Hiking near Cinque Terre : 4 trails to avoid the crowds

When I worked as a hiking guide in the Cinque Terre more than a decade ago, we pretty much had the trails to ourselves. Surrounded by lemon trees and fig trees (a wonderful snack), we’d walk the now-famous paths that link the five towns, marveling at the sea below us and enjoying the quiet breeze. These days, although the scenery is the same, those famous trails have gotten busy. It might be worth hiking them just to see what the – justified – fuss is about, but then, head away from the crowds and go hiking near Cinque Terre, where you can avoid the crowds.

Here are four of my favorite avoid-the-crowds nearby trails: each is just long enough to be a satisfying hike, yet short enough to do in a morning and then enjoy a long Italian lunch. Perfetto!

Hiking Near Cinque Terre: Four avoid-the-crowds Trails

Hike Levanto to Monterosso: 3 hours

Levanto is just up the coast from the northernmost Cinque Terre town of Monterosso. I would suggest walking from Levanto to Monterosso rather than the reverse because the views are slightly better, though of course you could walk it either way. Get to Levanto by train, or by boat in high season from Monterosso. It’s not a difficult hike: just 5 miles and about 3 hours long. This hike is described on Everytrail with good detail including lots of photos and a map: the Levanto – Monterosso hiking trail. This hike is also a great way to see what all the Cinque Terre fuss is about: after a nice hike from Levanto, arrive in Monterosso, have lunch, and then explore the other towns either by train or boat. Then leave. Levanto is a really pretty town with lots of accommodation and good restaurants, so you could also start in Monterosso and have lunch in Levanto.

Hiking near cinque terre

Photo by Ondablv on Flickr

Hike Campiglia to Portovenere: 2.5 – 3 hours

Portovenere is a gorgeous little town at the end of the peninsula to the south of the Cinque Terre, and is worth a visit even if you are not hiking. This is a mostly easy hike but it does have some narrow and steep bits, and is easier in the Campiglia-to-Portovenere direction compared to the reverse. Views from the trail are spectacular and include the islands of Palmaria, Tino, and Tinetto as well as the town of Lerici and the Bay of La Spezia. There’s a description and some nice photos of the Portovenere to Campiglia hike – in Italian – along with a list of plants you  may find in the area. Trains don’t run to Portovenere, but you can take a boat from the Cinque Terre, or take a train to La Spezia and then a bus to Portovenere. To get to Campiglia, take the train to La Spezia and then a bus. And, if you decide to hike in this area between October and December, wear bright clothing and make lots of noise because it’s wild boar hunting season!

 

hiking near cinque terre

Photo by spettacolopuro on Flickr

Hike around Palmaria island: 3.5 hours

This small island off Portovenere is a nature park with lots of trails – the colored lines in the map below show two hikes but there are many more as you can see on this detailed map of Palmaria island. The yellow trail below is under 4 miles long and the red hiking trail is about 7.5 miles. The long hike is medium difficulty, with elevation gain and loss totaling about 700 feet. Here’s a detailed description of the hike around Palmaria island.

 

. hiking near cinque terre

Corniglia to Volastra to Manarola: ~2 hours

The towns of Manarola and Corniglia are two of the five Cinque Terre towns, but the trail that everyone walks goes along the sea and is an easy, hour-long walk. Instead, leave the crowds behind and hike a different trail between Manarola and Corniglia that goes up through the lovely town of Volastra. From Corniglia, path 7a connects you to path 6d, which takes you through Volastra. Then take path 6 down into Manarola. Or, do the reverse; it doesn’t really matter. If it’s a warm day, bring your swimming suit and a towel and go for a swim in Manarola!

 

hiking near cinque terre

Photo by Melanie Bateman on Flickr

 

Hiking Tips

  • What to bring. These trails are dirt trails, can be narrow, and may involve some scrambling up or down rocks, so wear footwear with ankle support and bring sunscreen, bug repellent, a hat, enough food and water, and a whistle which you can use to signal if needed (see next point).
  • Know how to call for help. If you need help on the trail, the standard signal is 6 long signals in a minute, repeated at one minute intervals. If you intercept a help signal, the standard response is three signals in a minute, repeated at one minute intervals.
  • Get a map. Do not set out on these trails without a hiking map. There are many trails in the parks that veer off from each other and while they are marked, it’s easy to get distracted by a gorgeous view or an olive grove and miss a fork. I have lots of advice about maps for your Italy vacation.
  • Check that the trails are open before you head out. The Cinque Terre National park keeps trail status updated online.

 


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13 Comments

  1. Fav Reads On Italy This Week: Oct 25 - BrowsingItaly
    October 25, 2013

    […] Cinque Terre hiking: avoid the crowds on these trails nearby by Italy Beyond the Obvious – There’s already a post shared on Cinque Terre about getting off-the-beaten-path and this post complements the other one perfectly. Here are four trails where to avoid crowds. […]

    Reply
  2. Exploring Levanto on foot, bike or boat | Girl in Florence
    May 19, 2014

    […] views, and a great trail that has less foot traffic than other towns in the Cinque Terre,  between Levanto and Monterosso, 3 hours and about 5 kilometers, this blogger explains it well [among other hiking tips} so strap on those [hiking] boots and get […]

    Reply
  3. Katie Knight
    August 25, 2014

    We will be staying in Manarola in two weeks and are trying to determine the best plan for a full day hike. Would you suggest taking the train to Levanto and doing Levanto-Monterosso-Vernazza-Corniglia and taking the train to Manarola? Or taking the train to Monterosso and hiking Monterosso-Vernazza-Corniglia-Volastra-Manarola?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Madeline
      August 25, 2014

      Hi Katie, With one full day I would hike the 3 trails that connect Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso. Start in Manarola and walk north. Spend time in the towns – stop for focaccia and gelato and lunch – and have a drink in Monterosso at the end of the day, then take the train or bus or boat back to Manarola. The Manarola to Corniglia trail is by far the easiest of the three so take my advice in this post and add Volastra in there to make it longer. Since it will still be summertime, bring your swimsuits as well! With one day of hiking, I probably wouldn’t try to do more than that…. Have a wonderful time!!

      Reply
  4. BEV CHATZ
    May 27, 2015

    We will be staying in Levanto – Hotel Al Terra di Mare FROM 30th August to 03 September.
    We (4 people) enjoy hiking and would like to know more info and which walks /hikes to do.
    Please can you advise if the hikes have to be booked in advance.

    Regards
    Bev Chatz

    Reply
    • Madeline
      May 27, 2015

      Dear Bev, For more information, click on the links included in the article. The Cinque Terre park website has very detailed information in English about many (many!) hiking trails.
      http://www.parks.it/parco.nazionale.cinque.terre/Eiti.php
      I’m not sure what you mean by “booking hikes in advance”. They are dirt trails, and anyone can walk on them. For the Cinque Terre park itself there is a visitor fee and you can buy entry passes at the train stations. If you want to go with a hiking guide then you would of course have to book that guide in advance.
      Also for all trails other than the famous trail #2 connecting the 5 towns make sure you have a hiking map, and that you know how to read it 🙂 For the famous trail #2 I don’t think you need a map, you just need to follow the other hikers.

      I hope that helps and have a great trip!

      Reply
  5. Martha
    June 20, 2015

    Hi!
    We are planning to visit Cinque Terre the first week of October this year. How is the weather normally then? Will the hiking trails still be open?

    Thanks!

    Best regards
    Martha

    Reply
  6. Jessica
    August 11, 2015

    My husband and I are driving from Florence to Rapallo in September, and would like to stop in one of the towns to hike for the day. Which town do you recommend? We will have a car with us. Thank you!!

    Reply
    • Madeline
      August 11, 2015

      Hi Jessica – well there are a few options. The Cinque Terre are going to be incredibly busy in September (just yesterday I was looking at accommodations anywhere in the area for anytime in the whole month and I’ve never see things so completely booked up!) so you might want to avoid the famous mule trails that link the famous 5 towns.

      You could:
      – Park in Levanto, walk to Monterosso, and take the train back.

      – Park in Volastra, which is connected to all the trails, and take James’ advice here: http://www.justgoitaly.com/articles/9/volastra-cinque-terre

      – Do a more off-the-beaten track hike. This one is a pretty circular hike from Campiglia: http://www.tramontidicampiglia.it/trekking/sentieri_campiglia_anello.htm I assume you can use google translate as it’s in Italian.

      – You could also go all the way up to Rapallo (where I assume you’re staying?) and walk the trails in the Portofino park. Some suggestions here: http://www.italybeyondtheobvious.com/hiking-in-camogli

      Not a bad problem to have! You’ve got some excellent options.

      Reply
  7. Pall Forloney
    September 13, 2015

    I am a guide in Cinque Terre and I also live here. This area is special to me and I want people to come to learn about the area, not to run up and down the hillsides. If you really want to know about Cinque Terre and the areas that are round it, contact me. My treks are personal, so no groups of people. It will be just you and me on the trek. We do not take the #2 trail or the trails the park sends people on. I want to avoid these over crowded trails and teach you about the grape growing, its people and the culture in Cinque Terre. If this is what you are looking for then contact me. pall@trekguyd

    Reply
  8. Lisa
    October 3, 2015

    I plan on hiking the entire trail from Levanto to Riomaggiore.

    Questions are:

    1. Which way should I go? Levanto first down to Riomaggiore or Riomaggiore to Levanto? Which way has the better views?

    2. How long will it take in hours?

    3. I have no time constraints so I plan on staying several nights in various towns. which towns would you suggest I stay in?

    4. I would like to hike the back trail as well. I can’t find any info on that trail. How long is that trail and what is the time it would take to hike it?

    THankyou,

    Reply
    • Madeline
      October 7, 2015

      Hi Lisa, in response to your questions:
      1 – I prefer hiking from north to south, so starting in Levanto, but I know people who prefer it the other way. I do think the Levanto – Monterosso trail is nicer going from north to south but the other trails probably don’t matter and are great either way.

      2 – Levanto to Monterosso: 3h
      Monterosso to Vernazza: ~2h
      Vernazza to Corniglia: ~1.5 h
      Corniglia to Manarola: ~30 mins
      Manarola to Riomaggiore: ~15 mins
      Then it just depends how much time you want to spend in each town.
      When I worked as a hiking guide, we would start at 10 am in Monterosso, hike all 4 trails, visit the towns, and be done by about 6 pm.

      3. Where you stay depends on your budget as it’s really easy to get between the towns by train or even bus or boat. I would not carry all your stuff on your back on the trail. Do a section, then take the train back and then do another section the next day. Levanto has some great, and more reasonably priced places to stay compared to Monterosso and Vernazza. Corniglia is probably the place I book the least frequently as sea access is not as easy – the town is way up on the cliff. There are some great small B&Bs in Riomaggiore and Manarola.

      4. By the back trail do you mean the Ridge Trail? It’s trail #1 but has been renamed. The length of time it takes depends on where you start and where you end. Here are details on all of the hikes:
      http://www.parconazionale5terre.it/Esentieri-outdoor.php?id_tipologia=1#top

      Reply
  9. Hiking in the Gulf of Poets: trails and testimonials
    April 16, 2016

    […] To see more travel tips by Madeline, click here […]

    Reply

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