Cinque Terre is a collection of five seaside villages on the Northwestern coast of Italy known for its vibrantly-colored houses perched on steep cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean. Cinque Terre is probably one of the most photographed areas of Italy, and the colorful architecture gives Crayola a run for is money. The coolest part? All five towns of Cinque Terre are connected by hiking trails known as the Blue Trail with beautiful views of vineyards above and sea below.


Hi there! We’re Sarah and Matt, and we’ve been road tripping across the United States, making a new place our home month to month while working full time and adventuring as much as possible. We spend any free time we can get hiking, camping, backpacking and exploring new places!

follow us


Two Outliers may contain affiliate links and is a member of the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you. For more information, see our privacy policy.

Blue Trail Cinque Terre

Blue Trail Cinque Terre Overview

The towns are quick and easy to travel between by train, but in our opinion, the best way to explore Cinque Terre is to hike the “Blue Trail,” an 11 km path that directly links the 5 villages. In this article, we will show you how to do just that.

Map of the Blue Trail & Cinque Terre towns

Each of the 5 towns and hiking distances between them are displayed on the map to the left:

  1. Monterosso
  2. Vernazza: from Monterosso: 3.7 km, 2 hr
  3. Corniglia: from Vernazza: 3.5 km, 2 hr
  4. Manarola: from Corniglia: 2.7 km, 30 min
  5. Riomaggiore: from Manorola: 1.3 km, 30 min

All 4 hikes: 11 km, 5 hours

Blue Trail Cinque Terre hike details

Monterosso to Vernazza

Hike Stats

Hiking distance | 3.7 km (2.3 miles)
Elevation gain | 764 feet
Total time | 1.5 – 2 hours
Epic-ness rating | 9
Difficulty | moderate

Find this hike on AllTrails: Sentiero Azzuro: Monterosso – Vernazza

Finding the Trailhead

The trailheads on the Blue Trail can be a little tricky to find. To find the trailhead in Monterosso, head towards the beach and walk south. The trail starts off of Via Corone.

Ascent from Monterosso

The hike starts on a stone walkway along the water, featuring awesome views of Monterosso, its beaches, and the rocky coastline with glistening teal waters. The first half mile is the hardest part of the hike, gaining nearly 500 feet of elevation right away.

After a challenging first half mile, the trail starts to level off a good deal. Walking along the sea, high on a cliff, the views are incredible. As you get further into the hike, you’ll pass through beautiful lush vineyards growing on the side of the mountains.

Descent to Vernazza

As you near the end of the trail, the town of Vernazza appears below you in the distance. From here the trail is all downhill, leading right into the streets of Vernazza. Meander your way through the narrow streets until you reach the small town’s port and main street.

Vernazza

When you reach Vernazza, spend some time exploring the town, wandering through Vernazza’s maze-like streets to take in all of the colorful houses and views. Stop into an enoteca for a wine tasting and don’t miss Cinque Terre’s own dessert wine Sciacchetrà, a sweet amber-colored wine that isn’t exported outside of the region. Head out onto the small marina for a perfect photo opportunity looking back at the town.

View looking down over Vernazza from Blue Trail in Cinque Terre

Vernazza to Corniglia

Hike Stats

Hiking distance | 3.5 km (2.1 miles)
Elevation gain | 690 feet
Total time | 1.5 – 2 hours
Epic-ness rating | 9
Difficulty | moderate

Find this hike on AllTrails: Sentiero Azzuro: Vernazza to Corniglia

Finding the Trailhead

As you explore Vernazza, keep an eye out for signs pointing to Corniglia. The trail starts out behind the train station off of Via Roma. There are small signs through the town pointing you in the right direction, so it feels a little bit like a scavenger hunt.

Ascent from Vernazza

Once again, the hike starts out with a steep climb leaving Vernazza. The trail gains nearly 200 feet over the first quarter mile, levels off briefly, and then resumes a steep climb until 0.7 miles in. From here the trail is relatively flat until you descend towards Corniglia. As you make your way back up to the trail, the view looking back down over Vernazza’s peninsula is stunning.

Ristorante La Torre

There is a little restaurant called Ristorante La Torre on the Blue Trail at the top of the mountain just 0.1 miles into the hike from Vernazza. Given that there are no roads leading up here, getting produce to the restaurant poses a special challenge. We ran into a man pushing a motorized cart full of produce up the mountain. If you think this hike is tiring, just try doing it pushing a cart like this!

We did not eat here, so we cannot comment on the food, but if you are looking for a place to take a break from hiking, you can’t beat the views Ristorante La Torre offers!

Descent Towards Corniglia

After a mile into the hike, you will begin a slow, gradual descent towards Corniglia, and eventually the little town appears perched on a cliff in the distance. The end of the hike comes out on a road behind Corniglia so just keep following the path until you reach the town.

Corniglia

Corniglia is the smallest of the five towns and the only one not directly on the ocean. Take some time to meander through the streets, grab a gelato (the toughest hikes of the day are behind you!) and enjoy the views high above the Mediterranean.

Corniglia Cinque Terre

Corniglia to Manarola

Hike Stats

Hiking distance | 2.7 km (1.7 miles)
Elevation gain | 350 feet
Total time | 1 hour
Difficulty | easy

Find this hike on AllTrails: Sentiero Azzurro: Manorola to Corniglia

The trail between Corniglia and Manarola is a relatively easy walk along the ocean. In recent years, the trail has frequently been closed due to mudslides, making the path impassible. Unfortunately, the trail was closed when we were there, so we weren’t able to hike it.

Manorola

Manarola is perhaps the most picturesque of the villages, with the colorful homes almost spilling into the ocean. When you think of Cinque Terre, this is probably the town you picture.

There is a popular restaurant, Nessun Dorma, high on the cliff opposite the town, with plenty of outdoor seating and unmatched views of the town, providing the perfect backdrop to a bottle of wine and bruschetta.

Manarola to Riomaggiore

Hike Stats

Hiking distance | 1.3 km (0.8 miles)
Elevation gain | 180 feet
Total time | 30 minutes
Difficulty | easy

The trail from Manarola to Riomaggiore is a paved path known as Via D’Amore, or the “Lover’s Lane.” Dating back to the 20th century when construction workers building the railway between Manarola and Riomaggiore needed a way to get between the two towns, it was closed in 2012 when some rocks fell and unfortunately injured a few tourists.

Via D’Amore was once the most popular section of the trail connecting the five villages but is not slated to re-open until 2023 after extensive excavation.

Riomaggiore

Riomaggiore is a great place to grab dinner and drinks after a long day of hiking. We even found a bar here serving a variety of local beers, called Fuori Rotta, which was a welcome change of pace after a week of drinking wine. Don’t get me wrong, we love Italian wine, but nothing beats a cold beer after a hot day of hiking!

Planning your Blue Trail Cinque Terre hike

Should I hike the entire Blue Trail in one day?

It is definitely possible to hike all four trails between the five villages in one day, as long as you are reasonably fit. However to hike the entire Blue Trail, you’ll want to start early to make sure you have time to explore the stunning towns of Cinque Terre in between.

When we visited Cinque Terre, the sections of the Blue Trail from Riomaggiore to Corniglia were closed due to mudslides, so we only hiked Corniglia to Monterosso. We started early and would have had plenty of time to finish the remaining 2 short hikes – we ended up taking the train to explore Manarola and Riomaggiore in the afternoon.

What order should I hike the trails?

The most efficient way to hike all 4 sections of the Blue Trail will depend on where you are staying in Cinque Terre, and how many trails you plan to hike in one day.

If you are trying to hike all 4 in one day, our recommended route would be to start in Monterosso and end in Riomaggiore for a few reasons:

  • This is the more straightforward way to hike the four trails consecutively without having to retrace your steps or hop on the train mid day
  • The trails from Monterosso to Vernazza and Vernazza to Corniglia are the longest, but also the most beautiful. You don’t want to miss these two hikes! Its best to knock them out early just in case you run out of time or energy later in the day.
  • That being said, these two trails are also the most popular. They get very crowded later in the day. Getting an early start will allow you to enjoy the nature around you in peace.

If the trails between Riomaggiore, Manorola and Corniglia are closed, it may be best to start in Corniglia and end in Monterosso so you can spend your afternoon relaxing on the beach in Monterosso (this is what we did).

Getting around in Cinque Terre

Traveling between towns

The five towns are easy to travel between by train. During the summer months, the train runs every 20 minutes. Depending on which town you are staying in, you will likely need to take the train to avoid hiking the same path twice. Each single, one-way ticket costs 4 euro.

Cinque Terre Trekking Card vs. Train Card

In order to hike the trails between Corniglia and Vernazza and between Vernazza and Monterrosso, you will need a Cinque Terre Card. There are two different card options:

  • Cinque Terre Trekking Card: gives you access to the trails only
    1 day pass: €7.50
    2 day pass: €14.50
  • Cinque Terre Train Card: gives you access to the trails and unlimited use of the trains between the towns
    1 day pass: €16
    2 day pass: €31

So which should you buy? Since each single ticket cost 4 euro, it makes financial sense to buy the Cinque Terre card if you plan to take the train more than twice with a 1 day pass or more than once per day with a 2 day pass. Otherwise, you may want to stick to the Trekking Card.

One additional advantage of the Cinque Terre Train Card, versus buying individual tickets, is that it allows you to skip the ticket lines in the train station, which can save some precious time and make the card worthwhile.

You can buy Cinque Terre Trekking or Train cards online here.

Tip: Make sure you validate your card before boarding the train – in Cinque Terre they check often. If you purchase your card online, you don’t need to validate.

View of Corniglia from Blue Trail Cinque Terre

Which town should I stay in?

Each of the towns has a unique personality, so the best town to stay in depends on what you are looking for. We stayed in Corngilia, and loved it. Remember that no matter where you stay, it is easy to get to any of the other towns.

Monterosso: the largest and most commercialized town. Monterosso features the only real beach of the five towns, so if you are a beach bum this is the town for you! There is a lot to do here and plenty of hotel options. On the other hand, if you want something a little quieter or more private, this is probably not the best option.

Vernazza: the old shipping village. Vernazza features a port and small beachy area. The buildings of Vernazza are built haphazardly on top of each other up the side of the clif, and wandering through the caruggi (narrow lanes) in Vernazza feels like you’re navigating through a maze.

Corniglia: the smallest, quietest and least touristy town. Corgniglia sits perched high on a cliff, and is the only town of the five that isn’t directly on the water. Although we loved staying in Corniglia, it is the most difficult to get to. After getting off the train, you’ll have to either take a shuttle or walk up a very steep hill to reach the town. If you are on a budget, this is probably the cheapest place to stay.

Manarola: the second smallest town, and the most picturesque (in my opinion). The view from the cliff looking back at Manarola is probably the most popular image of Cinque Terre. The grapes used to make Cinque Terre’s Sciacchetrà are grown in the area surrounding Manarola, creating a perfect backdrop of grapevines.

Riomaggiore: the party town. Riomaggiore is known for its bustling nightlife. There are plenty of good restaurants here, including Dau Cila, which we recommend.

Trail closures

Be aware that sometimes the trails will be closed due to mudslides. As of March 2021, the trail between Corniglia and Manarola is closed for maintenance work and expected to reopen in the spring of 2022. Via D’Amore is slated to be open in 2023, after more than a decade of being closed.

Check the current status of the trails here before you go.

Alternative hikes

While the trails outlined here are the most direct routes for hiking between the cities, there are a few other options for hiking in Cinque Terre:

  • Corniglia to Volastra to Manarola: Longer 3.5 km alternative to the trail directly from Corniglia to Manarola
  • Levanto to Monterosso: challenging 8 km hike
  • Riomaggiore to Portovene: 13.3 km hike

P.S. Looking for a complete list of what to pack for a day hike to Jacob Hamblin Arch? We’ve compiled our complete list of essentials here:

Other useful resources

Planning a trip to Italy? You may also be interested in our 9-day itinerary, packed full of the best sights in Rome, Florence, Venice, and Cinque Terre to help you make the most of your trip:

For all things Italy: Italy Travel Guide

If you are planning to visit northern Italy, the Blue Trail in Cinque Terre is a must. Have you hiked the Blue Trail in Cinque Terre? Let us know what you thought in the comments below!

Leave a Reply