While there are a lot of attractions in Cinque Terre (food, wine, mountains, sea), we are there to hike. Cinque Terre is in a National Park in Italy, ParcoNazionale delle Cinque Terre, containing a Marine Protected Area established in 1997.
Cinque Terre consists of five villages, each with its own unique personality: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. To the south of Cinque Terre is the town of La Spezia, the second largest (after Genoa) in Liguria, the Italian Riveria. To the west of La Spezia is Portovenere, just below the southernmost Cinque Terre town of Riomaggiore. La Spezia has a large train station (La Spezia Centrale), with connections to Pisa, Rome and beyond and a cruise boat terminal where passengers can disembark for excursions to Florence, Pisa, Lucca, or Cinque Terre.
The five towns of Cinque Terre
To the north of Cinque Terre is Levanto, a gateway city to the region and about a 4 minute train ride from Monterosso. A little further north and a short day-trip on the train from Cinque Terre are the towns of Portofino and Santa Margherita, which we came through on our train from Milan to Monterosso.
The five villages of Cinque Terre are connected by trails along the sea and trails higher up in the mountains. Path Number 2 along the sea connects all the villages (although two sections from Manarola to Riomaggiore are still closed from the mudslides of 2011) and is the most popular hiking route. The Park charges to hike on Path Number 2, with small shacks at each end to make sure that hikers have paid, 7.5€ ($8.40) for a day, 14.5€ ($16.23) for two days. The hiking card can also be purchased with local train travel included for 12€ ($13.45) for one day or 23€ ($25.77) for two, but since the train fare between Cinque Terre stations is 1.4€ ($1.57, up to 5km) or 1.8€ ($2.02, up to 10km), depending on the distance, the hike out and train back is more cost-effective if we just buy our train ticket when we want to travel.
Map of the Cinque Terre region
Map showing elevations
Path Number 2 tends to be crowded, particularly in the afternoon and we have come to prefer Path Number 1, which runs across the top of the mountains from Levanto to Portovenere, at elevations ranging from 500 meters (1640 feet) to 800 meters (2624 feet, ½ mile). The hike from one of the villages, at sea level, up to Path Number 1 is generally straight up, but once we are up, we can go a long ways with relatively small variations in altitude (at least compared with hiking straight up 500 meters to start!).
Path Number 1 is reported to take about 12 hours from Levanto to Portovenere. We haven’t done the full path in one day and won’t this trip either. But, we can break it up and do a section or two every day, returning to Monterosso, Hotel Villa Steno, and an incredible dinner and bottle of local wine every evening as we come down from the mountain. That seems a lot more sensible to us and we do it over the next few days!