after having hiked cinque terre twice now, first with friends and second with parents, i consider myself an expert. i really actually didn’t realize this until i was catching the train in la spezia with my volume =4200 cubic inches hiking backpack on (not the one you see in pictures above) and a group of american women accosted me with questions about the details. their first question was, “Should we eat here or there??” and seeing as we were in the la spezia train station and the dining options consisted of a cafe bar and a mcdonalds, i felt pretty confident in my answer. everything flowed pretty easily from there…
SO let me break it down for you.
the first to second town (riomaggiore to manarola) is the easiest walk: 10 mins, paved, lighted at night (ish, this is italy, don’t expect real visibility post 8 pm), no incline. it is called via dell’amore, and people have been attaching locks to the overhanging wire with their significant others for decades in the name of everlasting love — see pictures above.
the second to third town is easy/moderate difficulty (manarola to corniglia): some incline, will take about 30-45 minutes depending on your degree of fanatical picture-taking.
corniglia (#3) to vernazza (#4) will take about an hour and a half. even with picture taking that was about our exact time. its moderate/difficult. lots of up and downs. my legs were shaking a little when we came down to vernazza, but it is so worth it. let me repeat, these hikes are 100% worth the effort because the views are so fantastic. granted, the towns are great (especially vernazza), but the mid-mountain visibility and beautiful sights of other towns from the hike are fantastic (the above pictures do NOT do it justice). BREAK HERE FOR LUNCH. Vernazza is my favorite town (lots of colorful umbrellas). they have great seafood places right on the water that are totally worth it. note: cinque terre is where i learned to bone a fish. see photo above.
of course, having said that, i was in need of a nap (see “about me”) and opted out of the vernazza to monterosso (town #5) hike this time around BUT i have a first hand report to make this judgement from — it was difficult. even if they hadn’t gotten stuck in the rain, my parents said it was full of tiny little pathways (foot in front of foot style) and lots of strenuous inclines. so, if you really need to skip one for you physical well-being, this may be the one. however, my parents are 49 and 50 and did ALL FIVE TOWNS in one day. even in the rain storm at the end. so you can do it (unless you really need a nap). also – if the weather is good, bring your bathing suit for your victory sunbathe, because monterosso is the only town with a real beach.
this is definitely one of my favorite trips, and i can’t wait to go back. you really can’t get enough of it.