Cinque Terre Walk Write a review
The “Cinque Terre” refers to the five fishing villages along the Ligurian Coast between Genoa and La Spezia. Now a protected UNESCO World Heritage site, they are part of the Italian Riviera and one of the highlights of our 6-day trip. We also visit the beautiful historical port of Portovenere and end our trip in the elegant resort town of Santa Margherita Ligure, near Portofino. We walk along dramatic cliffs, steeply terraced vineyards, and through colorful fishing villages. The seafood is excellent, the region is the birthplace of pesto and focaccia, and Ligurian wines are white, light, and delicious.
Cinque Terre Walk itinerary
Independent arrival in Monterosso al Mare, the largest of the five Cinque Terre villages. It is connected by train with Genoa to the north, and Pisa and La Spezia to the south. Our hotel is located in the heart of the old town, with its colorfully-painted houses and striking medieval church built of white and black local marble. Meet your guides and the rest of the group at 7 pm for a welcome drink and short orientation talk before heading to dinner at a local seafood restaurant. Overnight in Monterosso at the Hotel Margherita or Hotel Carla in Levanto (or similar). Hotel and dinner included.
A short train ride takes us to the seaside town of Framura, where we start our first walk. The trail takes us high above the shimmering waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea before returning us to the coast at Levanto, a walled town originally built by the Romans. The 11th century church steeple once served as a watchtower to warn the village of marauding pirates. Exit Levanto on an ancient path that is still paved with broad flagstones worn shiny with the passage of centuries of travelers. The scenic coastal track leads you to the spectacular look-out at Punta Mesco, where you can see the five villages of the Cinque Terre spread out before you. Descend to Monterosso’s old town and enjoy a gelato or a cold drink overlooking the water, or grab your swimsuit and take a refreshing dip from Monterosso’s sandy beach. Tonight we go to a family-owned restaurant where they show us how they make pesto and the town's famous salted anchovies in the traditional way. They also regale us with stories of village life and serve us a selection of locally-produced wine, ending with a glass of sciacchetrà, their prized sweet wine. Overnight Monterosso or Hotel Carla, in Levanto (or similar). Hotel, breakfast and dinner included.
Today's hike takes us along the footpath that has linked the villages of the Cinque Terre for over a thousand years. Walk to splendid Vernazza and then on to Corniglia and Manarola via the high route for spectacular views before returning to Monterosso by train or ferry. You will have time to explore the villages, sample their delicious focaccia, and sip a foamy cappuccino or cold beer. If you've had enough hiking and are happy to kick back, relax, and soak up the atmosphere, you can simply catch a local train back to Monterosso at your leisure. Tonight is a “free night” dinner, so you are free to eat wherever you wish. Your guides will have suggestions. Overnight Monterosso or Hotel Carla, in Levanto (or similar). Hotel and breakfast included. Dinner not included.
Bid farewell to Monterosso this morning and hike to Portovenere, starting from Riomaggiore, the last of the Cinque Terre villages. Our walk takes us past a medieval church, through scented pine forests, and finally down past the Genovese fortress that protected Portovenere from marauding corsair pirates and its rival naval republic, Pisa. Dramatic cliffs plunge into the blue waters of the Mediterranean in a setting so beautiful that Byron, Shelly, and D.H. Lawrence fell to its charms. You will have time to meander through the village’s narrow pedestrian streets before a private van transfer to La Spezia, where we catch the train north to the bustling town of Santa Margherita Ligure. About 60 kilometers north of La Spezia, Santa Margherita is an elegant coastal town whose waterfront promenade is lined with regal villas and grand “Belle Epoque” period hotels. The Hotel Jolanda (or similar), is our home for the last two nights. One of our favorite restaurants awaits us this evening. Overnight Santa Margherita Ligure. Hotel, breakfast and dinner included.
A short train ride (4 minutes!) through a long tunnel takes us to the lovely seaside town of Camogli. Once a loyal supporter of the Genoese Republic and home to its navy, this little town is now famous for its delightfully painted houses. Their colorful façades feature masterly “trompe l’oeil” decor. Our path takes us up to the church of San Rocco and then along a breathtaking route that offers magnificent views along the northern Ligurian coast as it curves west and heads for France. We eventually descend to the 12th century Abbey of San Fruttuoso, nestled below us in a glittering blue bay. Head down for a refreshing swim followed by lunch at a tiny seaside restaurant, then take the 3 pm ferry to Portofino. Hardcore hikers can continue to Portofino on foot, where they can relax and admire the super yachts before heading back to Santa Margherita by the private motor yacht (weather permitting) that we provide. Overnight Santa Margherita Ligure. Hotel, breakfast and dinner included.
The tour ends after breakfast this morning. Independent departure from the hotel to the train station, a short walk or taxi ride from the hotel. Santa Margherita is well connected by rail with the rest of Italy, and an easy train ride to the airports of Pisa, Milan or Genoa. Breakfast included.
Though not long in terms of distance, the walks can be strenuous at times as we ascend and descend steep paths or stone stairways that have been used for years to link the villages of the region. We have designed the trip so that there is always some free time in the late afternoon so you can relax, read, or have a dip in the sea. Breakfast is included every day, and dinners reflect the excellent traditional food of the region. Daily distance between 8 and 14 kms.
Activity Level 3+ = Moderate Plus:
In general: This is a Moderate tour for fit hikers who will find them a satisfying workout and challenging but do-able for not-so-fit hikers who invariably feel a great sense of achievement at the end of the tour!
Terrain: Rolling to hilly terrain with frequent steep ascents and descents. The "+" indicates that they also involve more rugged, rocky, or steep terrain than the 3 rated tours.
Actual walking time: between 2-5 hours per day, mostly in the morning but also in the afternoon.
Distances: Usually between 8 and 12 kms/5 and 7 miles. Max distance is 16 kms/9 miles.
Surfaces: Trails consisting of compact earth, gravelly earth, and sometimes dirt-gravel roads and frequently on rocky and uneven trails. Ancient stone staircases and trails with stone steps are often present.
Footing: Good, but you have to pay attention to where and how you place your feet. Proper hiking shoes with thick soles with good treads are required. Sport sandals, running shoes and tennis shoes are not adequate.
Specifics: Our most common comment about this type of trip is “It was more challenging than I expected but I am glad I did it”. On this particular trip we begin every day's hike at sea level, so always start with a (often steep) climb and finish with an equal hike back down. The walks are between 6 - 17 kms/4 - 11 mi., and there is often the possibility to opt out of a segment by taking a train, ferry, or bus during the day. The climbs can be long, sometimes 20-40 minutes at a stretch, on time-worn stone steps or trails, sometimes over rocky terrain that you must negotiate with care. Indeed, we developed the 3+ rating to describe our Amalfi and Cinque Terre trips because they entail steep and sustained climbs and descents that are however easily to hike if you take your time. Note: people who suffer from severe vertigo may be affected on some stretches of the trail as we frequently have wide-open vistas over the sea (but almost never straight drop-offs).
Hiking Poles: Highly recommended but not required, and if you habitually use hiking pole you will regret it if you don’t have them.
Other: This tour is appropriate for “sporty and fit” first-time hikers who enjoy walking, have good balance, and are coordinated. People with hip and knee issues might find a 3+ tour challenging because of the terrain and the duration of the hikes.
Moderate Plus Tours: Amalfi is the easiest of this group, then Dolomites Lite, then Cinque Terre, followed by Sardinia, Northern Greece Meteora & Zagori, and Andalusia.
Trip Cost Includes: All accommodations in superior 3-star properties (3 nights Monterosso or Levanto, 2 Santa Margherita); 5 breakfasts and 4 dinners; bilingual guide or guides; all luggage transfers; scheduled train and boat transfers as indicated in the itinerary.
Booking: e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org to receive a booking contract (or use the 'Contact Us' link at the top of this page), or click on the 'Book Now' button to the right.
Insurance: We highly recommend the purchase of Trip Insurance. We recommend “Travel Guard” to our North American clients, just click on the logo below. Australian, New Zealander, and British travelers, please consult your insurance brokers.
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Getting There: the trip starts with your arrival in Monterosso al Mare at our pre-booked hotel. Monterosso is well connected by rail. More information below.
Air: the closest airports to the start of the trip are Pisa or Genoa. Pisa Airport is well serviced by international flights from major European cities such as London, Paris, and Frankfurt. There is a train station right at the airport so it is easy to make further connections (or, it's a short hop into town to reach the Pisa “Centrale” station). Genoa Airport also has flights from other European centers and is a short (1.5 hr) train ride to Monterosso. You can also get there via longer train rides from Milan, Florence, or even Rome. For a complete list of Italian airports and a selection of low-cost airlines, see our "Transport Info" page.
Rail: All trains to Monterosso leave from either Genoa or La Spezia. Journey time by local train from La Spezia is about 20 mins, and 1-2 hrs from Genova depending on the train you catch. See the Trenitalia website (in English) at this link. For alternative high-speed rail travel, see the Italo website. For complete information on using the Italian train system, see our blog post.
Getting Away at the End of the Trip: the tour concludes Friday morning in Santa Margherita Ligure, which is well connected to the rest of Italy by rail.
If you book a trip with us you will receive detailed information about how to get to the start of your trip. Please e-mail us with any specific travel questions.
The walks were very enjoyable along the rugged coastline, with the highlight being the five villages mid-week. We were unlucky with the weather but the guides always had options and ways of switching the days activities around to make sure we didn't miss out on anything. All the villages and hotels we stayed in were lovely, and we enjoyed our pesto making session. The food is quite seafood orientated, as a non-fish eater i ended up eating a lot of veal escalopes, which seemed to be the other local speciality. The guides really made the trip for us, they were very knowledgeable about the area and went out of their way to make sure we all had fun.
The scenery was fabulous, our group had an great time. I fell and broke my wrist and our guide took care of me and our group so well. She made sure that I followed the route by sea/bus/train so I could keep up with my friends and most days they found me in a cafÃ© by the sea drinking wine. She was amazing.
Great combination of scenery, history, food, drink and exercise. Plus great guides and company.
by R. Camarsh from Sydney Australia