Hiking Cinque Terre – A Photo Guide

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I just returned from a few days hiking between the beautiful oceanside towns of Cinque Terre.  What a fantastic and memorable experience!  Read on for a little summary, as well as some tips for navigating your way around this spectacular region.  Here is a map of the region (taken from http://goeurope.about.com).  You can see the trails laid out between the towns.  Hopefully this helps paint a picture while reading this summary.

We decided to stay in the town named Vernazza, Cinque Terre’s second city (depending on where you begin).  We did not make any reservations and ended up getting lucky with the first hotel we tried.  Hotel Gianni Franzi was only a 2 star (or so the sign said), but perfect as a cute little home base for seeing the other cities (minus the multitude of mosquito bites we received).  Here is a view from our front door.

Vernazza was my favorite city, hands down.  Not the largest or smallest town in Cinque Terre, Vernazza was the perfect size.  There are a couple churches in the town as well as a neat little castle on top of the city to explore.  Expect to cough up some money (for food, accommodations, snacks, and souvenirs).  We paid 80 Euros a night for a cozy little hotel room with attached bathroom.  A normal dinner (2 people, wine, entrees and desert) ran about 75 Euros, though the quality was unbelievably good and the atmosphere and service unbeatable.  Here is a picture I posted a couple days ago of Vernazza’s downtown.

Setting out the first morning around 8 am, we began our hike south, towards the town of Corniglia.  There are many routes, but we took the first one we saw, route “2”.  As you can see, the weather was not “ideal” but it kept cool during the hikes.  The first “worthy” photo of the day, Vernazza in the background.

As advertised, it was the simplest route from Vernazza, running closest to the ocean.  In reality, it was pretty moderate, and I worked up quite a sweat trucking along.  All in all, it took around an hour to get to Corniglia.  Here are a couple shots from path #2 from Vernazza to Corniglia.

Finally, out of nowhere, Corniglia appeared.  This is after hiking maybe 45 minutes. 

Corniglia was quite different than Vernazza.  Situated on a cliff high over the water, the town was quieter and had more of a rustic feel.  Here you can see the colorful and unique town of  Corniglia.

We didn’t spend much time in the town, but walked the entire length and back in about 15 minutes.  Since it was only about 9:30 am or so, the town hadn’t completely “woken up”, and would have probably been more lively later in the day.  Here is a bright-eyed feller ready to take on the day.

After buying some more waters (you NEED to bring some, even if you don’t think you will drink it), we set off for Manarola.  The number 2 trail (“easy” trail) between Corniglia and Manarola is currently closed, forcing you to either a: take the train, or b: hike up, up, up the mountain via trail # 7A.  Since we were set on walking the trail, we finally found 7A and were off (this one can be a little tricky to find, so I recommend asking other hikers or the official park staff).  Starting off, it seems just like the first trail, but quickly changes as the incline becomes steeper and the path more difficult.  Once again (just like in Spain), I was quickly out of breath and covered in sweat, having already downed 2 bottles of water.  Here Melisa is once again kicking my tail up the mountain. This was one of the “easier” portions…

After about 45 minutes or so endlessly climbing, the path begins to even out and you are treated to some truly amazing views.  Here is a shot of Corniglia from the hell trail.

Once the hike evens out a bit, it curls through tons of greenery, rivers, vineyards, and more stunning views.  Here are a few photos from the difficult (but also amazing) # 6D (after the difficult climb up #7).

After reaching the small mountain town of Volastra (we just quickly walked through this one), we headed down towards Manarola on path # 6.  The path down is pretty difficult as well, mainly because of the awkwardly spaced steps.  Taking around 15 minutes to navigate down, and another 10 to make our way through some roads and paths, we finally reached Manarola.

Manarola was superb.  Our minds set on food, we quickly zombie-walked our way to a fantastic sea-side restaurant.  Here is an example of the colorful building located here.

 

Besides the sub-par mussels at this place, I did not eat a bad meal the entire visit to Cinque Terre.  Our bellies filled and strength returned, we walked around Manarola for a bit.  Here is a shot from the sea wall looking back into Manarola.

After we finished looking around, we traversed the tunnel to the other side of the town (where the train is located) and began the next trek on path 2 towards Riomaggiore.

This hike was more of a lazy beachfront stroll (Good thing because my body was hurtin’) down a path called Via dell’ Amore (Path of Love).  the path was full of locks, each with a little inscription left by different lovers from around the world.  Such a beautiful little gesture, one I have seen in other cities around Europe.  Here are a few shots I particularly liked.

Along the path there are these amazing rock formations (Check out my previous post for a detailed 9 picture composite HDR Panorama).

We finally reached Riomaggiore.  What a beautiful town.  I don’t think any of these towns has a populations larger than 4,000 or so.  This is a complete guess and I’m too lazy to look it up so don’t quote me!  Riomaggiore was kind of rushed as we needed to catch the boat back to Vernazza (if you don’t want to walk to all the towns you can catch a boat to all except Corniglia).  Here is a shot from the ticket stand overlooking Riomaggiore’s small harbor.

 

The boat ride back to Vernazza from Riomaggiore took around 20 minutes (stopping once in Manarola).  Here are a couple shots from our little trip over the water.

After departing the boat, jumping in the refreshing water for some swimming, and eating another amazing meal, we crashed early in anticipation of an early morning departure for our final hike.

Departing around 830, we set off on trail # 2 towards Monterrosso, the first town making up the Cinque Terre.  The nice people we sat next to at dinner the night before told us this hike was tough and I have to agree; it was not a walk in the park by any means.  Like the other hikes, ensure you pack shoes (I wouldn’t walk in sandals), extra water, and a camera.  Here is another shot of Vernazza, taken after departing the town on the hiking trail.

 

Much like the first hike, the beginning was pretty aggressive and then it snaked for a bit.  it was all downhill.  Here are a few photos along the path to Monterrosso.  

There is something gratifying about seeing all the people struggling climbing up the opposite way while you are heading down… :)

The final town, Monterrosso, was more of a booming tourist spot when we walked through the colorful streets.  I caught this sight when I followed my eyes up a cluster of nifty buildings.

And another, after we found ourselves in an interesting alleyway..

After strolling through town, we found ourselves at the beach and bought tickets on the train back to Vernazza so we could get our stuff.  While we waited I got some shots of Monterrosso’s beach.  

When the train came, we boarded for Vernazza, picked up our stuff from the hotel, then boarded another train for La Spetzia.  From there it was a slow 7 hours back home to Naples!

With all this said, the hikes are not really that difficult, I just like to complain… :)  You can go at your own pace and are rewarded every couple minutes with another amazingly stunning eye treat.  If you are thinking of somewhere to head for a well needed vaca, think about Cinque Terre.  Flying into Milan or Florence makes it very easy to reach these wonderful cities via train.  I really hope this long post (probably too long…) helps out!  Please let me know!  Thanks for reading!


  1. Len Saltiel says:

    What an outstanding post Adam. The images are spectacular and your description is great. If asked, Italy would be the first place I would visit for an extended time (I’m half Italian but that has nothing to do with it). I really didn’t know much about the area although I visited Portofino for a day. Thanks to your post, Cinque Terre is now on my bucket list for an extended stay.

  2. Simon Morris says:

    Hi Adam

    What a fantastic hike and guide, thanks! I’m very impressed with your photography… have any of these images been tonemapped or ‘tinkered’ with?

    Keep up the good work – its excellent!

    • Adam Allegro says:

      Thanks again for your kind words! I would say a little over half of these were tonemapped with photomatix. No tripod on the hike so I had to get creative with some of them. I tried to make them as lifelike as possible though. Glad you enjoyed it!

  3. Dave DiCello says:

    Man these are awesome! A great series for sure! I love the one of the stairs through the trees and the umbrellas! Really well written too!

  4. Jimi Jones says:

    Wow, Adam. What an awesome post.
    These images are just spectacular. Talk about an instant vacation, this just takes you away from everything.

    Tough to pick a favorite but I really like Riomaggiore’s small harbor and that cluster of buildings as standouts. Excellent processing, man.

    Thanks for the well written tour. Really enjoyed it.

  5. Jan Winther says:

    Whoa Adam, save some ammo man! :)

    What a great post, awesome pictures and text to go with them. Its a bit unreal to see how close the buildings are. I really like the shots with the pad locks – what a great idea.

  6. Melisa says:

    It is like a little slice of heaven for the weekend! I will definitely go back!

  7. Michael Driscoll says:

    Adam,
    This was a great post. My wife and I are going to be in that area in a little over a week and I have been curious about the terrain on the hikes between the towns so we could equip ourselves properly. Your commentary was extremely helpful and the photos superb.
    Thank you.

  8. Carol says:

    Oh I am so glad I saw this. I followed your link on J.Brandon’s G+. Your pictures are superb. I think my fave is the 6th from the bottom – which is weird because it’s not of any architectural marvel – it’s just a sunlight path with some overgrown vegetation, but it looks so HOT there and GREEN. I just love it. If I had this picture hanging in my house I might be able to get through the winter.
    I am going to be there in October. Thanks for the inspiration.
    ps you were probably thinking of your tired legs when you wrote about the sub-par muscles! The sea creature is spelled mussels.

    • Adam Allegro says:

      Thanks so much for the kid words, I am so glad you found my site! Feel free to print out the post and take it with you. I wish you a wonderful vacation!! If you are interested in getting some prints, let me know. If the ones you want are not on my adamallegro.smugmug.com website, I can make them available for you. Thanks for catching that!! I wrote that post pretty late after I got back to Italy so I probably made more mistakes than that!! Thanks for visiting the site Carol!

  9. Carol says:

    I have subscribed so I won’t miss anything. That second last one here with the orange and green umbrellas is like something you would see in Vogue. I am really looking forward to seeing this in person and I hope I can get a few decent images.

  10. Alex Sefrin says:

    Get me inspired to do this trip next year! But look at this, we have several paintings by Ralf Westphal and this is one of you have choosen as well:

  11. Jared Loftus says:

    I can’t wait! I’m trekking through Europe this summer, and I will definitely be hiking through these beautiful towns. Your photos make me very excited and hopeful for some awesome shots.

  12. Jen Shields says:

    Adam,
    I visited Cinque Terre in July 2010, and your photographs bring back wonderful memories and make me want to return for more hiking. (It was an especially hot day when we arrived with ambitions of hiking through all the towns, but eventually the 90+ degree heat got to us, and we rode the train.) Thanks for sharing!

    • Adam Allegro says:

      Jen, thank you very much. I am glad i was able to give you a smile! Feel free to come back as often as you like :) New adventures from Sicily for this weeks posts!!

  13. ice says:

    amazing shots you got there!!! may i ask what brand of camera did you use.. as i am actually thinking of buying a new camera of my own however I dont know which would be the best brand… :) thanks a lot! keep on clicking!

  14. ice says:

    amazingf shots!!! hope you keep it coming!! i’m curious what brand of camera are you using? as i am planning to get one for myself, i want to get an expert’s opinion :) thanks

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