Cinque Terre National Park guided tours & excursions: September 2017

Aaaaaaaah! September is *finally* here. After a scorching summer I’m ready for at least a slight drop in the temperatures. If that happens, hiking will be a pleasure again!

With that in mind, here’s the September schedule for the Cinque Terre National Park guided tours & excursions:
 Keep in mind that if you’ve purchased a Cinque Terre Card then the scheduled tours and excursions are free for you! If you don’t have the Cinque Terre Card you can still participate at the price of €6.50 per person.

Many of the dates on the Cinque Terre Walking Park calendar offer the possibility to tack on a wine tasting at a local cantina (recommended!) at the end of the tour or excursion for an additional fee. The fee for the wine tasting varies (depending on which cantina will be visited and which wines will be tasted), but most are right around the €10 mark (per person). This is a great way to get to know our territory and all that it stands for while also helping to support our local winemakers.

The Cinque Terre Walking Park calendar is color coded so I’ve created a key for you. First, look at your interested date(s) on the calendar above and then take note of the color for that day.

BLUE = Walking tour. This is going to be the least strenuous of the guided options available. The tours are of the five main villages: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza & Monterosso (just one village per day).

YELLOW = Hiking excursion. The days highlighted in this color will get you off the beaten path (as they are secondary trails rather than the popular coastal trail).

GREEN = Hiking excursion with mandatory purchase of either the hiking pass or Cinque Terre Card. This requirement is due to the fact that the excursion will take place on the coastal trail (Sentiero Azzurro), which is the only trail within the national park that requires a pass.

PINK = E-bike tour. This option is brand new for 2017! While traditional cycling of the Cinque Terre sounds like (and is!) hard work, these new bikes have power assisted pedaling when the going gets tough. I’m seriously going to try this out myself this year! Keep in mind that there are only eight (yes, EIGHT) spaces available per E-bike tour so you’ll want to act quickly and book your spots ASAP. IMPORTANT: The minimum age for this tour is 14 years.

RED = Expert hikers, only. For Septembe, there are currently no red dates on the schedule.

Be prepared

  • For the village tours, comfortable walking shoes are recommended.
  • For the hiking excursions, either hiking boots or trainers with decent tread are required. Trust me, you’ll want all the grip you can get!
  • For the E-bike tours, you’ll need to wear comfortable athletic shoes.
  • All of the aforementioned tours & excursions take place in good weather. In case of rain or wet conditions, the tours & excursions will be cancelled.

BOOK IN ADVANCE. Don’t expect to show up and find a spot available. Reserve your spot in advance by ringing (+39) 0187 743 500 or emailing

Keep up with Cinque Terre Walking Park on Facebook by liking and following their page! Chiara (one of the local guides) does a great job of posting updates, schedules, photos and more.

While you’re at it, have a look at my post on the 8 things you need to hike the Cinque Terre.



Village spotlight: CORNIGLIA

Corniglia (pronounced core-neel-ee-uh) is the smallest of the Cinque Terre villages and arguably the most underrated (as it is oftentimes overshadowed by its larger and easier to reach neighbors).


If you are a numbers person, Corniglia is considered the third village in the Cinque Terre (from either direction).

There are a few things that set Corniglia apart from its more popular neighbors:

  • Its location off the sea.

Unlike the other four villages, Corniglia sits on a mountaintop reigning over the sea.  When you reach the Corniglia train station you’ll find that you still have to climb 382 stairs (yes, 382, I’ve counted them myself!) to reach the village center.

The fact that it takes a bit of effort to reach the village tends to weed out visitors that can’t be bothered (which is a BIG plus in my opinion).  Little do these people know, you can actually “cheat” and take a bus up the hill to the village.

Despite that, I still prefer to take the stairs (probably because of my next point). 

  • It has my *favorite* gelateria in all of the Cinque Terre.   


You can get traditional homemade gelato in a plethora of flavors all throughout the Cinque Terre.  And to be honest, it’s all pretty delicious.  But in how many places can you get gelato al basilico, made with fresh basil from the owner’s garden?  Or, gelato al miele made with the honey harvested from local Corniglia bees?  Yeah, I didn’t think so.  This place is unico.  What better way to treat yourself after climbing all of those stairs? 


  • Most consider Corniglia to be the only Cinque Terre village without access to the sea, which isn’t exactly true.  

They have this lovely little cove where you can swim off the rocks (granted you’ll have to hoof it up and down the hill but you didn’t come to the Cinque Terre to be sedentary, right?).

There’s also a famous/infamous nude beach called Guvano hidden beneath Corniglia (but you’ll need a boat to reach it).

  • Locals are so nice here.  


While sitting at a tiny café I witnessed a foreign couple ask the barista to place a slice of savory cheese in a sweet croissant (I must be turning Italian as I winced simply at the thought!).  The barista didn’t bat an eye and accommodated their request with a smile.  I must admit, I was really impressed.

  •   It’s less commercial.  

You won’t find hotels here, just a scattering of affittacamere (room rentals).  It’s quaint and personable and you’ll feel like you’re staying amongst the locals.

  • It’s quiet when the sun goes down.


And heck, it’s pretty quiet during the day, too.  If R&R is your scope and you like to turn in early, Corniglia could very well be your own little piece of paradise.


My personal recommendations in Corniglia


Gelateria Alberto, via Fieschi (you can’t miss it!)  

A quick coffee or aperitivo:

Bar Pan e Vin, via Fieschi 123 (this place is tiny and gets cramped quickly… grab a coffee and sit on the bench outside to people watch)


Affittacamere da Cristiana is family-run with love and care by friendly Cristiana and Stefano (they also run the bar listed above)


Corte del Gallo offers a convenient location (an easy and quick walk from the Corniglia train station), beautiful views and comfortable accommodations.  Owners Roberto and Claudia are lovely, lovely people that I had the pleasure to meet when Roberto so kindly volunteered to be Babbo Natale (Santa Claus) for my son’s preschool.  Their stellar reviews just go to show what lovely hosts and people they are! Contact them directly at 

You don’t need to be a great photographer in the Cinque Terre…

…to take stunning photos.

Riomaggiore Reservations

February sunset as seen from the piazzale in Riomaggiore

When the scenery is this gorgeous, taking amazing pictures is a snap.

Riomaggiore Reservations

Rooftops and cloudy skies in Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre

Oh, and fancy equipment?  Not necessary either.  All of these photos were taken by yours truly, with my trusty iPhone (which is not even the latest model).

Riomaggiore Reservations

Patina of a “portone” in Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre

I am by no means pretending to be a professional photographer (I’m sure their photos are 10,000 times better).  Just sayin’.

Riomaggiore Reservations

A hint of spring in the air on a winter day in Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre

Want more Cinque Terre photos to drool over?  Follow me on Instagram!  @riomaggiorereservations

Local and national holidays in Italy

Carnevale 2015

Carnevale in Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre

So, you’re heading to Italy.  Maybe you want to relish in our country’s holidays.  Or, maybe you want to avoid them (and the crowds they can bring).  Here’s a listing of both local and national holidays to help you out.


  • January 1st:  New Year’s Day
  • January 6th: Epiphany                                                                                                                         
  • Carnevale: Not an official public holiday, but festivities are celebrated throughout Italy six weeks prior to Easter Sunday
  • Easter Sunday and Easter Monday: Dates change each year based on the religious calendar
  • April 25th: Liberation Day
  • May 1st: Labor Day
  • June 2nd: Anniversary of the Republic
  • August 15th: Ferragosto (Assumption of Mary)
  • November 1st: All Saints’ Day
  • December 8th: Feast of the Immaculate Conception
  • December 25th:  Christmas Day
  • December 26th:  Santo Stefano (commonly known as the 2nd day of Christmas)


Each city or village in Italy has its own patron saint and will have special festivities on their saint’s day.  The Cinque Terre villages are no exception with suggestive religious processions along the narrow streets, some ending with fireworks over the water (like for San Lorenzo in Manarola).  See below for each village’s patron saint and their day of celebration.

Riomaggiore:  San Giovanni Battista (St. John the Baptist), June 24th

Manarola:  San Lorenzo (St. Laurence), August 10th

CornigliaSan Pietro (St. Peter), June 29th

Vernazza: Santa Margherita di Antiochia (St. Margaret of Antioch), July 20th

Monterosso: San Giovanni Battista (St. John the Baptist), June 24th

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Just outside of the Cinque Terre but most definitely worth a visit for their patron saint festivities:

Portovenere:  Madonna Bianca (Miracle of the White Madonna), August 17th

Levanto: San Giacomo (St. James), July 25th

Déjà vu: Here we go again…



We are, once again, on a level 2 storm warning.  ARPAL (which stands for “Agenzia Regionale per la Protezione dell’Ambiente Ligure“) currently has two levels of alert:  level 1 (think of it as a yellow “proceed with caution” light) and level 2 (the highest level of alert, a so-called red light where everything comes to a grinding halt).  We’ve had multiple back-to-back alerts in just this past month.

Alert in Liguria

Trails throughout the Cinque Terre are currently closed.  All local schools have been cancelled.  Our day-to-day lives are obviously interrupted.  This is starting to feel like a throwback to Aesop’s Fable, “The Boy That Cried Wolf.”  Yes, we are in an area that is extremely prone to hydrogeological hazards (we know this all too well, especially considering the disastrous 2011 flooding).  But does that mean that every single time a storm comes through we need to go into a state of alert?  From a psychological standpoint, it’s unnerving (to say the least).

As we all know, there are always two sides to every coin.  OF COURSE, we’d rather be safe than sorry.  OF COURSE, we don’t want to put our loved ones (or anyone else, for that matter) at risk.  I think the reasoning behind the abundance of alerts in the past few weeks stems from recent lawsuits involving mayors and public officials (in other cities in Italy that have suffered from flooding or other natural disasters). These public officials are being held responsible for deaths due to unheeded weather alerts.  It’s yet to be seen whether they’ll actually be found guilty, but in the meantime I’d say it’s enough to have most mayors and public officials shaking in their boots.  The easy way for local city governments to wash their hands of the responsibility is to declare a state of alert whenever ARPAL sounds the alarm.  As soon as that happens, emergency measures go into effect (including closing the schools, trails, etc.).  The obvious flip side to having so many alerts is that the local population becomes desensitized and indifferent to them, thus undermining the whole point of the alerts to begin with.

Local specialties in the Cinque Terre

One of my favorite things about Italy is that every single region has its own specialty foods on the menu.  If you’re traveling all the way to Italy, you’ll want to try the foods that are unique to each area you’ll be visiting.  I don’t recommend asking for a bistecca alla fiorentina if you’re in Rome or pasta alla carbonara if you’re in Venice (as you’re likely to get some eyerolls).  Do your homework and have an idea in advance as to what each area offers as its culinary specialties (you definitely don’t want to miss out on something unique and special!)

So, you may be wondering, what are the local specialties in the Cinque Terre?



While focaccia has become quite international, Liguria (the region in which the Cinque Terre villages are located) is its true birthplace.  Even within Liguria recipes for focaccia vary.  For example, in Genoa focaccia is lighter and more bread-like, in Recco it’s very thin and filled with stracchino (a soft, mild cheese) and in the Cinque Terre our version tends to be more Spezzino (similar to that made in the nearby city of La Spezia).  Whichever way you find it, it’s pretty delicious.  There’s a plethora of topping options so you could potentially eat focaccia each day you’re here and still not tire of it!


fresh Ligurian pesto

Our region also boasts pesto as its own creation.  Something about this concoction made from fresh basil, pine nuts, garlic, parmigiano, pecorino cheese, olive oil and salt is incredibly addictive.  When others aren’t looking, I secretly use fresh pesto as a dip on bread (shhhhhhh!).  You’ll find fresh pesto sold by weight (by the way, there’s no comparison between fresh pesto and what you’ll find in a jar) in many of the local alimentari (small grocery markets) or you’ll find it served in just about every restaurant or trattoria in our area.  Pesto is usually paired with trofie (characteristic pasta from this area, they look like little twists and are served al dente) or trenette (which look similar to spaghetti).  Don’t be surprised if your pasta al pesto is served with potatoes and/or green beans, it’s actually how most locals eat it!

  • FRESH SEAFOOD & (in particular) ANCHOVIES


We are located directly on the sea, so it should come as no surprise that seafood is a local specialty.  Don’t shy away from the acciughe (anchovies) just because the word makes you think of the tin can version.  Anchovies from the Cinque Terre (and in particular, from Monterosso) are famous throughout Italy.  You’ll find anchovies in just about every variation imaginable here:  stuffed, fried, cured in lemon and olive oil, salted and more.  One of the most popular versions is fried and served in a cono d’asporto (a handy take-away cone, it’s street food at its finest!).  Other local seafood specialties include  muscoli ripieni (stuffed mussels), calimari, branzino (sea bass), and orata (sea ​​bream), just to name a few.



A savory local specialty made from chickpea (a.k.a. garbanzo bean) flour, water, salt and olive oil.  You’ll find farinata sold in the little focaccia places throughout the Cinque Terre.  It’s thin and almost crepe-like and while you can eat it plain (do ask for it to be warmed up if it’s not hot out of the oven) you can also find it with toppings.  You’ll see most Italians ordering it with either onion or stracchino cheese but some places have become inventive and will offer it slathered in pesto or with other toppings.  For some people farinata is an acquired taste.  For me, it was love at first bite.



This is a popular digestive with locals and once you’re here and see the gorgeous lemons that grow year round you’ll understand why.  The ingredients are simple:  fresh lemon peel (from local lemons), pure alcohol, water and sugar.  Many locals make their own (for their own family & friends to drink) but you can purchase a bottle at many of the shops or simply have a glass after dinner at any restaurant or bar.



The Cinque Terre is famous for its dry white wine.  The grapes used to make the local wine are harvested from the vineyards clinging to the cliffs throughout the Cinque Terre (I recommend going on a hike through the vineyards so that you can really appreciate all the hard work that goes into cultivating the grapes here!).  In order to guarantee the authenticity of the origin of the grapes, the D.O.C. symbol (denominazione di origine controllata) should be present on the bottle (that way you know you’re actually drinking the real deal and not just table wine from who knows where).  The Cinque Terre is not famous for reds and only in recent years have a few vintners started to offer a Cinque Terre red wine (but this is simply a table wine without the D.O.C. symbol).



This is the scarce, prestigious and pricey dessert wine made from partially dried Cinque Terre D.O.C. grapes.  The large quantity of grapes required to make just one bottle of sciacchetrà helps explain the hefty price tag.  This sweet wine is the pride and joy of locals.  If you are offered a glass (or bottle) you should feel very, very flattered!

As we say in Italy, buon apetito!

-Cinque Terre Insider

Seasons in the Cinque Terre

One of the most common questions I hear is, “When is the best time to visit the Cinque Terre?”  That’s a tough question because it’s incredibly subjective.  Are you a beach bum?  An avid hiker?  Or, are you looking to experience the Cinque Terre when you’ll have it (mostly) to yourself?  Here are the pros and cons of visiting in each season so you can decide what will work best for you.




  • The locals are just coming out of a long winter of hibernation.  They are excited to see you (and serve you/host you/welcome you)!  You’ll see fresh faces and feel the warmth and hospitality of the locals.
  • If you love to hike, this is the season for you!  Typically, the weather is nice (not too warm) and perfect for hiking.
  • The earlier in the spring you visit, the less crowded it will be (minus Easter weekend, and don’t forget that Easter Monday is also a national holiday!).


  • Those wanting to snorkel/dive/kayak won’t usually have the opportunity this time of year as the rental points won’t be open just yet.
  • While you can hang out at the beach on a nice spring day, you probably won’t be taking a dip.  As for water temps, the adjective “refreshing” springs to mind.
  • You’ll probably need to dress in layers as it’s usually warm in the day and cools off in the evening.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, you’ll just need to pack a bit more for variable weather/temperatures.




  • It’s a great time for water sports (snorkeling, diving, kaying, paddle boarding, etc.) and to discover the treasures of the protected marine area.
  • Water temperatures are up and relaxing at the beach and swimming are high on the “to-do” list this time of year.  As is relaxing and enjoying la dolce vita.
  • You can pack super light because pretty much all of the clothes you’ll need can fit in a tiny carry on.


  • While you can hike in the summer months, do you really want to?  On the hottest of days when I see people out hiking it makes me wonder if they are gluttons for punishment.  Of course, you can get up at the crack of dawn and get some hiking in before it gets too hot.
  • This is the warmest/most humid time of year in Cinque Terre (and Italy).  You won’t find a lot of air conditioning (on the trains, around the villages, in many accommodations, etc).  Brace yourself, especially if you are used to having A/C at all times.
  • As the summer coincides with most people’s vacation periods, you’ll find this is the busiest time to visit the Cinque Terre.




  • The weather isn’t nearly as hot (or humid) as the summer months, so hiking this time of year is lovely.
  • The grape harvest takes place right around mid-September and is truly special to witness (especially if you are hiking through the vineyards).
  • While it’s not as hot as the summer months, the sea has had all summer to warm up so you can still swim in September and some years even in October!


  • Locals are exhausted after months (and months) of travelers coming in and out of the villages.  You’ll notice we’re all a bit weary and burnt out.  We put on our brave faces and aim for November and the R&R that it brings.
  • Flies.  Don’t laugh.  One of my least favorite things about September in the Cinque Terre is the number of flies.  They’re pretty much unavoidable.  And annoying.  But not a reason to avoid coming.
  • As with the spring, it can be brisk in the morning and evening but warm during the day.  Dressing in layers is a must.




  • This time of year, things in the Cinque Terre go back to how it once was (before the influx of tourism).  Visitors this time of year are few and far between (allowing for a quiet, peaceful sojourn).
  • This is a great time to brush up on your Italian as you’ll be one-on-one with locals.
  • Because they aren’t overwhelmed with travelers bustling in and out, locals tend to be more interested in and open to meeting and chatting with visitors.


  • Many restaurants and shops will be closed for holiday (this is when locals finally get to take their turn at going on vacation).  Not to worry, they go on rotation so there should always be *at least* one restaurant open and *at least* one grocery market, etc.
  • The boats do not run in the winter months, so that won’t be an option.
  • It may be too wet/slippery to hike (but on a nice day, you can still get out and enjoy the trails).
  • Heating here may not be what you’re used to.  These buildings date back hundreds of years (well before the advent of electricity and/or indoor plumbing).  Most places use radiant heat which will give you warmth but not that balmy “let’s wear a t-shirt and shorts in the house in December” sort of feeling.  Plan on wearing warmer clothes, even indoors.
  • You’ll probably need to buy a Chicago-style zip up coat to keep warm.  I’m originally from California and when I first moved here I brought my warmest jacket (a wool peacoat).  I froze!  Lesson learned.

Whatever time of year you decide to visit, I think you’ll find the Cinque Terre an enchanting, magical place!

-Cinque Terre Insider

Current status of the Cinque Terre “Sentiero Azzurro” (Coastal Trail)

Latest update: October, 2017 

There’s a lot of (mis)information out there about what trails in the Cinque Terre are open or closed at the moment, so I’m hoping to clear up any confusion.

The most famous hiking path in the Cinque Terre is the Sentiero Azzurro (the so-called “blue” coastal trail that connects all five villages, also known as SVA).  There are currently two sections of the coastal trail that are open (the sections between Corniglia and Vernazza and between Vernazza and Monterosso) while the other two sections are currently closed. 

Let me break down the four sections of the coastal trail for you and give you some details for each one.

Riomaggiore to Manarola:  The famous Via dell’Amore (Lovers’ Lane) which can be classified as a walk or stroll (not a hike) has been closed since 2012 due to extensive landslides. There’s no hope of it reopening in 2017 as no works are currently in progress (thanks to a lack of funding and Italian bureaucracy *sigh*).  Learn more about the Via dell’Amore here.

  • Alternate trail:  At the moment, the primary alternative trail between Riomaggiore and Manarola (called the Beccara, trail #531) has been closed to the public due to pending litigation (more details on that can be found here).  While super steep and intense, the Beccara was a straightforward way to hike between the two villages.  My friends at Cinque Terre Trekking in Manarola have mapped an alternate route (albeit longer and not so direct) for avid hikers wanting to connect between the two villages (see below). img_2907Starting on trail 501 in Riomaggiore (you’ll find the trailhead behind the village’s castle) connect to trails 530 – 532 – 532C – 502 – 506V – 506.  This loop is circa 5.8km (3.6 miles) with 420 meters of positive elevation gain.  If you’re on Instagram, I recommend following @cinqueterretrek for gorgeous Cinque Terre trail photos and some inspiration!

Manarola to Corniglia: This portion of the coastal trail has been closed since 2011 due to landslide; 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 actually much 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, climbing 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 blue coastal trail (SVA) 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 in order to hike 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.


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, 5 are currently closed. FIVE.  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.

Amy hiking to Monesteroli

Yours truly, doing one of the things I love most… hiking the Cinque Terre! Photo: Nicole O’Neil

Happy trails!