more strenuous and complicated. The path would go through an area where an old slide have made the road uncertain and difficult. To go to Corniglia the path will come past the Sanctuary of Volastra a settlement of ancient origins that still preserved intact the imagine of Nostra Signora Della Salute (our Lady of Health) . The way is steep but easy and the landscape is varied due to the e alternation of vineyards and Olive groves. Once in Volastra you can continue towards Corniglia walking along the edge of most cultivated terraces.

Vernazza | Source
The beach in Monterosso
The beach in Monterosso

The Sanctuary in Rio Maggiore

The sanctuary of Montenero in Riomaggiore, is no doubt the most panoramic. It can be reach by ascending alongside Rio Major path, a well preserved road. From the piazzale ( square) of the Sancutary the panorama is amazing. Once can see over the Cinque Terre National Park which is one of the most well preserved conservation area of Italy.

You can also walk past the two monorails which allow the transportation of the grape harvest making the entire process much easier. The crops and the grape harvest here very much depend from this monorails a transport that has been introduced the one that is used in Swizterland. The astonishing work to transport stones, crops and all the necessary to live in these mountains can be compared to the building of the Great China's wall.

For those who prefer not to walk, a local trains runs seasonally and call all the five villages at a reasonable price.

Celebrations and Festivity:

Depends what is your preferred period to go to Cinque Terre:

The light Nativity in Manarola during Christmas time: an impressive light grotto on the hills above the village.

The Patron Festivities of the five villages between May and August

The recreation of the pirates attacks to Vernazza in mid-summer

The harvest of wine in mid-September

How to get to Cinque Terre

How to get there:

Airport: Pisa or Genova are the nearest airports.

Milano Malpensa is an International hub for intercontinental flights and it is about 3 hours by train from cinque terre.

By train:

Genova and La Spezia are well connected to cinque terre with trains approximately leaving every 30 minutes. There is also a local train that calls all the Cinque terre stations and it is far the most preferred way to travel around the area. Cars are banned and must be left quite far away from the villages where parking is difficult. One has to drive either all way up or all way down.

Monterosso | Source
what to eat: Trofie
what to eat: Trofie | Source

What to eat

The cuisine is tipically from Liguria which means rather simple but tasteful plates. The speciality in cinque terre are anchovies an authentic tasteful delicacy. Trofie are a plate made by chestnut or whet flour and it has a delicate fragrant of basil which is the principal ingredient of this pesto sauce. This is the land of vegetable pies of zucchine, leeks, mushrooms that in this area are in abundance, artichokes and often made with besciamella and other sauces. One can notice that the pie is very thin because flour, once, used to be a commodity. The Farinata Ligure a sort of focaccia made with chickpeas flower and olive oil is a delicacy that it is difficult to forget once eaten. Fish are the backbone of the meals with anchovies, calamari, and octopus . Mussels are particularly important here and made in a variety of ways.


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