Stephen and I set out from Monterosso with our Cinque Terre Passes mid morning to begin our hike to Vernazza. Our Airbnb host told us the hike, which was considered an average difficulty trail, would take about an hour. That didn’t sound bad. I figured if we were tired after one hike we could hop on the train for the rest of the day. The trek took us over 2 hours with stops for photos and rest. We did not hike on.
The Hike: Monterosso to Vernazza
A few parts of the trail were narrow and others overlooked a steep mountain side (those with a fear of heights might have trouble) but overall the terrain was easy to manage, even in my Converse sneakers. The path weaved up, down and around the mountain through lemon orchards, dense greenery and open air with stunning views of the ocean.
Tip: Wear layers! Since we prepared to be out for the full day, we had to dress for it. While the morning and evening were cool, after a few hours of hiking in the sun, I was sweating. A few of the villages also had beautiful beaches and water access so a bathing suit layer may come in handy.
For me the hardest part of the trail was the start, leaving Monterosso to climb up and up the mountain was a lot of stairs. Our first stop was at a lemonade stand run by a family who owned one of the lemon orchards. The fresh lemons were wonderfully fragrant and the drink so refreshing in the heat. Another great restspot was a nook for stray cats set up with little houses and food.
The trail was busy in both directions with a wide variety of hikers. Some were decked out in full gear while others were dressed for a park stroll. I would recommend at the minimum wearing closed toe sneakers and bringing some water. There were two great photo spots once Vernazza came into sight. Catching a glimpse of the colourful city, I felt a sense of accomplishment (and a bit of relief).
After grabbing lunch in Vernazza we decided to take the train to the next 3 cities. Hiker, I am not. Train passes were available that allow unlimited travel with options of 1 day, multi day and family pricing. We had to be a bit more mindful of our time in each city but it was still a leisurely afternoon.
Tip: The train station at Corniglia was at sea level while the village itself was on the cliffs, 382 stairs up. There is a frequent shuttle bus between the village and train station if stairs are not your thing. The ride takes about 5 minutes and costs €1.50.
After climbing the stairs to Corniglia, I rewarded myself with a gelato before we moved on. Both Manarola and Riomaggiore had direct water access. At Manarola, tourists clambered on the rocks for the perfect shot. We were no exception but I wasn’t as daring to climb too high on the wet, slippery cliffs. Since many tourists were also running on a train schedule, the best time for photos was just as a train arrived to carry a group away before the next wave arrived.
In Riomaggiore, we ended our day with a fried seafood cone. The main street was lined with shops all hawking the local specialty with similar prices. We followed the crowd to the longest line and wasn’t disappointed.