Cinque Terre Insider

American expat insight into Italy's fabulous "Five Lands"

View over Vernazza from the Sentiero Azzurro

I love to hike. It’s ironic that I live in hikers’ paradise yet I don’t get out trekking nearly as much as I’d like. Luckily for me, my collaboration with Randonnée has pushed me to get back out on the trails to rediscover this place I love.

I’ve oftentimes been asked what I recommend people take hiking with them here in the Cinque Terre. Here are the 8 things I always have with me:

  1. Proper footwear. Look, it’s not necessary to have hiking boots (though some people prefer them). Trainers are just fine so long as they have decent tread on them.
  2. A daypack. You’ll want a small, lightweight backpack to hold all of your necessities. I personally prefer one with lots of pockets and zippered compartments. When I’m hiking with someone else we bring one daypack between the two of us and trade off wearing it. 
  3. Water.  I love me some ice cold water while out on the trail. One of my must-have items is a double walled, stainless steel insulated water bottle. This thing can keep things ice cold for hours (the manufacturer says mine keeps things hot for 12 hours or cold for 24 hours, I can personally attest that I’ve had my water stay ice cold for 8+ hours!). I love that there’s no condensation and everything else in my pack stays nice and dry. I bought mine here in Italy from Amazon but it’s a brand currently available only in Europe. I found this one on Amazon.com that looks just like mine and it has amazing reviews. Of course, you can just buy a bottle of water if you prefer but this is a green, reusable option that you can use throughout your Italian travels (not to mention when you get back home).
  4. Something to eat. Depending on where I plan to hike, I pack either a snack (my go-to is fruit) or a sack lunch (I usually have a panino made at a local alimentari before I head off). 
  5. Comfortable clothing. On a recent hike I saw some people wearing some pretty unconventional hiking attire (think: sundresses and trench coats *gasp*).  You’ll find me wearing comfortable leggings (or shorts in the warmer season) and either a t-shirt or tank top.  Your best bet is to layer as there are parts of the trails that are fully exposed to the sun (and hot) and others that are in the shade (and quite chilly). I wear a lightweight The North Face jacket made with Gore-Tex (which is perfect for protecting me from wind & rain) just like this one. I love that I can wear this and skip a sweatshirt because even though it’s thin & breathable it actually keeps me quite warm! And unlike bulkier jackets or heavy sweatshirts, I can easily tie it at my waist when I don’t need it.
  6. Photo ID. By law in Italy, you are required to always have valid ID on you. If you are a non-EU citizen this means you are always required to have your passport with you; EU citizens can get away with carrying a government issued identity card or drivers license.  For those feeling iffy about carrying your passport with you (which I totally understand given the prevalence of pickpockets on the trains), at the very least take a decent quality photocopy of the main page of your passport with you. 
  7. Cash. Carry enough cash with you to cover the costs you’ll incur (for example, for the hiking pass if you’re planning to hike the coastal trail, transport tickets, a little pocket money for gelato or focaccia, etc.). I usually take €20 with me. I don’t see any reason to take more than €50 (unless you have grand plans for lunch or shopping along the way).  If you feel nervous having only cash with you, bring along one credit card, just in case. 
  8. Your phone. Optional: A fancy-schmancy camera. Unless you’re a photog or a shutterbug, there’s really no reason to bring a camera and your phone (as the latest smart phones can take some pretty great pictures).

    All of my photos are taken with my iPhone.  Not too shabby, eh?

    I won’t lie though, the GoPro Hero 5 is on my wish list and I’d totally hike with it if I had one. While having a camera (and fancy equipment) is optional, your mobile phone is essential in case of emergency on the trails or elsewhere (dial 118 for medical emergencies or 115 for the fire department).

That’s it! If you’ve checked these 8 things off of your list then you’re ready to get out and conquer the Cinque Terre trails. 

Here are some more tips for you:

  • Lather on the sunscreen before hitting the trails. If you’re extra fair, bring the sunscreen with you so you can reapply as needed (you might want to bring a hat & sunglasses, too).
  • Wear your daypack backwards (on your chest rather than on your back) while on public transport to discourage thieves. Keep your valuables (cash, ID, phone and/or camera) in a deep (ideally zipped) inner pocket. Because, pickpockets. Being vigilant on the trains and at the stations is key. 
  • Walking sticks (a.k.a. trekking poles) are by no means a necessity, though you’ll notice certain nationalities adore them (Germans in particular). If you do decide to use them, be kind and put rubber tips on the points (as the sharp metal points dig in and deteriorate the trails).
  • Do not, I repeat, do not hike with your luggage (even if you’re traveling with a backpack).  Doing so will surely suck any pleasure out of your hiking experience. Seriously, the Cinque Terre trails will get your heart thumping without the extra 20 kilos strapped to your back! Backtracking to pick up your luggage after you’ve finished hiking will be totally worthwhile.
  • In the warmer months, pop your bathing suit in your daypack. There’s no better reward after a tough day of hiking than a dip in the Mediterranean. 

Happy trails,

Amy

*This post includes affiliate links.  If you make any Amazon purchases by clicking through the product links above you’ll help support the hosting and upkeep of the blog. Grazie mille!

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21 thoughts on “8 things you need to hike the Cinque Terre

  1. Renee says:

    I’ve noticed that a lot of people recommend bringing a swim suit along. May I ask where would be a recommended place to swim, and if there are places that you can change into your suit at other than at a restaurant?

    Like

    1. Ciao Renee!

      The Cinque Terre are not only a national park, but they are also within a protected marine area. The water here is crystal clear and beautiful… you’ll be wanting to swim if the weather and sea conditions permit!

      If you are hiking from Riomaggiore to Monterosso (ending there) there are vast beaches (especially on the Fegina side) where you can go for a swim. Just keep in mind that there are public portions of the beach and private (where you pay to enter and for the use of an umbrella and sun chair). In the private “stabilimenti” you can actually pay to have your own private changing booth (where you can also store your things). If you plan to use the public portion of the beach (free of charge), you can either change in a public restroom or do the old “towel trick” (you’ll see lots of Italians doing this, you just wrap a towel around yourself and shimmy out of your clothes and into your bathing suit).

      Each of the villages has their own access to the water (even Corniglia has a little cove you can hike down to from the village). I do plan to do a post in the near future on this topic! Stay tuned.

      Take care,
      Amy

      Like

  2. Debby Stokman says:

    Hi Amy,

    Great website! We will visite cinque terre on 12th May till 16th May. Can I sent you an email to ask some questions? Thanks!

    Like

    1. Ciao Debby!

      I’m so glad to hear that you like the blog. 🙂

      I don’t yet have an email associated with the blog. You’re welcome to drop a question or two here and I’ll do my best to reply as soon as possible.

      A presto!
      Amy

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  3. Debby Stokman says:

    Perfect! Me and my 6 friends are going to hike for 4 days in May. We are starting in Monterosso and then go to Soviore, the second day we are going to hike from Soviore to Vernazza, 3th day from Vernazza to Riomaggiore and the last day from Riomaggiore to Portovenere.
    Unfortunately I have a knee injury (torn ligament) and I’m waiting for surgery. So, I can’t hike these days. I think the best way to go for me will be the Explora 5Terre bus? Maybe I can go to Sovoire by taxi? Thanks for thinking with me about this problem!

    My friends are going to hike, but they are worried about there backpack. We will travel with al lightweight backpack anyway, because we are only visit Italy for 4 days… Wat do you recommend? Backtracking? Or can we hike with less then 10 kilo?

    Thanks!

    Like

    1. Ciao Debby!

      I’m sorry to hear about your knee! What a shame that you won’t be able to join your friends on their hiking adventures.

      I usually discourage visitors from hiking with anything other than their day pack with essentials. While they *can* hike with their bags I think it’s much, much more enjoyable to hike without them. I would consider arranging a transfer service for both you & your friends’ luggage. I highly recommend Marzio & Luciana at 5Terre Transfer (they are based in Riomaggiore and run a smooth & professional operation). They can be reached at +39 339 130 1183 or +39 340 356 5268 and their website is http://www.5terretransfer.com). To me, the money spent is well worth the convenience. 5Terre Transfer could take both you and your friends’ luggage from Vernazza to Riomaggiore and then from Riomaggiore to Portovenere. For Monterosso to Soviore you could contract another NCC (van with driver) or call a taxi based in Monterosso.

      If your friends decide to carry their own things with them while they hike, you can definitely use the Explora bus between Vernazza & Riomaggiore (but keep in mind that the Explora buses do not connect between Monterosso and Vernazza as the road is currently closed to traffic). Also, the Explora bus does not run to Portovenere. If sea and weather conditions are good, you could take the ferry to Portovenere that day (but keep in mind there are steep stairs to climb and descend to reach the ferry dock-point in Riomaggiore, which probably wouldn’t be great for your knee).

      I hope I haven’t overwhelmed you with information!

      Take care,
      Amy

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    2. Hello, again!

      I just spoke with Marzio at 5Terre Transfer and he gave me an idea of rates to send on to you. To pick you up & the luggage up in Vernazza and bring you to Riomaggiore the cost would be €50. To do the same service from Riomaggiore to Portovenere would be €60. If you divvy that up between the 7 of you it really is a trivial price to pay for the convenience!

      I hope this info helps!

      Amy 🙂

      Like

  4. Debby Stokman says:

    Hi Amy,

    Do you have time for the questions above?

    Thanks!

    Like

    1. Ciao Debby!

      At the moment (and for the past few days) I’m home with sick kids. 😦 I’ll try to reply as soon as I have a spare moment.

      Like

  5. Debby Stokman says:

    I understand! I hope they get well soon!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you! I’m really hoping they will be back in nursery/preschool tomorrow. 🙂

    If you are wanting to make multiple stops between Vernazza & Riomaggiore then your best bet will be Explora. You *could* ask 5Terre Transfer to drop you off and pick you up multiple times but that would be an expensive (albeit convenient) alternative, I imagine.

    The road connecting Vernazza & Monterosso is currently closed and it has been that way for a good few years *sigh.” A taxi in Monterosso would want to charge you to drive from Monterosso to La Spezia and then to Vernazza (from the opposite direction). This would be a really expensive option! I recommend talking with your host at Soviore to see if they have any recommendations (they may know a “rogue” driver willing to pass through the closed portion of the road as many locals do). Otherwise, you’ll need to take either the train or ferry from Monterosso to Vernazza.

    I hope that helps!

    Amy

    Like

  7. Michael Runyan says:

    Hi Amy,

    Our next door neighbors just returned and reported that 90% of the trails are closed. Is this an accurate assessment? We will be there in mid-June.

    Like

    1. Ciao Michael!

      Absolutely not! Are they sure they were in the Cinque Terre?!? Jokes aside, there are only two current closures with alternate routes available for both of those trails. How that equates to 90% of the trails is beyond me. I hate when misinformation is spread. 😦

      Amy

      Like

  8. Chantal says:

    I will purchase the Cinque Terre Trene Card on-line and print it. I would like to know if I need to validate the ticket before getting on the train in La Spezia and if I need to validate every time I get one the train. Thank you

    Like

    1. Ciao Chantal!

      Nope, when you purchase your ticket online it will only be valid for the date you specified. There’s no need to validate your printout. 🙂

      Take care,
      Amy

      Like

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