The most famous hiking path of the Cinque Terre is the Sentiero Azzurro (the blue coastal trail that connects all five villages, also known as SVA). There are currently two sections of the coastal trail that are open and two that are closed due to landslide (but alternate trails are available for both so it is still possible to hike through all five villages).
Let me break down the four sections of the coastal trail for you.
Riomaggiore to Manarola: The famous Via dell’Amore (Lovers’ Lane) which can be classified as a walk or stroll (not a hike) is currently closed due to extensive landslides. There’s no hope of it reopening in 2017.
- Alternate trail: Beccara (trail 531) This is the ancient trail that connected Riomaggiore and Manarola before the Via dell’Amore was carved out of the cliffside in the early 1900s. This trail was restored after the closure of the Via dell’Amore in September of 2012. Keep in mind that the two villages are very close together but are separated by a very steep mountain. This rugged trail climbs straight up that mountain and descends straight down the opposite side. Think of it as a StairMaster x10 (or 100?). Approx. hiking time is 1 hour (difficulty level: strenuous). For more details on this hike, check out my dedicated post here.
Manarola to Corniglia: This portion of the coastal trail is currently closed due to landslides. At this point we do not have an expected reopen date. However, don’t be discouraged as the alternative trail for this portion of the coastal trail is actually one of my favorites (and is even more beautiful than the original!).
- Alternate trail: via Volastra (trail 506 to 586 to 587) From Manarola trail 506 makes its way up the hillside, winding through the terraced vineyards. Once you’ve reached Volastra (a beautiful little village off of the sea) the trail connects with trail number 586 and takes you through the olives groves and then descends down into Corniglia on trail 587. As Corniglia is already located up off of the sea, the descent isn’t too steep. This alternate route between Manarola and Corniglia takes roughly 2 to 2 1/2 hours (diffulty level: medium to difficult).
TIP: Keep in mind that the most difficult portion of this alternate route is the section of trail 506 (as this is the incline from sea level in Manarola up to 333 meters/1,094 feet above sea level in Volastra). If you prefer, it is possible to catch a bus from Riomaggiore (two per day during peak-season) or Manarola (multiple buses each day) to Volastra and hike the latter two trails to Corniglia.
Corniglia to Vernazza*: This portion of the coastal trail is currently open and takes approx. 1 1/2 hours to hike (difficulty level: medium to difficult). As you approach Vernazza you’ll have some stellar views over the village!
Vernazza to Monterosso*: This is the most difficult portion of the coastal trail (not counting the alternate route between Riomaggiore and Manarola). Approx. hiking time is 2 hours (difficulty level: strenuous).
*Keep in mind that as these two trails are part of the Sentiero Azzurro a special national park hiking pass (€7.50 per person, per calendar day) must be purchased. In alternative, you can purchase the Cinque Terre Card (€16 per person, per calendar day) which will include not just the hiking along the coastal trail, but also unlimited trains for the day between the villages as well as use of the buses in the villages. See more details about the different passes available by clicking here.
IMPORTANT THINGS TO NOTE:
Only the coastal trail (Sentiero Azzurro) requires payment. All of the other trails (including the aforementioned alternate trails) can be hiked free of charge.
I’m oftentimes asked about the status of the Cinque Terre trails because people have heard that the majority of the trails are closed. FALSE. Out of a total of 48 signmarked trails in the Cinque Terre, 3 are currently closed. THREE. But don’t take my word for it, you can see for yourself on the Cinque Terre National Park website. No matter how long your stay, there’s plenty of hiking to be done here!
While we’re on the subject, I recommend reading my post on the 8 things you need to hike the Cinque Terre.