The Blue Trail Cinque Terre Hike: Guide + Tips

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The unforgettable Sentiero Azzurro, or Blue Trail, in Cinque Terre weaves through dramatic coastal panoramas and colorful stacked villages. To help you navigate this unique trail system, this guide details everything you should know about the Cinque Terre hike. 

Vernazza Cinque Terre Hike Italy

Featuring shimmering coastal views and sherbet-colored villages perched precariously on dramatic cliffs, Cinque Terre is straight off a postcard. In fact, the five towns collectively are a UNESCO World Heritage Site

The incredible ocean vistas created the nickname of one of the most popular activities in Cinque Terre: the Sentiero Azzurro, or “Blue Trail” in English. You’ve probably seen pictures of this iconic hike, but nothing beats experiencing it in person!

The five villages are all a part of the Cinque Terre National Park, and there are several ways to explore them. Hiking is the best way to experience the national park, in particular, the main Cinque Terre hike, the Blue Trail. In this article, we’ll dive into exactly what it entails. 

Cinque Terre Hike Guide

Cinque Terre hike at a glance

Cinque Terre Hike Italy
  • Location: Italy
  • Distance: 6.9 miles / 11.1 km, point to point 
  • Elevation gain: 1,719 feet / 524 meters
  • Difficulty rating: Moderate
  • Timing: 4.5 – 5 hours
  • View trail notes on Alltrails

The Cinque Terre coastline encompasses an extensive trail system — not just the Sentiero Azzurro!

It’s well-trodden for good reason, as the hike encompasses stunning views with minimal elevation gain and you’ll encounter the villages at perfect intervals. Nothing quite beats ascending the ancient stone steps and grabbing a cold refreshment in town!

Take note that the classic Cinque Terre hike follows the coastline, so if a route deviates into the mountains, it’s likely not the official Blue Trail. However, many of these higher alpine paths are less prone to landslides, so they can be used as alternate routes during trail closures. 

Regardless of which trail you plan to follow, this is one hike where you’ll want to make sure you have Alltrails downloaded to avoid any wrong turns. 

Sentiero Azzurro trail map

Cinque Terre Hike Map

Sections of the Blue Trail Cinque Terre hike

With multiple villages along the Cinque Terre hike, all interconnected, you don’t have to tackle the entire Sentiero Azzurro in one go. Here’s a breakdown of all the segments of the trail. 

  • Riomaggiore to Manarola* (known as Via dell’Amore or “Lover’s Lane”): 1.5 km (0.9 miles); easy
  • Manarola to Corniglia*: 3 km (1.86 miles); easy
  • Corniglia to Vernazza: 4 km (2.48 miles); moderate
  • Vernazza to Monterosso: 3.5 km (2.17 miles); moderate

You can read more details about each of these sections in the route breakdown below. 

*Important note: The sections of the trail between Riomaggiore and Manarola, and Manarola to Corniglia are closed due to rockslide and due to re-open in 2024/2025. Get updates here.

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Things to know before you go

To have the most enjoyable experience hiking Cinque Terre, it’s helpful to consider a few factors beforehand. 

Best time of year for doing the Cinque Terre hike

Blue Trail Cinque Terre Hike Italy

The Cinque Terre hike is open year-round, so there’s no concern about seasonal closures. However, rockslides and mudslides may close the trail at any time of year

The summer, especially July and August, is peak tourism season. Cinque Terre as a whole gets very crowded, with traffic jams in narrow sections of the trail. It also gets sweltering hot, so head out in the early morning to have the best trail conditions during these months. 

Winter brings frequent gray, rainy weather and wind, so it’s not an ideal time for this hike. Mudslides are also more common, causing frequent trail closures.

Considering these factors, the shoulder months of April/May and September/October are best for hiking Sentiero Azzurro. Blue skies are highly likely, and the climate will be much more comfortable. 

Psst! Find out the best time to visit Italy based on seasonal weather patterns in each region and your personal travel style.

How long does it take to hike the Blue Trail?

Cinque Terre Hike Italy

Thru-hiking the trail at an average pace typically takes around 5 hours. Both the distance and elevation gain are moderately demanding, but even casual hikers should be able to finish the Sentiero Azzurro as a day hike.

My experience: It took us 2 hours to hike from Monterroso to Vernazza, and 1.5 hours to hike from Vernazza to Corniglia

What really adds time to the Cinque Terre hike is stopping in villages and at beaches — for a snack, swim, or simply to take in the view! If you’re planning to explore along the way (which you should!), allot an extra 3-4 hours for the hike. 

Savoring the unique atmosphere of each village is a highlight of visiting Cinque Terre! While each town can be explored in under an hour, it’s difficult to hurry with a gelato in hand. And keep in mind, the most strenuous hiking (aka lots of stairs!) takes place entering and exiting the villages of Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso. 

How difficult is the Cinque Terre hike?

With an approachable 11.1-kilometer length (6.9 miles) and a moderate yet manageable 500 meters of elevation gain (1,640 feet), the Cinque Terre hike is moderately difficult.

There are several sweat-inducing climbs and sections with rocky gravel and sand underfoot, so make sure to wear proper hiking attire. However, even those with limited trail experience will find it very doable. 

Keep in mind that hot summer temperatures are often the hardest part of the trek

Do I need a permit to hike the Sentiero Azzurro?

Cinque Terre Hike Italy

Yes, hikers are required to purchase a permit to do most of Sentiero Azzurro. You’ll be asked to show it at checkpoints entering and exiting each village on the Blue Trail, so yes — it’s really required.

Called the Cinque Terre Trekking Card, it’s necessary for entering the sections between Corniglia to Monterosso. The card costs €7.50 and you can purchase it online. You will also have the opportunity to purchase the pass in person at the trailheads if necessary, but you will need cash. 

You may also want to look into the handy Cinque Terre Treno Card, which offers unlimited rides on the express trains between La Spezia and each of the villages.

If you’ll be in Cinque Terre for multiple days or you’re planning to break up the hike, consider purchasing a two- or three-day pass. 

Hiking permits are not required from November 6th to March 17th

How to get to Cinque Terre

Riomaggiore Cinque Terre Italy

The easiest and most common way to get to Cinque Terre is by train. No matter which direction you are coming from, you’ll need to connect through La Spezia—the ‘gateway’ to Cinque Terre. 

Another option to arrive in Cinque Terre is through private transfer or self-driving. Note that private cars are not allowed in the Cinque Terre villages. You’ll most likely want to park your car in La Spezia and transit in. 

Once you’ve arrived in La Spezia, you can get individual train tickets, or a train pass (more on this below), or take the ferry to any of the Cinque Terre villages. 

Getting to Cinque Terre from La Spezia by train 

Cinque Terre Italy

The Cinque Terre Express train is the best way to get to Cinque Terre from La Spezia, and stops at each of the five villages.

The train runs every 20-minutes* from La Spezia. You’ll want to look for the train to either Sestri Levante or Levanto. Both these routes stop in all five Cinque Terre villages. View the timetables here.

*Note that during the winter the train only runs once or twice each hour and ticket prices are reduced.

A one-way train ticket from La Spezia to any one of the villages is €5 (double that for round trip) and can be purchased in the Tabaccheria inside the train terminal in La Spezia. 

You’ll have to purchase separate tickets (at €5 each) to ride the train between any of the villages. And your tickets must be validated at each train stop or you’ll risk paying a major fine. 

If you’re riding the train at least 3-4 times, it’s worth looking into the Cinque Terre Train Card as it’s €18.20 for unlimited rides and you won’t have to wait in the ticket lines. (More on this below.)

Getting to Cinque Terre from La Spezia by ferry

There are also regular ferries that traverse from La Spezia to all five villages multiple times daily. 

To take the ferry, head down to the port in La Spezia and look for the Cinque Terre Line 2 ferry dock.  

You can purchase one way tickets to any of the Cinque Terre villages for €25. 

The Blue Trail route

Every section of the Cinque Terre hike offers a slightly different experience. Whether you plan to tackle individual sections or the entire thing, it’s nice to have a breakdown of each leg (plus note any parts that are closed!). 

Riomaggiore to Manarola – Via Dell’Amore

  • Distance: 1.3 km / 0.8 miles, point-to-point
  • Elevation gain: 55 meters / 180 feet
  • Difficulty rating: easy
  • Avg. duration: 30 minutes
  • View trail notes on Alltrails 

One of the more famous sections of the Sentiero Azzurro, the Via Dell’Amore (“Lovers’ Lane”) is also one of the easiest and most accessible

The path is short, wide, paved, and even has elevators for disabled access! Especially popular in the evening, this section offers stunning coastal views…when it’s open, that is.

The Via Dell’Amore is subject to frequent landslide closures and is currently closed until July 2024. Note that the proposed reopening date has been pushed back a few times, so I highly recommend checking the most up-to-date status online before your hike.

However, there is a very short section of the coast-hugging pathway that is currently open. Not considered part of the official Via Dell’Amore, this section runs from the Riomaggiore train station, hugging the coastline, to the center of the village. 

Via dell'Amore Cinque Terre hike Italy

To find this short walkway, stay on the train platform nearest the coast, and look for the small, nearly hidden staircase next to the cliffside. Follow the walkway towards the town center, hugging the coast for a few hundred meters. You’ll eventually have to climb lots of stairs (but the views are incredible) and then descend back down into the village. 

Fortunately, it’s still possible to reach Manarola from Riomaggiore with one of two options.  

The first is via a steeper route above the mountain, known as the “high route.” As its name implies, the high route involves lots of staircases and vineyards. The silver lining, however, is that the climb results in even better views.

Alternatively, you can catch the train. The train station is adjacent to the Cinque Terre tourist office, and trains run frequently. We’ve explained exactly how to take the train between the villages in our Cinque Terre guide

Manarola to Corniglia

Manarola Cinque Terre Italy 2
  • Distance: 2.7 km  / 1.7 miles, point-to-point
  • Elevation gain: 113 meters / 370 feet
  • Difficulty rating: moderate
  • Avg. duration: 1 hour
  • View trail notes on Alltrails

Much like the previous section of the Cinque Terre hike, continuing to Corniglia is delightfully breezy. There’s minimal elevation gain and scenic views abound, including stunning vistas of Manarola. 

Unfortunately, like the Via Dell’Amore, this section of trail is prone to landslides that cause frequent damage. Exactly such an occurrence shut down the trail indefinitely. It is currently projected to reopen sometime in 2025. (Check for updates)

Again, similar to the route between Riomaggiore and Manarola, there’s a scenic detour that climbs above the trail. However, it adds a considerable amount of elevation gain and it’s about twice as long as the previous section. 

Thankfully, there’s also a train as an alternative. Know that there’s a steep staircase with switchback-like landings you’ll have to climb to get from the train station to Corniglia, so you’ll have a bit of a hike just to get into town! 

Corniglia to Vernazza

Cinque Terre Hike Italy
  • Distance: 3.4 km / 2.1 miles, point-to-point
  • Elevation gain: 153 meters / 501 feet
  • Difficulty rating: Moderate
  • Avg. duration: 1.5 hours
  • View trail notes on Alltrails 

Beyond Corniglia, the Sentiero Azzurro turns into a more typical trail and hiking conditions. You’re finally on the “main” Cinque Terre hike – the official Sentiero Azzurro. This trail includes countless stone steps, as well as rough, unpaved sections to ascend. 

The highest point of the Cinque Terre hike is in this section, and the added elevation offers incredible views. There are so many memorable vistas of the glittering sea that many hikers find this leg slow-going. 

Cinque Terre Hike Italy

Insider Tip: There is a small cafe about half-way through this section of the trail. They offer small bites and refreshments in case you need a refueling stop. Plus they have a terrace where you can enjoy your drinks with some incredible views over Corniglia. We stopped here for lemon granitas and it was well-worth it!

And the descent into Vernazza is just stunning! Be sure to stop at the viewpoint overlooking the “backside” of Vernazza on your way into (or out of) town. 

One drawback to the Corniglia-Vernazza stretch is that it’s almost completely exposed, so it gets very hot during the summer season

Vernazza to Monterosso

Monterosso al Mare Cinque Terre hike Italy
  • Distance: 3.7 km / 2.3 miles, point-to-point
  • Elevation gain: 210 meters / 688 ft
  • Difficulty rating: Moderate
  • Avg. duration: 1.5 hours
  • View trail notes on Alltrails

Many people consider this the most stunning section of the Cinque Terre hike, so think of it like saving the best for last. The cliffs are at their most dramatic, and there are even some views of all five villages at once

With the route weaving through steep terraced vineyards — the way many hikers imagine it — it’s also the most difficult, traversing endless ups and downs. 

The saving grace is the reward at the end: Monterosso has the best beaches in all of Cinque Terre. You’ll definitely want to save time (and energy!) for a refreshing swim once you’ve completed your hike.  

My experience on the Cinque Terre hike

Cinque Terre Hike Italy

I’ve had the privilege of hiking parts of the Sentiero Azzurro twice now. Once, back in 2016, I hiked from Vernazza to Monterosso with a guided tour group. And most recently in May 2023, I hiked the open sections with my mom (who is 65!) on our own. 

Due to the trail closures between Riomaggiore and Corniglia, we opted to begin our hike in Monterosso and make our way back to Corniglia, via Vernazza. 

The hike from Monterosso to Vernaza took us 2 hours in total, at a pretty steady pace. The start of the trail includes a pretty steep incline with lots and lots of stairs. But it levels out for the majority, until you reach Vernazza, where you’ll have to descend back to sea level once again. 

There are plenty of photo opportunities, including the iconic view of Vernazza, on your descent down into the village. We opted to stop in Vernazza for lunch and filled up on focaccia before we continued onto Corniglia.  

Vernazza Cinque Terre Italy

On our way out of Vernazza, there is another beautiful viewpoint, this time from the “back” of the village, that is worth a photo stop. 

The section of the trail from Vernazza to Corniglia has just slightly less elevation gain, and took us about 1.5 hours to complete. We stopped at the beautiful terrace for lemon granitas about halfway through, which took an extra 20 minutes or so. 

Once we reached Corniglia, we hopped on the train to get to the remaining villages. 

Tips for hiking the Sentiero Azzurro

Cinque Terre Hike Italy
  • Sun protection is a must. The trail is very exposed, so wear sunscreen and a good sun hat, and dress in cool layers.
  • Short on time? Consider doing just some sections of the Sentiero Azzurro. If you have to choose, complete the last two sections — they’re stunning and the least likely to be closed due to landslides.
  • Start early in the morning. This gives you both optimal photo lighting and the best weather.
  • Don’t hesitate to take a train. If you’re tired, hot, short on time, or heck, just want the experience, catch a train to the next town! They’re affordable and the rides are short, so there’s really no reason not to. 
  • Bring plenty of water. You’ll want to stay hydrated, especially on a sunny day on the trail. 
  • You can always refuel in town. If you get hungry, thirsty or just want to rest your legs for a bit, you can always stop in one of the towns for a rest and refuel. 
  • You can do the Cinque Terre hike in either direction. The route listed here lets you work up to the challenging sections and finish at fantastic beaches, but you can do it in reverse, starting with the most strenuous legs. 

What to pack for the Cinque Terre hike

Cinque Terre Hike Italy
  • Navigation: we recommend using Alltrails+ to download the offline trail map
  • Hiking daypack
  • Insulated water bottle and/or bladder for your Camelbak
    • It is recommended to bring 3 liters of water to hike the entire Blue Trail, however, you can refill or buy more water in the towns as you go.
  • Sun protection: sunscreen, hat, sun glasses
  • Bug repellant
  • Camera/tripod (this one’s our favorite for hiking)
  • Hiking layers (here is a great resource if you’re wondering what to wear hiking)
  • Comfortable hiking boots or shoes
  • Hiking poles (optional)
  • Plenty of snacks: check out our favorite hiking snacks here!

Be sure to download our complete packing list for Italy! It’s packed with good suggestions and insider tips to help plan your Italy trip. And it’s completely FREE, so why not!?

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Where to stay nearby

Staying overnight somewhere in Cinque Terre is honestly one of the memorable aspects of the whole experience! Below, I’ve highlighted several of the best accommodation options.

Budget studio apartment: Cozy Studio

Cozy studio (Airbnb)

Location: Riomaggiore

Situated in Riomaggiore, this modern and clean apartment is on a scenic cliffside overlooking all of town. It’s in a historic building with stone archway detailing, a double bedroom, small kitchen area, and a relaxing terrace and garden. It’s the perfect place to unwind or get the day started.

Mid-range budget option: Villino Caterina

Villino Caterina (Booking)

Location: Riomaggiore

The location, intimate setting, and jaw-dropping views are highlights of this cliffside stay. It’s in Riomaggiore, the perfect spot to kickstart your trip in Cinque Terre and comes with everything you need for a comfortable stay: full-service kitchen, washer, private patio, workspace, free Wifi, and your own private backyard.

Mid-range budget: Casa Cato

Casa Catò (Booking)

Location: Vernazza

Situated just 100 meters from the sandy beach in Vernazza, this beautiful guesthouse is perfectly located for your Cinque Terre adventure. The air conditioned rooms each have a private bath and seaview. Some even have their own balcony.

Alternative: Stay in La Spezia

Just south of Cinque Terre is La Spezia, a larger city that most travelers pass through before continuing to one of the villages.

It’s an affordable place to base yourself (this is what I did!) and Riomaggiore (the closest village) is only a 10-minute train ride away. 

So while it’s not as captivating as staying in one of the Cinque Terre villages, it’s a great option for staying within budget. And just as easy to hop on the train into the villages each morning. 

Ostello Tramonti (Booking)

Budget hostel: Ostello Tramonti

This hostel has a garden, shared lounge, free Wifi, and onsite bar. It’s the most budget-friendly place to stay near Cinque Terre with great amenities and the coast is just a short train away.

Silver Pearl (Airbnb)

Budget option: Silver Pearl

This clean and modern apartment is only a 5-minute walk to the train station. There are two spacious bedrooms, a fully-equipped kitchen, and everything you’ll need for a comfortable few days in Cinque Terre.

Hip, Minimalist Apartment (Airbnb)

Mid-range budget option: Hip, Minimalist Apartment

Surrounded by fantastic shopping, dining, cafes, and the train station, this apartment is in an ideal location near the city center. The apartment is spacious, clean, and updated with a well-equipped kitchen, washer, free Wifi, and quaint patio.

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Cinque Terre Hike | Two Wandering Soles
Cinque Terre Hike | Two Wandering Soles

We want to hear from you!

Have you ever been to Cinque Terre National Park before? What was your experience like? Which of the Cinque Terre villages do you want to visit most? Leave your comment below and we’ll do our best to get back to you!

Comments (1) on “The Blue Trail Cinque Terre Hike: Guide + Tips

  1. Deepali Karande says:

    When I visited the Blue Trail, some sections were closed for maintenance due to landslides. Nevertheless, I enjoyed hiking at this picturesque trail. The views of the colorful houses, crystal-clear waters, and terraced vineyards of Italian Riviera are stunning.

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