Cinque Terre: Five Towns

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5 villages, approx. 15 - 18kms and a gazillion gorgeous views - all in a day!

One day hike to all the Five Towns. Cinque Terre (CT) is a UNESCO heritage site. Both of us have longed to visit for as long as we can remember.

Cinque Terre is often thought to be an expensive place to live and travel to, this is true if you plan to stay in one of the 5 villages. If you are anything like us and don't want to spend GBP 100- 150 per night + some more on food and drinks - we have a cheaper option for you!

  • Where: Cinque Terre, Italy
  • Month: September
  • For: Day trip
  • Suited to: Anyone and everyone who enjoys a decent hike
  • Expect: Beautiful Italian coast, vineyards, tiny cafes all along the way and lush green beauty!
  • Accommodations: 1
  • Activities: Approx 20 kms hike but with breaks!
  • Cost (accommodation): CT day pass €16 pp + train journey approx €30pp (from Pisa)
  • Spending: €30pp, includes everything

Getting there

Take a train from Pisa Central (or Genoa or Milan) to La Spezia (approx. 30 - 40 mins depending on your start point). Its going to be a long day that will easily take 10 - 12hrs of hiking, eating, drinking, sun bathing and water dipping! So make sure you leave early (we took the first train at 0530hrs train from Pisa). You will be surprised how many hikers take this train from Pisa!

Once at La Spezia go to the travel information desk & buy a DAY PASS. While there are a variety of tickets you can buy, but for this day trip you will need a day pass that allows you to hop on and off the train at any of the 5 villages and bring you back to your start point. So make sure you check and confirm. We did see people with the wrong ticket pay more than double at the first checkpoint!

Getting around

Your day trip options:

  1. Train hop between all villages (there is a train every 5 - 10mins, during season). Time from one village to another is 10 - 15 mins
  2. Take the train from La Spezia to Monterosso and hike Vernazza & Corniglia, then hop on a train from Corniglia to see the last 2 villages (Manarola & Riomaggiore)
  3. Take the train to Riomaggiore and begin your hike / train hop journey!

Basically depending on how fit you feel you can take any of the above options. The trail is well laid out with checkpoints before and after every village (yes you need the day pass because you will be asked!). If you choose to walk like us, be prepared its a quite a hike!

Sleeping

You can choose any hotel in Pisa that’s within your budget and fairly close to the train station (approx. 20- 30mins walk will take you across the river!) There are loads of options but we chose the one that was (then) the cheapest and 30 mins walk / 10mins cab ride from the train station.

The hotel we chose has breakfast included and is walking distance from the train station (20 mins) and the city centre (15mins).

The Hike

A number of guide books and travel sites we read, recommended that we start the hike at the 5th or southernmost village (Riomaggiore) and suggested to make our way to the 1st or northernmost village (Monterosso al Mare).

But we went the other way round. Why? Simply because after researching the trail and the terrain we realised that the toughest hike is between Monterosso al Mare and Vernazza (it is STEEP uphill and downhill!) so we decided to cover the toughest part first thing in the morning. Also while we were visiting the trail between Manarola and Riomaggiore was partially closed due to an earlier landslide so it seemed like a good idea.

The best decision we have ever made for a hiking trip!

Village 1: Monterosso al Mare

Before we began our day we had a coffee and croissant (plus some sugary treat) at the station - its not delicious but that was the only place open at 0630hrs!

Once you walk out of the station and towards the beach you will notice the sign for the Monterroso - Vernazza trail. We chose the coastal one and this trail was marked with red and white signs all through the hike (across all villages).

Sunrise at Monterosso al Mare and the start of a long LONG hike!!

The hike at Monterosso starts with an easy walk along the edge of the cliff. The gorgeous sea!

The hike then quickly turns into a serious step-climb exercise with steps I couldn’t event count! At one point I stopped to check in to FB (so I was distracted!) 😄

Somehow none of the zillion travel sites/blogs we scoured, covered this point! So YES there are steps…and it feels like they never end…and you start feeling like a goat…until you turn round the corner and see this view (below).

Once you have managed to reach the top this is what you see for the next 30 - 40 mins (in and out of the forest). The village you see on the top thats where we began our hike.

Village 2: Vernazza

Hike Stop 1: Breakfast in Vernazza.

The moment you walk into Vernazza you can see where all the Lonely Planets and travel guides get there pictures from! It is BEAUTIFUL!

Note: If you want to buy spices or pasta we recommend waiting till your last stop. The same shops are in each village and its easier to pick things up towards the end of the hike.

Make your way to the Blue Marlin Cafe (or any other that you fancy!). There are loads to choose from, we chose this one because we saw a number of our fellow hikers eating there so it was a chance to sit down and get to know the others. The food was simple and delicious - no complaints!

Our order : Eggs, local bread and some delicious iced coffee!

Post breakfast its important that you get back on the trail quickly (but slowly) or else lethargy will hit you like a boulder! So we took a few mins to explore the village (its tiny and you don't need more than 30mins or so) and then followed the signs of our Red and White trail towards Corniglia.

The view are even better! Every time I looked back all i could see was this gorgeous village (Vernazza) and overtime i looked ahead there was the ocean and our next village stop peering from the trees!

One thing that impressed me the most was how well planned is the trail. There are signs everywhere and we saw people cleaning the trail early morning!

On our way from Vernazza to Corniglia we found this tiny cafe on top of a cliff. Definitely recommend you to STOP here and try their fresh orange juice (only cash payment).

Juice with this view from a terrace garden….. WOW!

Or this view! Orange juice has never tasted this good!

Village 3: Corniglia

Hike stop 2: Drinks and nibbles in Corniglia.

Unlike the other 4 villages Corniglia is probably the only village placed right on the top of a cliff. To go to the beach you have to climb down probably more than a hundred steps. We didn't go down to the beach as it was a very rocky and overcrowded.

Instead we ate and drank with the sea! If you do arrive at the village (like we did) around noon then sit down and have a few aperols! The worst is over 😃 and the view is GORGEOUS!

Right before you enter the village Enoteca cafe is on your left (you can’t miss it) - its the first one and we walked around the entire village to come back here and loved it. The view, ambience, drinks…we didn't want to leave!

The cafe doesn't have a website so the only way to know is when you walk into Corniglia (pic below) - This is the first cafe on your left and you cannot miss it.

Front of the cafe - ask for a table outside, if you are a sea-view lover like us!

THE VIEW!

We walked around the village to find more cafes and gelato points..everywhere! We chose the colourful gelato place (Alberto Gelataria) followed by a yummy slice of pizza.

As you step out of the gelataria take a right, at the corner you see this fairly big Trattoria / Pizza place. I can't remember the name but you can't miss it. After the hike we had had we both treated ourselves to a piece each! It was simple and delicious. Right outside this pizza place is a tiny water fountain fill up your water bottles rather than buy water!

For the next village we had to hop onto a train as the path was closed due a landslide.

Village 4: Manarola

Manarola is probably the best place (according to us) for sun-bathing and swimming. Its busy, vibrant and the colour of water is gorgeous! As you come out of the station, follow the path towards the beach. If you are peckish pick up some snacks and walk towards the viewpoint.

If you look at the picture above, you will notice a path around the cliff..walk up that path to reach the viewpoint - the most beautiful view of the village (picture below)! Yes there are more steps!

On the way up you will see street artists, painters…stop and see if you want to buy a tiny painting or two..I know we did!

Manarola view from the top - yes this is where all travel lovers get their gorgeous pictures! The day I started believing that not all pictures are photoshopped!

Once on the top you can sit and have a drink at the bar and take in the views. I cannot say this enough….its bloody beautiful!

Village 5: Riomaggiore

The last and final stop Riomaggiore! We had to take a train from Manarola to Riomaggiore as the path was closed due to a landslide and it was good call because we were tired of walking by then!

Riomaggiore is, according to me, slightly anti-climax. Especially after you’ve seen the views in Vernazza and Manarola. Riomaggiore appeared to be more of a party village. Lots and lots of people, too many places to eat and drink and honestly overcrowded!

The village is pretty but probably not AS pretty as the others (is our view).

Riomaggiore (note the greyish cliffs in the background, thats where we began our hike!)

Walk down to the beach to get the complete view

While there are too many places to choose from, for us food has to be good esp when we are famished! So we decided to explore Grottino because it was quiet, clean and less crowded.

As you walk out from the station and walk towards the village ‘centre’, this will be one of the first restaurants you will notice on your right - Il Grottino.

Stop here for some wholesome delicious italian food!

It's comparatively cheaper than many others located near the beach. Try their tiramisu, it's heaven in a bowl!

After dinner, if you have time go back to the beach - definitely go! We walked down the beach and sat down to catch the sunset. The pictures don’t do justice to what you really see 😃

And that was the end of our one day of sea, gorgeous food and what felt like a trillion steps! Worth every penny and hour!

Hope you enjoy it as much as we did….Happy Hiking!

Travel Essentials

  • Good quality walking shoes are a must. Be comfortable and safe
  • Gear: Layer up! Early mornings and evenings are chilly but the day is fairly warm and sunny (esp in summer)
  • Water : LOTS of it! There will be water fountains in Vernazza and Corniglia so make sure you stock up at these villages
  • Sunglasses: You will need it esp around noon, it is really bright!
  • Cash: some places in the villages still ask for cash
  • Food: Carry some chewing gum, fruit or something sweet incase you start feeling tired
  • Walking Stick : Optional
  • Thin Jacket: For when it rains or becomes too windy
  • Swimwear: Every village has an option for a quick dip!

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Questions? Feel free to ask me anything in the comments below!

Vidhu Dutt

I love all things travel & have a full-time job that helps me follow my passion, one plan at a time. On average I take 7 trips per year (not including trips back home to Delhi) ⛵️ ✈️ 😎

London, UK

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