Cinque Terre for the Active: Hiking All 5 Cities in One Day
Typically the beautiful Cinque Terre (or five lands) that rests along the rugged coast of north western Italy is not really known as an active destination. Rather in the last twenty years, these cities have become popular for their romantic seaside views and pastel colors. Despite the influx of tourists, the towns have managed to preserve their charming tranquility by banning all car traffic. As a result, hiking is one of the primary ways to get from town to town. There are famous trails through the mountains that connect the cities and follow the coast line with breathtaking views. So, if you're up for it, you can hike all four trails to each of the cities in a single day, getting a great dose of activity and absolutely amazing views along the way.
Starting in the western most city, The Sentiero Azzurro (blue path) trail, marked No. 2 on the maps, runs from Monterosso to Manarola, passing through Vernazza and Corniglia on the way. To travel between the towns, the trails weave up into the mountains and back down to the next town, so there's a bit of endurance required. The trails are super well marked though which makes for a straight forward journey. To get from Monterosso to Manarola, the 9 km journey takes about 5 hours total, but with stopping in each town and taking pictures, it ends up stretching to about 7 hours total. The famous coastal Via dell'Amore (lovers' way) path connects Manarola to Riomagiorre, however this path has been closed since 2012 when four hikers were injured by a boulder. There is an alternative stair-heavy trail that runs inland and takes about an hour.
I recommend doing this journey in reverse however, and ending the day in Monterosso. This village is under appreciated when compared to its neighboring picturesque port city Vernazza, but it is the only one of the villages that has a beach. Relaxing on the sand there is the absolute perfect way to end the long day of hiking. We stayed in Monterosso at the Margherita hotel, which was a quaint place and perfect for our stay. It was pretty funny though, when after spending all day climbing the hills and stairs of the trails, we were pretty exhausted only to find the hotel's elevator temporarily out of service. It all really just felt like a big prank, having to then venture up multiple flights of stairs to finally crash on our beds.
Before booking this trip, it's important to make sure that the trails are actually open, as this area is prone to landslides. Back in 2011, there were also some massive floods that really damaged the area. Years later, some places are still recovering. For example, right now, the the Sentiero Azzurro path between Manarola and Corniglia is closed for renovations, and hikers have to take the 5 minute train ride connecting these cities rather than taking the trail. So if you want the real Cinque Terre hiking experience, it's best to check and make sure that everything is open before finalizing plans.