Hike Along The Beautiful Italian Coast On This Popular Trail

While Italy is known as a world-class destination for culinary craftsmanship, its cuisine is equally matched by the serenity of its diverse topography and natural landscapes. Home to the five coastal towns spread out along the Riviera coastline, Cinque Terre is a stretch of paradise famed among globetrotters. The five villages include Monterosso, Vernazza, Riomaggiore, Corniglia, and Manarola.

Nestled among the rolling hillsides is the Blue Trail, an 8.5 mile excursion that connects the neighboring fishing villages. As a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site, the trail remains a central part of the land's cultural ancestry. According to Parco Nazionale delle Cinque Terre, the trails were once the only method of transportation between the five towns. Every turn features captivating panoramic views of the glistening Mediterranean and rolling hills clothed in lush vegetation. The rugged coastline is dotted with tiered homes that form a vibrant display of colors, visible from nearly any stretch of trail.

Pre-arrival tips and tricks

Unlike visiting the Amalfi Coast, which requires meticulous planning and complex transportation, navigating Cinque Terre's stunning coastlines is simple. Travelers should start their journey at La Spezia, the hub of Cinque Terre that provides consistent railroad service throughout the five villages. Located just an hour and a half from Genoa and a little over two hours from Florence, Italy's efficient railroad system makes traveling to the shores easy for day-trippers. Tickets are required to access certain trailheads and should be purchased ahead of time. Travelers can choose between the Cinque Terre Trekking Card or the Cinque Terre Treno MS Card, which includes both railroad and trail access.

The rocky terrain and unpredictable weather means comfortable hiking shoes are an essential. In the summer especially, temperatures soar. Hikers will want to bring plenty of extra water and snacks to stay hydrated and fueled on the journey. While Cinque Terre's climate generally remains mild throughout the year, weather conditions can still be unpredictable. Check the trails beforehand for potential closures where you'll need to catch a train to the next town. If you're a strategist who likes planning in advance, scope out your starting point on the trail map, which details the network of twists and turns.

Travel between the five towns

Divided into four sections, each stretch of the Blue Trail ranges from 30 minutes to two hours completion time. If setting out from Riomaggiore, the southernmost and closest village to La Spezia, the trail starts out slow and gradually becomes more difficult on the back end. Riomaggiore is commonly known as the romantic heart of the five villages, which is not surprising, given its blissful small-town charm. The stretch of trail between Riomaggiore and Manarola is even referred to as Via dell'Amore (Lover's Lane). Upon reaching Manarola, the second smallest village, hikers will embark on an excursion to Corniglia past flourishing gardens and hamlets. The uniting path between Corniglia and Vernazza consists of rocky, uneven terrain through a maze of olive groves and vineyards.

Prepare for the final and most intense stretch yet with some of the region's finest pasta found at Ristorante La Torre. This hidden gem is situated atop the pinnacle of Vernazza's cliffside and requires a trek up a steep slope. However, the delectable dishes and ocean-view backdrops are molta bella and well worth the climb. The final patch of trail between Vernazza and Monterosso is intense yet stunning. Steep cliffs and narrow pathways boast a delightful aroma of wild citrus groves — a well-deserved treat that will revive tired travelers after the long coastline trek.