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Cinque Terre Highlights

Cinque Terre Highlights on Foot

Overview

This walking holiday in Italy takes in the highlights of the famed Cinque Terre (the ‘Five Lands’). Based in Levanto and Riomaggiore, you will explore the beautiful Ligurian coast by foot, train and boat, choosing from a selection of coastal and mountain walks each day.

The Cinque Terre’ gets its name from the five picturesque villages of Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. The area, now a National Park, is a unique part of Italy. For over a thousand years people have lived in this dramatic landscape, slowly altering its features and cultivating the steep hillsides that lead down to rocky shores. An extensive network of ancient mule tracks – today used as footpaths – takes you through an extraordinary landscape of terraces, built by hand with stones and earth.

Highlights

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Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival Levanto/Monterosso al Mare

After settling in your hotel, there is time for a short visit to the town centre and maybe a swim in the sea. Or, In case you arrive early you can take the coastal walk to Monterosso al Mare.

The first part of the walk leads up towards Punta Mesco, the most notable promontory in the region. This is a good spot to stop for a picnic lunch. After that, you can make a small detour to the ruins of an old 11th-century hermitage and the nearby ‘semaforo’, from where you will enjoy marvellous views of the rugged coastline. Then you follow a fairly steep path down into Monterosso, a colourful village with blue, red & yellow houses that cluster behind the beach-front. You will now have time to explore the town before taking the local train back to Levanto. There is also the option to walk back from here, following an inland forested path, which over the ridge brings you back behind the castle of Levanto.

  • Walking for the day (optional): 4 hours (6 hours with the optional walk back to Levanto)
  • Accommodation: country inn in Levanto

Day 2: Deiva Marina / Moneglia / Sestri Levante I 3-6 h

From Levanto, you walk in western direction today. The first part of the walk goes along the beach, then the path goes up into the first hills and down to the little seaside village of Bonassola. It goes through the coastal hills towards the small settlement of Framura, an aggregation of scattered hamlets on the hillside. From Costa, the highest hamlet, an almost level path contours the hills, with lovely views over the sea. A steep descent brings you down to the next village, Deiva Marina (with the option to continue to Moneglia or even to Sestri Levante). This walk along the coast brings you through several charming little villages, where you have the time to drink a coffee, have lunch or just relax. From all the villages on the way, you can take the train back to Levanto, in case you want to shorten the walk.

  • Walking for the day: 3 to 6 hours depending on the walking option chosen
  • Accommodation: country inn in Levanto

Day 3: Riomaggiore I 5 h

You first take the train to Riomaggiore, the most southerly of the five villages, where you can leave your luggage in the hotel. Then you start the most ‘classical’ of all walks in the Cinque Terre: the hike along the famous ‘Sentiero dell’Amore’’ (Lovers’ Walk) to Manarola, an attractive little village with tall multi-coloured houses overlooking a rocky port. Then head up the 365 steps to Corniglia, perched on a ridge overlooking the sea. From there you continue through terraced vineyards and the occasional citrus grove. As you approach Vernazza, dominated by its old fortress, you enjoy some of the region’s best views. You contour around the hillsides following a narrow track that leads up and down before a steep descent brings you into the village itself.

In Vernazza, arguably the prettiest of all the villages, there is time to ascend the castle tower for a stunning view of the port with its brightly painted boats. There are numerous cafés and bars where you can enjoy refreshment before taking the train back to your hotel in Riomaggiore.

  • Walking for the day: 3.5 to 5 hours depending on the walking option chosen
  • Accommodation: 2 or 3-star hotel in Riomaggiore

Optional Extra Day: The Churches of Cinque Terre I 5 h

Today’s walk takes you into the Cinque Terre inland, to the churches of Madonna di Reggio and Madonna di Saviore. You first take the train to Vernazza and then walk along the coast to Monterosso, approaching this beautiful little town from the other end. After a coffee break, you start climbing up to the sanctuary of Madonna di Saviore. Here you can have a refreshment or relax for a while, before walking on to the next sanctuary, that of Madonna di Reggio. Then the walk continues along the contour lines; through the hills, you walk to the little church of San Bernardo, with beautiful views over the coast, and from there you descend to the coast at Vernazza again. A shorter option takes you directly from Madonna di Reggio, along a few little chapels, back down to Vernazza.

  • Walking for the day: 4 to 5 hours
  • Accommodation: 2 or 3-star hotel in Riomaggiore

Day 4: Porto Venere I 5.5 h

Today you walk in the eastern direction. From Riomaggiore, you commence your walk to Campiglia and Porto Venere. You hike up a long flight of stairs to the Santuario della Madonna di Montenero. Continuing uphill, you begin contouring along the coastal cliffs, through terraced vineyards, enjoying beautiful views of the coastline framed by clear blue waters. You are now on the ‘Sentiero Rosso’’, the ridge traverse that goes from one end of the Cinque Terre to the other. You pass through the little hamlet of Campiglia where you can stop for some refreshment. Walking down into the pine forest, the track narrows as you continue towards Porto Venere with more spectacular views.

Arriving at the 16th-century castle above the village, you may be able to see the distant peaks of the Alpi Apuane before a long staircase takes us into the heart of the village. Before returning to Riomaggiore by boat, there is time to walk around the beautiful Porto Venere and Punta San Pietro.

  • Walking for the day: 4.5 to 5.5 hours depending on the walking option chosen
  • Accommodation: 2 or 3-star hotel in Riomaggiore

Day 5: Departure or Onward Travel

After breakfast, you can easily return by train to Levanto (20 minutes), which is well connected to all major cities and airports (Genoa being the closest).

What to Expect

Accommodation

Simple but comfortable country inns, 2 and 3-star hotels, all offering private en-suite rooms. We have carefully hand-picked all places and regularly monitor their quality. We have tried to choose accommodations that are close to the trails, offer friendly service, clean and comfortable rooms and local flavour.

  • Nights 1 & 2: These are spent at Levanto, a charming old medieval city, you stay in a welcoming and comfortable country inn, centrally located at walking distance from all the main monuments of the medieval town centre.
  • Nights 3 & 4: These nights are spent in the lively little village of Riomaggiore, the most eastern of the five villages, with colourful houses and a charming small harbour.

Click to view default hotels

*Hotels are subject to availability. In case a particular hotel is fully booked for your desired dates, we will replace it with a hotel of equal value and quality level. We will provide exact accommodation details to you upon booking confirmation.

Meals

All breakfasts are included. No evening meals are included, and you are free to choose from the wide choice of restaurants in the area. Your accommodation host can give you good tips. On some occasions, you can also choose to eat at the premises of the hotel. No picnic lunches are included in the tour price, but these can be prepared for you by the accommodation operators, or products for picnics can be purchased in the villages where you stay. On some occasions, you have the option to have your lunch in a restaurant along the way.

Difficulty & terrain

The Cinque Terre walking tour is suitable for those who might have limited walking experience in the mountains but are in a good general physical condition. High level of fitness is not necessary, but you should be able to walk for up to 5 hours a day in the hot sun on dusty or stony tracks. On some days, alternative longer or shorter walks are possible (read more about difficulty grades). Most of the walks are on good paths, some of them recently restored by the local authorities. Most parts of the trails are waymarked. Elsewhere you have to follow the route notes provided together with the maps. We strongly advise you to follow only marked trails and never try to shorten the path through the unknown and unmarked terrain. We will provide you with detailed road notes and maps, and you can call our 24/7 local assistance phone number anytime. More detailed info on route navigation will be included in your holiday information pack.

When to go

This trip is available from March until October. Late spring, the whole summer and early autumn are beautiful on the Liguria coast. It may become very hot in July and August, and some of the resort towns – especially Portofino – may become overcrowded in these months, although the trails along the mountain slopes above the coast are far from the tourist rush. Without a doubt the best time to see the Liguria Coast is from April to June when the spring flowers are in bloom, the weather is just warm enough, and the temperature of the Mediterranean allows for the first dips of the season. The months of September and October are also an excellent time to visit the region, while the temperatures are still mild. The flexibility of self-guided holidays means that there are no fixed dates and you can start your trip on any date in the season – so please indicate desired beginning date when booking.

Important note: some sections of the Lovers’ Walk and other trails have been closed due to landslides and local authorities might close other sections without prior notice; in such case, alternative walks will be offered. We monitor the state of the paths constantly and keep our route info up-to-date, to make sure you do the best possible walks, but we cannot guarantee that all sections of the itinerary listed above will be accessible during your holiday.

Getting there

FCO up-to-date travel advice

Click to view travel options

By plane

Our recommended arrival airport for this holiday is Genoa. Other Italian airports (PisaFlorence) are also well connected to Levanto.

By train or bus

The tour starts in Levanto. Regular (high speed) trains run between this town and most major Italian cities (Genoa being the closest). Visit the Italia Rail website for up-to-date timetables and fares, or use the Omio planner above.

The tour ends after breakfast in Riomaggiore on Day 5. You can quickly return by train to Levanto (20 minutes), which is well connected to all major cities and airports (Genoa being the closest).

Airport transfers by public transport are recommended for this trip, as they are much cheaper and faster compared to car transfers. All internal transfers are by train and not included in trip price; all the villages are well connected by local train services, and you should buy a Cinque Terre Train Card (16 Euro for 24 hours, 29 Euro for two days, 41 Euro for three days). The card allows unlimited train travel on the Levanto – Cinque Terre – La Spezia line (on regional trains in 2° class) and also includes access to all hiking trails, use of ecological park buses, wi-fi internet connection.

Luggage Transfers

Hotel to hotel luggage transfers are not included as all your ground transfers are by convenient local trains. You will never have to carry your main luggage while walking. The reason behind this is that luggage transfers by car are relatively costly here as while by train the distance from village to village is very short (the train shortcuts through tunnels), by car one has to drive a long way around the mountains and often it’s difficult to enter the villages by car, as a special permit is required.

Inclusions

Included

  • Detailed pre-departure holiday information pack including GPS-checked and regularly updated route descriptions, road notes and maps at 1:25000 scale (or better)
  • 4 breakfasts
  • 2 nights in Levanto country inn
  • 2 nights in Riomaggiore 2**/3*** hotel
  • 24/7 phone assistance by our local office/representative

Excluded

  • Airfare and connecting land transfers
  • Lunches, dinners, drinks and snacks
  • Train fares on the walking days
  • Luggage transfers
  • Travel insurance (required – get a quote online)
  • Personal expenses
  • Any items not explicitly listed as included

Options, extras & supplements

  • Supplement applies to members of a group who require a single room / single use of a double room
  • This holiday is available for solo travellers; a supplement will be charged as accommodation and luggage transfer costs are not shared (we never mix and match – solo travellers will be accommodated in single rooms)
  • Optional extra day after Day 3 – The Churches of Cinque Terre and an extra night in Riomaggiore
  • The Cinque Terre Train Card is an affordable and easy to use option (16 Euro for 24 hours, 29 Euro for 2 days, 41 Euro for 3 days). The card allows unlimited train travel on the Levanto – Cinque Terre – La Spezia line (on regional trains in 2° class) and includes access to all hiking trails and the use of ecological park buses wi-fi internet connection.

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