Hiking Cinque Terre in One Day

Hiking Cinque Terre in One Day: a Complete Guide

In June, I did an Italy road trip with a campervan. Italy is one of my favourite countries in the world, and although I’ve visited Italy several times before, I’d never visited Cinque Terre until now. I arrived at Levanto in the afternoon (see below for more information on where to stay when hiking Cinque Terre in one day).

The next day was completely devoted to Cinque Terre. I found it certainly doable to see (and hike) a lot of Cinque Terre in one day. This post will provide you with all the information you need for hiking Cinque Terre in one day.

Table of Contents

  • Planning your day to Cinque Terre
    • What is Cinque Terre
    • How to get to Cinque Terre
    • Where to stay
    • Hiking the trail
  • Hiking Cinque Terre in one day
    • From Monterosso al Mare to Vernazza
    • From Vernazza to Corniglia
    • From Corniglia to Manarola and Riomaggiore

Planning your day to Cinque Terre

What is Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre literally means “Five Lands” in Italian and consists of 5 lovely coastal villages: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. Cinque Terre is located in the Italian region of Liguria, sometimes called the Italian Riviera. All 5 towns are extremely pretty. Moreover, the coastline is beautiful, and the hiking trail between the villages is one of the must see activities in Italy.

How to get to Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre is located some 250 kilometers from Milan and 160 kilometers from Florence. From both Milan and Florence, there are trains to the towns of Cinque Terre. We drove to Cinque Terre from Milan. However, getting from one town to the next by car isn’t easy. I would recommend parking your car in Levanto or La Spezia and continuing by train. You can also choose from several day tours that take you to Cinque Terre.

Where to stay

One option is to stay in one the 5 villages. If you would like to stay in one of the 5 villages of Cinque Terre, I would recommend Monterosso al Mare or Riomaggiore, because these villages are larger and at the start/end of the trail. A cheaper option is to stay either in Levanto, the first town west of Cinque Terre, or La Spezia, the first city east of Cinque Terre. I decided to stay in Levanto. Since I was travelling by campervan, I stayed at Camping 5 Terre. Levanto, although not as pretty as the Cinque Terre villages, is a nice town in its own right and worth a visit if you’re staying there.

Hiking the trail

There’s a special hiking trail that runs from village to village. It’s not free of charge, but costs €7.50. However, it’s certainly worth it. It’s generally recommended to start at Monterosso al Mare and end at Riomaggiore. In this way, you’ll start with the toughest hike. However, be aware that not all paths are open at any time. In June 2018, the lower trails between Corniglia and Manarola, and between Manarola and Riomaggiore were closed.

Tip: You can buy a Cinque Terre Card for €16 that includes access to the hiking trails and unlimited travel on trains that ran between the villages.

You may wonder: is hiking Cinque Terre in one day feasible? Of course, staying longer in one place allows you admire the beautiful scenery to a greater extent and explore every corner of each village. However, if you spend 30 minutes – 1 hour in each town, hiking Cinque Terre in one day is no problem.

Note: If you visit Cinque Terre during the summer months, make sure to start your hike early, as it can become very hot as the day goes on.

Hiking Cinque Terre in one day

From Monterosso al Mare to Vernazza

Start your hike in Monterosso al Mare, the least pretty of the Cinque Terre villages. Don’t spend too much time in this town, as you’ll have less time left for the other villages otherwise. Monterosso al Mare is also the largest of the towns. The trail from Monterosso to Vernazza is 3.5 kilometers long and takes approximately 1.5-2 hours (it took me around 2). It’s a lot of climbing at the start of the trail. However, in no time you’ll have beautiful views over Monterosso al Mare.

The scenery of Cinque Terre is stunning. The beautiful blue of the sea, the coastline, the coloured houses of the villages in the distance. You could say it’s magical. After a while, you can see Vernazza in the distance. From here on, the hike will be easier. It’s mostly ascending instead of descending.

Vernazza is the second village of Cinque Terre and extremely lovely. You’ll discover that there are also many tourists, since many don’t hike the trails but use the train to get from village to village. Vernazza is the right place to treat yourself to Italian ice cream. Next, go to the little harbour and rest for a bit. When you’re ready to continue the track, don’t forget to explore the streets of Vernazza. Then, you can continue the Cinque Terre hike.

From Vernazza to Corniglia

The hike from Vernazza to Corniglia 4km and again takes 1.5-2 hours. Moreover, it’s just as stunning! Near the ticket office of the Cinque Terre paths, you can admire the amazing view over Vernazza and its castle (see the first picture of this post). Again, the first part of the trail is very tough as you have to climb a lot. There are a lot of stairs on this path. Frankly, I found the hike from Vernazza to Corniglia harder than from Monterosso to Vernazza. Once more, when you finally can make out Corniglia in the distance, the trail gets easier and it’s a lot of descending.

Hiking with kids? When I was hiking the trail, I encountered several families with kids. It’s a tough hike for kids, but it’s not dangerous. I would advise to do either the hike from Monterosso to Vernazza or from Vernazza to Corniglia and visit the other villages by train.

Unlike the other towns of Cinque Terre, Corniglia is located on a rock about 100 metres high. The town has lovely narrow streets and is possible my favourite of the Cinque Terre villages. It’s also the perfect location for lunch. Make sure you pick a restaurant overlooking the sea. For the best view point, you can follow the signs and have some breathtaking views over Cinque Terre. You can also make out Manarola in the distance.

From Corniglia to Manarola and Riomaggiore

Unfortunately, the trails alongside the coast from Corniglia to Manarola, and from Manarola to Riomaggiore were closed in June 2018 due to a landslide. You can decide to take a longer trail from Corniglia to Manarola that is 5 kilometers long and takes roughly 2.5 hours. The longer trail from Manarola to Riomaggiore is currently closed as well.

After hiking 2 tough hikes, I would recommend taking the train from Corniglia to Manarola if you’re not a very experienced hiker or if you’re running short on time. Between Manarola and Riomaggiore (which is only a very short distance), the train is your only option at the moment.

A blog post I read beforehand advised to visit Riomaggiore first (the farthest away of the Cinque Terre villages), since Manarola is stunning during a sun set. Take your time to explore Riomaggiore and return to Manarola afterwards. When I finally arrived in Manarola, I was tired from the Cinque Terre hike. Therefore, I didn’t explore much of the town. However, I took my time to soak in one of the most beautiful views that Cinque Terre offers: Manarola in golden light.

From Manarola, you can take a train back to your accommodation. You need to schedule a full day for hiking Cinque Terre in one day, but it will be absolutely worth it!