Walking in the Cinque Terre

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Landscapes of the Cinque Terre and Riviera di Levante: walks

by Georg Henke

If you enjoyed Sunflower’s best-selling guide to Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast, you’re sure to love the Cinque Terre part of Italy, with its steeply terraced vineyards, ancient mule trails and colourful villages.

The Riviera di Levante between Genoa and La Spezia has become a much-loved hiking area — perhaps the most popular in all Italy apart from the Alps. And the ‘Cinque Terre’, the steep coast south of Levanto cradling the five villages of Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore, is the best loved of all.

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Description

Cinque TerreThe Mediterranean coast between Nizza (Nice) and La Spezia, the ‘Riviera’, was the birthplace of modern tourism in the early 1800s. The beauty of the landscape, the unspoilt and colourful old towns by the sea, the mild climate and the abundant subtropical vegetation attracted the upper classes who could afford the luxury of a leisurely stay in the warmth of the south. These wealthy people spent their days gambling in the casinos; hiking along stony mule trails or swimming in salt water was definitely not what a break in the Med was all about!

But over the last 30 years the eastern part of the area, the Riviera di Levante between Genoa and La Spezia, has become a much-loved hiking: the colourful houses of the five villages, nestled against steep terraced slopes above the blue sea and still connected by old cobbled mule trails, take the visitor back to the days when the Italian coast was still unspoilt by modern civilisation. That’s why this small area has been designated as an Italian national park and a UNESCO world heritage site.

Further inland, the sparsely inhabited Apennines, which cross the whole Italian Peninsula from Liguria to Calabria, offer up a totally different landscape — a remote area of high pastures, mixed forests and barren ridges. This area has plenty of hiking trails, but it does not satisfy the expectations of visitors seeking the charm of the Mediterranean. That’s why foreign visitors tend to ignore this hinterland — and why nearly all the walks in this book keep to the coast.

This is a walking guide: while ‘Landscapes’ guides normally feature car touring and picnicking sections, the Riviera di Levante does not lend itself to touring by car. The towns and villages are so tightly packed that parking is a major problem — especially in the Cinque Terre. And since most of the trails are linear, the walks require access by public transport in any case. Visitors out for a stroll can use Sunflower’s detailed maps to find the best spots for picnicking in a gorgeous setting.

Area covered: The book covers the whole Riviera di Levante, from the Magra River and La Spezia in the south, via the Cinque Terre and Portofino Peninsula, to Genoa in the north. Most of the walks are by the coast, since that’s where almost all visitors want to holiday, but there are a few hikes in the isolated interior.

The best months for walking in this part of Italy are April to mid-June and mid-September to the end of October, but because of the mild climate, hiking can be pleasant all year round, especially if one sticks close the the coast in winter.

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Where to stay

The Walking in the Cinque Terre guidebook is divided into six areas along the Riviera di Levante — from Genoa to La Spezia: the Cinque Terre proper (the five villages from Monterosso to Riomaggiore), La Spezia Bay (from Portovenere to Bocca di Magra), the ‘Little Cinque Terre’ (Moneglia to Levanto), the Tigullio Gulf (Rapallo to Sestri Levante), the Portofino Peninsula, and Genoa.

Each section has an introduction, including suggestions for accommodation in the most suitable villages or towns and some recommended hotels and B&Bs. Bear in mind that the compact Cinque Terre area itself can be extremely crowded and expensive in the ‘season’; it might be better to stay somewhere nearby. Wherever you may be booked, the excellent public transport will allow you to do a great many walks in the book — the author tells you how far you can expect to travel comfortably as a day-trip.

Edition/contents etc

35 long and short walks; no car tours or specific picnic suggestions
136 pages + area map; large-scale (1:50,000) topo maps
1st edition, May 2014; ISBN 978-1-85691-452-9; UK retail price £12.99 / USA retail price $17.99

Table of contents:

Preface 5
Getting there and getting about 8
Public transport 10

Walking 11
Maps and waymarks 11
When to walk 12
Equipment 12
A country code for walkers 13
Walk descriptions, grading 14

CINQUE TERRE: a walkers’ paradise 15
Getting about 18
Walk planning 19
Accommodation 19
Walk 1: From Monterosso to Riomaggiore 21
Walk 2: From Monterosso Colla di Gritta to Levanto 24
Walk 3: From Monterosso to Vernazza via Soviore 27
Walk 4: From Corniglia to Manarola via Volastra 30
Walk 5: From Riomaggiore to Portovenere 33
Walk 6: Circuit near Biassa and Campiglia 36
Walk 7: From San Benedetto to Manarola 39

LA SPEZIA BAY: Gulf of Poets 43
Getting about 45
Walk planning 46
Accommodation 46
Walk 8: Isola Palmaria 47
Walk 9: From San Terenzo to Tellaro via Lerici 50
Walk 10: From Tellaro to Lerici via Ameglia 54
Walk 11: From Tellaro to Montemarcello 57

THE LITTLE CINQUE TERRE: from Levanto to Moneglia 62
Getting about 64
Walk planning 64
Accommodation 64
Walk 12: From Lizza to Bonassola via Monte Rossola 66
Walk 13: From Framura railway station to Bonassola 70
Walk 14: From Deiva Marina to Framura Beach 73
Walk 15: From Moneglia to Deiva Marina via Monte Incisa 76
Walk 16: From Riva Trigoso to Moneglia 79

THE TIGULLIO GULF: lively towns, barren ridges 81
Getting about 83
Walk planning 84
Accommodation 84
Walk 17: From Riva Trigoso to Sestri Levante 85
Walk 18: Circuit from Sestri Levante 87
Walk 19: From Belvedere di Pratosopralacroce to Gramizza 92
Walk 20: From Madonna di Montallegro to Zoagli 96
Walk 21: From Ruta to Monte Manico del Lume and Sant’ Andrea di Foggia 100

THE PORTOFINO PENINSULA: a gem of nature 104
Getting about 106
Walk planning 106
Accommodation 106
Walk 22: From San Lorenzo della Costa to Portofino 107
Walk 23: From Santa Margherita Ligure to San Fruttuoso 111
Walk 24: From Camogli to San Fruttuoso 114
Walk 25: From San Fruttuoso to Punta Chiappa or Camogli 117

GENOA: the changing metropolis 120
Getting about 123
Walk planning 123
Accommodation 124
Walk 26: From Traso Alto to Recco 125
Walk 27: From Granarolo to Cami via the Parco della Mura 131

Index 135

Fold-out island map inside back cover

Guidebook index

Amborzasco 92, 95
Ameglia 54, 55, 56, 59, 60
Anzo see Framura
Aveto Nature Reserve 12, 81, 82, 93, 94

Bay of Silence 84, 85, 86, 88-9
Belvedere 84, 87, 92, 93, 95
Biassa 19, 33, 34-5, 36, 37, 38
Bonassola 66, 67, 68, 70, 72

Camogli 83, 104, 106, 107, 108, 114, 115, 117, 119, 126
Campi 131, 132, 133, 134
Campiglia 33, 34-5, 36, 37, 38
Chiavari 9, 88-9
Cavi 82, 84, 87, 88-9, 90-1
Chignero 102, 103
Cinque Terre National Park 10, 16, 21, 24, 27, 30, 33, 36
Codeglia 39, 40-1
Colla di Gritta 19, 24, 25
Colle Caprile 125, 128-9
Colle di Telegrafo 33, 34-5, 37
Corniglia 6, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22-3, 30, 32, 36
Costa Semaforo 24, 25
Costa Serba 87, 88-9

Deiva 3, 11, 63, 64, 66, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78
Deiva Marina 11, 63, 64, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77

Fiascherino 52, 53, 55, 58
Forte Diamante 132, 134
Framura 64, 70, 71, 73, 74, 75
Framura Anzo 65, 70, 73, 74, 74, 75
Gaixella 107, 108-9, 114, 115, 119

Genoa 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 17, 18, 19, 44, 64, 72, 83, 84, 105, 106, 119, 120-4, 125, 126, 127, 131, 132, 134
Ghidelli 108, 108-9
Gramizza 84, 92, 93, 94, 95
Granarolo 131, 132, 133
Groppo 22-3, 32, 40-1, 42

La Spezia 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 16, 43, 44, 45, 46
Il Colletto 66, 67, 68
Lavaggiorosso 62, 66, 67, 68
Lavagna 82, 83, 84, 87, 88-9
Lemeglio 76, 77, 78
Lerici 44, 45, 46, 47, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 64
Levanto 6, 7, 9, 16, 19, 24, 25, 26, 45, 62, 63, 64, 66, 68, 69, 72, 80, 83
Littorno 77
Lizza 64, 66, 67, 68, 69
Manarola 6, 18, 19, 21, 22-3, 30, 31, 32, 39, 42
Monasteroli 34-5, 36, 37, 37, 38
Moneglia 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 76, 77, 77, 78-9, 80
Montallegro, Madonna di 83, 84, 96, 97, 98, 99
Montaretto 66, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73
Monte Anchetta 96, 97, 98
Monte Capenardo 87, 88-9
Monte Croce dei Fo 126, 128-9
Monte di Portofino 85, 108-9, 112-3, 114, 115, 116, 119
Monte Ghiffi 94, 95
Monte Incisa 76, 77, 77, 78
Monte Manico del Lume 4, 84, 100, 101, 102
Monte Moneglia 78-9, 80
Monte Orsena 100, 101, 102, 103
Monte Rossola 66, 67, 68, 69
Monte Telegrafo 76, 77, 78
Monte Ve o Focone 25
Montemarcello 57, 58, 60, 61
Montemarcello-Magra Nature Park 45, 50, 54, 58
Monterosso 6, 9, 16, 18, 19, 21, 22-3, 24, 25, 27, 28, 29, 34, 36, 42, 45, 83, 106, 124
Mortola 108-9, 112-3, 115, 117, 119

Olmi 108-9, 111, 112-3, 115, 119

Palmaria (Island) 44, 46, 47, 48, 49, 53
Parco della Mura 131, 132, 133
Passo Anchetta 97, 98
Passo de la Serra 100, 102, 103
Portesone 52, 54, 55, 60
Portofino 4, 5, 7, 11, 25, 26, 81, 85, 89, 103, 104, 105, 106, 107, 108-9, 110, 111, 112-3, 114, 115, 116, 117
Portofino Vetta 108-9, 112-3, 115, 119
Portovenere 2, 4-5, 15, 19, 21, 33, 34-5, 43, 44, 46, 47, 48, 62, cover
Pratosopralacroce 92, 93, 95
Prevo 20, 21, 22-3
Pugliola 50, 51, 52
Punta Bianca 57, 60, 61
Punta Chiappa 108-9, 112-3, 115, 117, 119
Punta Manara 81, 85, 86
Punta del Mesco 24, 25, 26, 34

Quaratica 40-1, 41

Rapallo 5, 9, 45, 64, 81, 82, 83, 84, 96, 97, 98, 99, 100, 101, 102, 106, 107
Recco 125, 126, 127, 128-9
Riomaggiore 6, 15, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22-3, 32, 33, 34-5, 40-1, 42
Riva Trigoso 78-9, 80, 85, 86
Riviera di Levante, 5, 7, 11
Ruta 4, 84, 100, 101, 102, 106, 112-3, 115, 119

Salice 70, 71, 72-3, 74
San Benedetto 39, 40-1
San Fruttuoso 4, 105, 106, 107, 108-9, 111, 112-3, 114, 115, 116, 117, 118, 119
San Giovanni 16, 27, 28
San Giovanni Battista 16, 28
San Lorenzo della Costa 39, 42, 44, 107, 108-9, 112-3, 117, 122
San Rocco 108-9, 112-3, 115, 115, 119, 126
San Terenzo 45, 46, 50, 51, 52, 57
Sant’Andrea di Foggia 100, 101, 102
Sant’Antonio Abate 33, 34-5, 36, 37, 38
Santa Giulia 87, 88-9, 90-1
Santa Margherita Ligure 9, 17, 22, 45, 64, 65, 81, 83, 84, 100, 102, 106, 107, 108-9, 110, 111, 112-3, 117
Sarzana 45, 46, 50, 57
Semorile 96, 97, 98
Sestri Levante 9, 18, 45, 46, 64, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 88-9, 91, 106
Sori 125, 126, 127, 128-9
Soviore, Madonna di 27, 28
Strada dei Santuari 22-3, 40-1, 42

Tellaro 1, 6-7, 45, 52, 54, 55, 58-9, 60
Torre Punta Baffe 78-9, 80
Tramonti 36, 37, 38
Traso 125, 127, 128-9

Vandarecca 70, 71, 75
Vernazza 6, 17, 19, 20, 21, 22-3, 27, 28-9, 36
Via dell’Amore 18, 21, 22-3, 39
Volastra 19, 22-3, 30, 32, 40-1

Zanego 7, 54, 55, 57, 58, 59, 60
Zoagli 96, 97, 98, 99

Current update

Cinque Terre and Riviera di Levante, 1st edition, May 2014. Updated 15/09/2014 

Updates for walks in the Cinque Terre and Riviera do Levante given below supplement those provided in the guidebook. It is vital that this Update is read in conjunction with the text of the book, but note that the Update applies only to the edition stated and not to any earlier editions. (If you have an older edition of this book you can “upgrade” to the latest edition at half price.)

Information has been forwarded to us by users of the book, and Sunflower Books offers the data in good faith but cannot be held responsible for any misleading or inaccurate content in the Update. Unless indicated otherwise, what appears here has not been verified by the author or publisher, so please allow due caution when new or amended routes are suggested. Each piece of information is dated; bear in mind that some of the older observations may have since been overtaken by events or further changes. If, during your holiday, you are using the current edition of the guide and are able to provide any additional updating to add to this page, we will be pleased to hear from you. Please send information, preferably by e-mail, to info@sunflowerbooks.co.uk.

General: Just returned from a week staying in Manarola (2-8 September) and your new guide (2014) was invaluable. We did walks 1-4 and found the descriptions, timings and tips on buses etc to be accurate – our thanks to Georg Henke. The continued closure of the Via Dell’ Amore and the coast path from Manarola to Corniglia undoubtedly increases the number of walkers (including those with less experience) and pressure on the higher paths. In the description of Walk 7 there is mention of the Via Beccara being reopened last year. In our view it would be a helpful addition to this guide to make a little more of this particularly as there is no sign of Via Dell’ Amore reopening. (User, 9/14) • The sections between Corniglia & Manarola and Manarola & Riomaggiore are not going to re-open any time soon. Apparently, there are serious problems with continuing instability, as well as the funding question. We were staying in Levanto, so it was just about worthwhile to pay the 12 euro fee for permit + fares. We started early in Corniglia, so we’d have the sun behind us and not miss any photo opportunities. On the section to Vernazza, we passed only a handful of walkers coming the other way and enjoyed well-illuminated views at every turn. Walking up from Vernazza traffic started increasing, but this wasn’t a big problem as the trail was normally sufficiently wide. It was the descent to Monterosso, which proved somewhat frustrating at times as there was an almost continuous stream of people labouring uphill. The majority of these late starters seemed ill-prepared physically for the steepness of the climb and many were inappropriately shod; we saw flip-flops, sandals, beach shoes & what looked like bedroom slippers. We heard later from several sources that it was even more frustrating walking uphill from Monterosso due to the snail’s pace of most walkers. If I return, it would definitely be in spring and I’d walk the very pleasant Vernazza to Monterosso upper route via the sanctuaries (Walk 3), rather than endure this again. (User, 10/15) • IMPORTANT: All the path numbers in Cinque Terre proper have been changed: the current numbering is in the 500+ range. I’m speculating here, but I would guess it’s due to some national (regional?)  plan to have unique numbering of paths. Often, it’s just a question of adding 500 to the path number in the book, i.e. path number 8 becomes 508; some signs even read: “path 508, ex 8”. (User, 10/15)

Walk 2: Our accommodation was on the route of the walk near to the now-restored Castello di San Giorgio, so we started from here and walked to Colla di Gritta and back. The section from the Punta del Mesco turn-off to Colla di Gritta is little used and therefore a relief from the crowded main trail. (User, 10/15)

Walk 3: It seemed preferable to do this walk in reverse with the sun behind us. The ascent, though quite steep in places, is not sustained, whilst the descent into Monterosso is easy. The route no longer follows the concrete track after the 3h20min point, but descends steeply on a stepped path, which emerges close to the station, i.e. you wouldn’t walk for 5 mins. on the valley road. (User, 10/15)

Walk 4: We did this one the same day as a truncated version of Walk 1 (see above), so for the 2nd time that day caught the train to Corniglia. This time, we opted to use the waiting bus for the 1km ride into the town centre, which we didn’t have to pay extra for. A group of Japanese tourists were scalped for 2.50 euros per person. In the latter stages of the walk on the descent to Manarola, there is now a sentiero panoramico option, which does indeed yield splendid views, although there is one short section where the route could be described as exposed. (User, 10/15)

Walk 5: Coupled with the boat ride back from Portovenere to Monterosso, this makes for the best day out currently available in Cinque Terre. However, from September 25th to November 10th (this latter date isn’t rigidly adhered to), it’s open season on wood pigeons. Tuesdays and Fridays are days of hunting silence and surprisingly perhaps, this seems to be respected. You can actually hear the shooting from as far away as Vernazza, but it’s only on this walk for about half an hour that it becomes distinctly unpleasant. You have to pass very close by to 2 shooting scaffolds and the noise when they start firing is deafening and probably injurious to unprotected ears. Warning signs explain that there is no danger, but I defy anyone not to wince at the noise. In the midst of this we encountered a kindergarten class, some of whom were looking distinctly upset. What were their teachers thinking subjecting them to this ordeal?… After the 2h45min point, when leaving the road for the rocky trail, a sign describes the path as difficult. Some agility is required scrambling up the rock in one place and a fall here could be very nasty indeed. There is an alternative route, but I think this would mean missing the best views on the walk. The descent to Portovenere castle presented no problems at all in good conditions, but the stepped path of the final descent to the harbour was slippery in places. It was almost 30 mins. wait for the next boat, so having purchased the 15 euro tickets, we took up pole position by the rope and duly secured the best seats on the boat (top deck, front right). The ride was excellent value compared to the short and relatively uninteresting trips on the Portofino Peninsula and is highly recommended. You really haven’t seen the Cinque Terre villages until you’ve seen them from the sea. Between 3 and 4 o’clock on a fine October day, the light was near perfect for the highlight of our stay. (User, 10/15)

Walk 7: Arriving at La Spezia FS, you need to buy your tickets for San Benedetto in the tobacconist on the platform, then descend the steps to Via Fiume, the main road below, to wait for the blue bus. Our bus was late and drove very fast, reaching the village in less than 10 minutes; ring the bell as soon as you see the village sign, which comes before the road signs mentioned in the text. Matteo’s is no more, having been replaced by a hairdresser. We took a short cut to the Porcale trail normally reached after the 55min-point. To take this alternative waymarked route, continue on the road until a left-hand hairpin bend, where there is a map board and the start of a forest trail. Ignore a fork off left and continue in the same direction until you meet the signposted path to Porcale, which is still unmarked, but fairly well defined. Coming into Porcale, the turn-off isn’t obvious : you need to descend steps to the left, then work your way around a few houses to reach the road. A sign warning of ‘wild boards hunting in course’ [sic] is passed on the way to Codeglia, where you’ll be greeted by quite a few barking dogs. Until the ridge (2h35min-point), we had met no other walkers, but now in quick succession, we encountered 3 joggers, a mountain biker (official mb route) and a couple who’d driven up to Passo La Croce. At the 3h45min-point, the track now has a route number and you go through the first of 3 metal gates before reaching the vantage point. There is an electric fence on your left side to keep out wild boar from the agricultural plots. (User, 10/15)

Walk 13: From the Salto della Lepre viewpoint (2h30m), there is now a good path at the coast, which continues to give views towards Levanto, before yielding excellent views of Bonassola and its beach. This must be better than returning to the crossroads. (User, 10/15)

Walk 14: Outside the peak season (1/6->30/9), there’s plenty of free parking on the road from the bridge mentioned in the walk description to the station (one-way street). After the 10min-point where the climb begins, didn’t see any blue dots, but about 5mins into the ascent there is a map showing the Parco Naturale boundaries; from here to the crossroads at the 1h-point, the path is copiously waymarked with red and white flashes. It’s worth noting that some of the next section of the route from the crossroads to Costa is closed on Wednesdays and Sundays from Oct.-Jan. for wild boar hunting. (User, 10/15)

Walk 15: Out of season, it was possible to park in the area adjacent to the station. Before the 25min-point, an old stone bridge is crossed to continue on the right bank (I think this should read true left bank). (User, 10/15)

Walk 16: Out of season, you could probably park at Riva Trigoso station, but we parked at the side of the road about 1km out of town and within 5 minutes walk of the station. At the crossroads, where there are now 2 picnic tables (1h30m-point), the signpost pointing right indicates Monte Comunaglia (red double plus waymarks), rather than Moneglia. The path from the crossroads to the stream is a bit eroded in places and you are fighting the strongly resurgent vegetation much of the way. Moneglia appears again on signs at the point where the low level route branches off back to Punta Baffe. From here the double plus signs lead uphill to Monte Comunaglia and the route of the walk is waymarked by red strip and dot. (User, 10/15)

Walk 17: Plenty of off-road free parking on the way into Riva. We followed the directions in the book on the uncomfortable little path up to Case Ginestre. Unsurprisingly, the official route goes up via the imposing Chiesa di San Bartolomeo and is quite pleasant. From the pylon just above Ginestre, the route is well signposted and waymarked.  Rather than risk waiting up to an hour in traffic fumes in Sestri Levante, we walked the third side of the triangle by following the 3 red dots route back to Ginestre in less than half an hour of pleasant, undulating walking where we were happy to be on our own for once. We then followed the aforementioned official 2 hollow red triangles route back down to Riva. (User, 10/15)

Walk 18: As we were staying in Santa Giulia (economical and comfortable apartment with great view over gulf to Portofino peninsula), we started at the church a few minutes up the road. After descending steps from the church (3h30m) the slate walkway going past a line of houses is called Via Costa. From here to the ruin at Sant’Anna, the route is waymarked as part of Sentiero Liguria (Ventimiglia to Luni long distance footpath), although we didn’t spot any signs between Cavi and Cavi Borgo. After the 3h40min-point, there is an error in the text: crossing a small road you go left not right. In Cavi Borgo, Ristorante del Pino is no more, but you do pass a restaurant… We encountered mountain bikers on the narrow footpath above the cliffs before the ruin at Sant’Anna, but luckily they weren’t going very fast and there was room to let them by. We opted to omit the branch to Sestri Levante… On the steep climb up from the ruin (35min- point), we saw about 20 bikers in the first few minutes, but none thereafter. The walking trail here is now well waymarked with hollow red squares and takes the rocky/slate braid, rather than the dusty/gritty one used by bikes. Looking back, the biker trails are marked “enduro” and the alternative “HD”. It’s possible, though that “HD” is for the real hardcore bikers. Sometimes, the trails merge and there is no alternative, but to plan your route ahead in terms of where you can take cover! Higher up, there were quite a few hunters, mostly dressed in the familiar bright orange. Soon after, where the path levels off through young pines, there is a signposted fork: right to San Bernardo, left to Monte Costello (route of the walk)… We were unable to find the path forking off from the road at the 3h-point (incidentally, this was meant to be a good 15 mins along the road from the 2h50m point)… Walks on the Portofino peninsula were as described, but those mule trails can be slippery after rain. We were surprised by the sheer numbers of walkers here (more than anywhere else apart from Walk 1), including very large German & French groups. Our tactic was to do walks in reverse, starting very early and doing this we managed to avoid getting stuck behind groups often 20+ strong. (User, 10/15)