You have probably heard of the Cinque Terre, a string of five towns that hug the coastline of the Mediterranean just north of Tuscany. What you may not know is that despite being so close to the sea, the real attraction here is not the beaches, but the hiking trails. From the popular Blue Path to the less traveled Sanctuary trail, there are over a hundred miles of trails to choose from. It can be confusing figuring out which one to take. They are referred to by names, numbers and the towns they link. Maps with trail details and names and numbers are available at train stations, news stands and tourist kiosks. To get you started, here are five beautiful hikes to take in the Cinque Terre.
Make sure you check that the trail you have chosen is open by checking the official Cinque Terre Park website. Some trails are closed due to storm damage and maintenance. While most of the trails are free, for the Blue Trail (Sentiero Azzurro )and the Via d’Amore (Path of Love) there is an entrance fee, which you can pay for individually or purchase the all inclusive Cinque Terre Card which also includes train and bus travel between the five villages and guided walks and tours. Plan your hikes for the early morning to avoid the heat and the crowds, and make sure you have sturdy shoes and plenty of water with you.
Blue Trail (Sentiero Azzurro )
This trail is also known as #2. This is the most popular route and there is an entrance fee, which is included if you buy a Cinque Terre Card. The Blue Trail connects all five towns and can be broken up into sections. The easiest section, the Via dell’Amore from Riomaggiore to Manarola is partially closed until 2018 and the part that links Manarola to Corniglia via almost 400 steps is also closed until at least 2018. The two sections of the Blue trail that are open are Corniglia to Vernazza, which is a medium to difficult hike of about 1 1/2 hours and very scenic. This challenging hike takes about 2 hours.
Each of the five towns have a sanctuary above them. By taking the paths # 3-8 between Monterosso and Riomaggiore, you can visit each of them; Nostra Signora della Salute, Nostra Signora delle Grazie, Nostra Signora di Montenero, Nostra Signora di Reggio and Nostra Signora di Soviore. The entire hike takes about five hours and there is no entrance fee.
#1 The High Path
This popular route begins and ends just beyond the boundaries of the Cinque Terre going from Levanto to Portovenere. The entire length is about 25 miles. The easiest section of this trail is from Portovenere to Colle del Telegrafo, and it is about five miles long. Plan on leaving at least three to four hours for the hike, as the views from this hill are great. You will be able to spot the island of Palmaria in the distance in the Bay of La Spezia.
#531 Beccara Trail
This is one of the most challenging trails in the Cinque Terre, so only embark on this if you are an experienced hiker with the proper shoes and are prepared to climb about 600 sone steps. Linking Riomaggiore to Manarola, this was the only route between these towns before the Via Dell’Amore was constructed in the early 1900s. For the wine lover, you can see the incredible almost vertical vineyards close up with this hike.
Swim Path in the Marine Protected Area
If the allure of the water is too much for you, then there is a “trail” in the sea. From Vernazza to Riomaggiore, there are buoys that mark an area safe from boats to swim along the coast. You will swim through small rock channels, spot sea birds, incredible corals and be able see the villages from a unique perspective.