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stricky Nov 7th, 2017 04:19 PM

Cinque Terre HIking
For those who are familiar with the Cinque Terre area, can you tell me how challenging the hiking routes are? I'm traveling with someone who has asthma and I want to make sure that there are less challenging hikes that he could take that don't require vertical climbing. Friends of mine have said how glad they were they they had a walking stick for the strenuous walks they took with their group. I'm hoping that there are others to choose from. We haven't yet decided where to stay, but perhaps your responses will influence that decision.

Thank you for your advice!

Myer Nov 7th, 2017 04:28 PM

A few years ago we started in Riomaggiore and went to the third village.

It was basically flat elevation wise.

jamikins Nov 8th, 2017 01:05 AM

I believe the easier trail between Riomaggiore and Corniglia (the third village) has been closed since 2011 due to land slide risks. This was the flat trail.

It is the higher elevation trail that is open and I have read that it can be quite strenuous but I have never done it myself.

You may want to do a search of these boards for further information.

bvlenci Nov 8th, 2017 09:22 AM

The official trail map of the Cinque Terre park has complete updated information on all the trails, including the amount of climbing. I'm giving only the Italian language link, because the English language version has less information.

All of the trails are listed at the bottom. The sea-level trails connecting the five villages all begin with 59. Two of these trails have been closed since 2011, as jamikins says. The other two are open.

If you click on a trail, it will show you the tempo di andata (time to go out) and tempo di ritorno (time to return). If there's a big difference, it means that there's more climbing in one direction. It also shows you the distance (lunghezza) and the amount of climbing (dislivello). (If the trail is up and down, the dislivello is the sum of the climbs.)

Keep in mind that in most European countries, the use of comma and period in numbers is the opposite of that in the US. When it says the trail has a "lunghezza" of 3,600 km, don't faint! It translates to 3.6 km (about 2 miles). (Multiply by 0.6 to convert km to miles.)

Andrew Nov 8th, 2017 11:41 AM

The hikes from Corniglia to Vernazza and Vernazza to Monterosso (which are the main trails still open I think) are not easy - not necessarily difficult, either, but there are a lot of steps up and down especially at the beginning/ends near the towns. I don't recall which of the two hikes would be more difficult - I haven't done them in ten years, but I seem to think they were roughly the same.

One possibility might be simply to do part of one hike - maybe start the hike (probably up steps) and see how your companion feels. Maybe taking it easy and planning on breaks and it would be OK. I certainly wouldn't plan to do both hikes.

The hikes from Riomaggiore to Manarola and Manarola to Corniglia would have been ideal - too bad those trails are still closed.

When planning a place to stay, note that some lodgings in the five villages require going up some steps, so pay attention to the reviews. Otherwise, I'm not sure it matters much where you stay. Lodgings in the towns tend to be pricey in season. I've stayed in Levanto twice - it's the town just north of Monterosso. I stayed there in part because I'm frugal, but Levanto itself is a nice town anyway.

There might be easier hikes in the Italian Riviera you could consider - e.g. from Santa Margherita Ligure to Portofino (which I haven't done but hear is not so difficult). It's easy to get between Santa Margherita Ligure and the Cinque Terre towns by train. You don't even necessarily have to stay in the Cinque Terre; Santa Margherita Ligure itself is a really nice town. You could day trip down to the villages by train for half a day if you like, without hiking.

MFNYC Nov 9th, 2017 09:52 AM

Andrew is correct about the closed trails. There are also upper trails which from what I hear are not that difficult and are open, but getting up to them can be (lots of steep steps). We did the trail from Corniglia to Vernazza. We are not hikers but we do walk a lot. There are steps, lots of them in Corniglia to get up to the trail from the town. Along the trail, there are some steps as well, and some of the trail is bumpy and uneven. Walking sticks would be helpful (we didn't have, but many did). We also took water with us, it was on the warm side and we wanted to be prepared. There was only one pit stop along the way (with excellent fresh squeezed oj), and it was about 2/3s to destination.

We stayed in Manarola, in an airBNB. It's a lovely town, and at night when the day trippers leave it's pretty magical. You can go up to the beginning of the trail that's still open (toward Corniglia), and watch the sun set. If you plan in advance, you can make a sunset dinner reservation at Billy's (great restaurant in Manarola) and get an outside table with a view.

I liked all the towns, but my least favorite was Monterosso, it's more commercial.

ibobi Nov 9th, 2017 01:36 PM

The best hike IMO is Corniglia to Vernazza. But it does have some challenging parts, especially if there's been any weather. Not mountain hiking by any means, but some steep stairs and slippery bits. But man it is gorgeous. And at the end you're in Vernazza!

MarthaT Nov 10th, 2017 10:30 AM

I hiked them all about 15 years ago. I have bad asthma (well controlled) and Corniglia to Vernazza and on to Monterosso was about the hardest thing I have ever done. Climbing those stairs about did me in. I would not recommend it. The stairs are all different heights, some are close together and some farther apart. Not a fun thing but looking back I am glad I did it.

stricky Dec 1st, 2017 08:16 PM

Thank you all for your helpful responses. A website glitch has prevented me from acknowledging your help sooner. Hoping this reply sticks.

john183 Dec 2nd, 2017 08:57 AM

This is probably TMI but I am including an edited version of the portion of my trip report (and a link to some pictures) from 2011 of our hike from Manarola to Corniglia on one of the high trails. We took buses on both ends to save having to climb or go down all the steps. I hope this helps give an idea of what you might expect on this trail. It used to be called 6d but I think it is now called 506 in bvlenci’s link above. In the link it says the difficulty level of this hike is EE – for expert hikers. Most of our group is in the mid-sixties range and we are definitely not expert hikers but we are in relatively good physical shape and we all made it with no problems.

I’m not sure how severe your travelling companion’s asthma is but this trail does have some climbing (see a couple of the pictures). An idea might be to take the bus from Manarola to Volastra and walk as far as you feel comfortable going. Then turn around and come back to Volastra and take the bus back to Manarola. I don’t remember it being difficult at the beginning when hiking on the terraces through the vineyards but the views were absolutely gorgeous. I think there was more climbing in the wooded area near Corniglia.

<<<<<<<When we bought our tickets at the train station in Levanto, we asked the lady selling tickets about the trails and she told us which were open and which were closed. When we asked her if we would be able to do the high trail between Manarola and Corniglia, she said no problem – it would take about an hour. Then she took a second look at us and said well, maybe an hour and a half. Too funny!

The ticket lady had told us to take the bus from Manarola to Volastra and pick up the trail from there – it would save us about an hour of climbing straight up the hills. After a bit of trouble figuring out the bus system, we finally rode it to Volastra – and thank goodness we did – it was a long way up there. We found the path toward Corniglia and took off. The scenery was incredible almost every step of the way. I cannot describe what a feeling it was to walk through those terraced vineyards on the narrowest of paths with no rails or anything at all between you and a long drop down. I don’t want to give the impression that this trail is dangerous or even difficult but it is not flat or paved.

At one of the narrow parts of the path, we met a group of about 10 hikers coming the other way and they did not slow down a bit. Other than that group, we probably only saw 10 or 15 other people on the trail and all were very nice. We continued on the path which had become wooded, seeing no one for a long time and we finally started to get close to Corniglia. When we did arrive in Corniglia, we sat outside at a little place and marveled at what we had just done. I don’t mean to make it sound like more than it was but we were pretty proud of what us wild and crazy grandparents had just accomplished (we actually did complete it in the hour and a half the ticket lady estimated). We then took the bus down to the train station and went to Vernazza.>>>>>>>

singercpa Dec 2nd, 2017 09:40 AM

My daughter and I were there in 2011 before many of the trails were damaged. The only easy one open then was a paved walk between Manarola (where we stayed) and Riomaggiore. We did train to Vernazza and walked up very steep trail toward Corniglia for about 45 min. But then returned to town. My daughter attempted the trail Vernazza to Monterosso al Mare but turned back after going 2/3 the way. The next day, we took the ferry from Manarola to Monterosso al Mare to get photos of 4 of the towns from the water which was nice. Manarola where we stayed is very steep walk with our suitcase from train to the hotel and for sightseeing, but I was able to manage that and it was lovely (though heard that the towns were severely damaged after 2011 with earthquakes or something I vaguely remember).

2idocs Dec 4th, 2017 09:38 AM

We were there just recently.
Stayed in Monterossa and since hiking the length of the CT isn't possible we came up with a good game plan:

First thing in the morning, caught the train to Vernazza, stroll through town thru the farmer's market to reach the trailhead, stopped for snack/water. Then hiked BACK to Monterossa. Took a break at our hotel, then train to Corniglia and hiked back to Vernazza from the other side.

The big advantage:
-Everyone else started at the northern end and the trail was crowded. BIG bottleneck leaving Monterossa & the trail is so narrow its difficult to pass slow/large groups. For every hiker going north, there were 25 going south. Much more enjoyable!
-Get to see Vernazza twice!
-Corniglia to Vernazza is a little more descent since it starts at a higher elevation & we were more fatigued later in the day.
-Sun is not in your face as much

2idocs Dec 4th, 2017 09:42 AM

To address the fitness issue:
Not the most technical of hikes, but strenuous.
If you can climb 10-12 flights of stairs without stopping, you'll be OK.

There were quite a few on the trail, who IMO, should NOT have been on it. Medical evac would be extremely difficult.

ToujoursVoyager Dec 4th, 2017 10:12 AM

I know marathoners who have asthma and I know asthmatics on oxygen at rest. The more important question is if your friend is active every day and what level of exertion he/she is used to.

The flattest town is Monterosso, but the least scenic of the five, in my opinion.

bvlenci Dec 4th, 2017 10:37 AM

<i>... heard that the towns were severely damaged after 2011 with earthquakes or something I vaguely remember. </i>

Floods and landslides.

The reason they're still closed is that there's a risk of more landslides. I'm not sure they'll reopen any time soon. The terraces above the towns are critical to the safety of the trails. In earlier days, the terraces were painstakingly maintained and repaired by the owners of the vineyards and their employees. Now a lot of the work is mechanized, and the owners and employees have found that the tourist industry pays better and doesn't give you arthritis.

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