Hiking in Cinque Terre – Monterosso al mare to Vernazza
We emerged just over two hours after we had we set off from Monterosso al Mare to Vernazza, happily strolling downhill along the narrow cobbled streets of Vernazza towards the harbourside.
The hike had been incredible and the destination was just as spectacular, we were now pleasantly immersed in the close-up views of Vernazza, the kaleidoscopic Italian fishing village we had just looked down upon from the trail above.
Talk about chilled vibes, people browsed the multicoloured winding streets as the church bells rang out, whilst others took exhilarating jumps from the harbour cliffs into the sparkling blue sea.
All of the activity was casually observed by fellow tourists as they relaxed in the evening shade of the harbourfront restaurants, enjoying local seafood, and sipping Aperol Spritz.
Hot, dusty, drenched in sweat, and slightly weary after our humid hike we headed towards the sea in need of a cool down, we wanted a swim, and what a swim it was.
Cinque Terre wasn’t in the plan.
Just three hours earlier we had hopped off the train from Tuscany to set off on this momentous hike, along arguably one of the most picturesque coastlines in Europe.
Cinque Terre wasn’t part of our travel plans prior to setting off on our Italy trip, but from conversations with fellow travellers and recommendations along the way, it seemed like one of the places to see and be this summer.
We had read about the growing popularity of the area and seen stunning images from the hike trails on social media.
So whilst in Tuscany, we decided to take a slight detour to experience Cinque Terre, it looked too good and was far to close to miss.
Cinque Terre is a coastal region of northwest Italy and it consists of five villages: Vernazza, Corniglia, Monterosso al Mare, Riomaggiore, and Manarola.
The trails of Cinque Terre we were about to walk were built long ago as transportation routes between farms, villages, and churches.
People walk the paths today to visit some of those villages and take in the incredible scenery they provide.
The section we hiked along is a 3.5 km (2.2 mi) footpath from the old town of Monterosso al Mare, to the harbour of Vernazza.
Off the beaten track
The region is a little off the beaten track of the usual Italian hot spots, but tourists are flocking here, Cinque Terre is growing in popularity every year.
As we approached, our train passed through the local stations of Riomaggiore, and Vernazza on it’s way to Monterroso al Mare.
The platforms were packed with adventure-seeking tourists, it was clear others were also keen to see what all the fuss of Cinque Terre was about.
Once off the train and into the sweltering humid heat of Monterosso al Mare we headed down the promenade to our hotel.
Travel bags were ditched, we reloaded with water and headed for the trail to Vernazza the next village along the Cinque Terre coast.
Rehydrated, replenished with snacks, map in hand and raring to go we passed through the bustling streets of the Old town to the start of the trail.
A coastal hike seemed the perfect activity to escape the crowds on a scorching day, most people were exploring the town or catching some rays on the beach, but we were tight for time and visiting for adventure.
The entrance to the trail leads you along a short steep path to the top of the hills overlooking Monterosso, even this small section of the path rewards you with picture-perfect views.
Make sure you look back occasionally as you scale your way high up the trail.
We purchased our official ticket from a funny man in a shed, and set off to enjoy the Monterosso al mare to Vernazza hike…….Cinque Terre trail wahoo.
The hike from Monterosso to Vernazza
What followed in the next two hours is exactly what you will hear from all who have experienced this trail on such a fine day.
Unlimited striking views from high up on the coastal path, you are absolutely wowed by the scenery along the zigzagging footpaths cascading through the vineyards, citrus orchards, and cliffside farmland.
As you turn each corner for the first time you are unsure if you have a steady gradient or a hefty set of steps to climb, brilliant!
Although the distance of 3.5 km (2.2 mi) may not seem too far the terrain is quite tasty in places, especially if you decide to take to the trail at the hottest part of the day during a heatwave.
If the heat is anything like our own experience, just make sure you’re up for the challenge and well prepared, this is definitely a challenging hike, not a flat coastal path stroll.
Luckily there are many spacious viewpoints for you to stop along the way, rest your legs, and watch the yachts and boats below.
Take your time
Take your time to just breathe it in, capture the moments, not just through a camera or phone, and see Cinque Terre in all its glory.
The complete distance from Monterosso al Mare to Vernazza took us about 2 hours in total from start to finish with several stops along the way.
You can complete the trail much quicker than this, but it’s not the type of hike I would power through for speed, there is too much to see and enjoy along the way.
Like all great adventures, it’s important to “enjoy the journey, not just the end destination”.
If you love an active adventure, scenic destinations and photography, Cinque Terre is the perfect place for you to explore.
The walking trail is challenging in parts but those of you who are adventurous will love it.
On this particular day, it was physically challenging, not many people were speed walking through the trail, everyone was taking plenty of stops in the shade.
I’ve never seen so many people hiking in bikinis and speedos, I felt slightly overdressed in shorts and a T’shirt.
*Some parts of this footpath are very narrow and have no barrier, so be sure to watch your step.
*When you visit, unless you want a very testing physical challenge try and avoid taking the hike at the hottest part of the day during a heatwave, that would just be crazy! Fewer people, but blazing hot!
*Take plenty of water and snacks, there is no tuck shop along the way.
*There are no restrooms on the trail so prepare accordingly.
The sea swim at the end of the hike was invigorating, we were further invigorated by the awesome surroundings of Vernazza, and the fun vibes of the young and old crowd taking turns to jump from the harbourside rocks.
We walked back from the clear blue seas looking up at the stunning buildings refreshed and perked up from our cool dip.
This hike along the Cinque Terre trail proved to be an absolute bucket list travel adventure and a huge highlight of the whole Italian tour experience.
It’s always a buzz to see amazing travel destinations, for real, you had only previously seen pictures of.
Visiting the Cinque Terre region is one of the most exceptional travel experiences I’ve had, the hike itself, but also because this short stay was a last minute decision to change our plans with the unknown ahead.
Do this hike when you go, it adds so much to the experience, it’s definitely worth the effort of the two-hour hike.
Cinque Terre is an experience not to miss when visiting Italy, perfect for fitness world explorers looking for an exhilarating hiking destination.
Monterosso al Mare to Vernazza was just one section of the Cinque Terres region, some routes are closed off due to landslides but there are alternatives and still plenty of hiking to be done.
As I said, I knew very little about Cinque Terre and it’s super scenic hikes, but now it’s a destination high on my list of Italia recommendations.
Once we were dried off from our refreshing dip in the ocean, we joined our fellow tourists for a well-deserved spritz to watch the sun go down over Vanazza, reflecting on our latest adventure.
We did exactly as our guide map advised:- “An experience to be done with calm, not forgetting a halt in one of the villages for a typical bite and a sip of the local wine”.