25 Top Tips for Hiking from Monterosso to Vernazza

Yesterday I went hiking from Monterosso to Vernazza in the Cinque Terre. The guidebooks say it takes two hours to cover the 20km distance from Monterosso to Vernazza; it took me an hour and 10 minutes.

Just sayin’.

Monterosso to vernazza hike

You can also walk from Vernazza to Monterosso, the other way round, and the same timing applies. 

In general, the Cinque Terre is a big area for hikers, and weather permitting, you can actually get from one town to another as long as you’ve got your hiking boots packed and are prepared for the leg burn.

Monterosso to Vernazza is no different, but I couldn’t find much information on hiking between Monterosso and Vernazza so thought I’d put your minds at rest as to what to expect, and how to make the trek as fun as possible if you fancy having a go.

Monterosso to vernazza hike

I actually wanted to hike the whole route but a few of the Cinque Terre trails were closed for safety, including the famous Via dell’Amore between Manarola and Riomaggiore. Manarola to Corniglia was also closed, so I couldn’t do the 24km full track.

Shame. I did manage Monterosso to Vernazza though.

I got a train to Monterosso from where I was staying in Manarola (10 minutes / €2) had a look around and then hiked back to Vernazza .

Monterosso to vernazza hike
View back over Monterosso

The terrain between Monteresso and Vernazza

The terrain between Monterosso and Vernazza was varied. It’s known as one of the easier routes but the 100+ steps at the beginning in Monterosso dispelled that rumour for me. Five minutes in and my left knee was clicking with every step I climbed. That was the toughest part of the whole route though, and only lasted about 15 minutes.

My heart rate was up and I feared for all the wheezing 50+ers I was passing up the steps.

Monterosso to vernazza hike

From then on the Monterosso to Venezza terrain varied from comfortable mud tracks to two-foot stair leaps and everything in between, but none so tough as that first stretch.

If you do the hiking trail from Vernazza to Monterosso, so the other way around, you’d actually end up going down the steps rather than up them, which I reckon would make the journey a little easier. If only I’d thought of that before.

Monterosso to vernazza hike

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Weather when hiking the Cinque Terre

Obviously the weather in the Cinque Terre depends on what time of year you plan to visit. As I mentioned, if it’s bad weather some of the trails might close because it’s just not safe to walk on them when the ground is wet, if there’s a lot of wind or if there’s been a recent rockslide.

Check in with the Cinque Terre information offices before you set off just to get the lowdown, but generally it’s just common sense. Walking a rocky cliff edge in the wind and rain?

No thanks.

If you see the sun shining, don’t automatically think you’re winning either. I’d give it some thought as to whether you’re up for walking in the heat and what time of day might be better. Aside from risking sunburn and sunstroke, sometimes there’s nothing worse than being on your holidays all hot, sweaty, and seriously regretting rolling out of the sunlounger.

To avoid any unnecessary holiday grumps, if you’re there in the height of summer, plan to do your Monterosso to Vernazza hike either early in the morning or in the evening once it’s cooler.

Another plus to that would be the amazing sunrise or sunset views you’ll get.

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Monterosso to vernazza hike

Safety first on the trails

You can take the path at your own pace. Dotted along the path people were stopping for air / views / water / heart pains and waved you along with a friendly ‘bonjourno’. There’s no rush and it’s nice to stop for people to go past you – a great excuse for a rest too.

Every so often you’ll see medic signs that pace your way. There are 25 along the route and they give you details of your coordinates and the emergency services number. Probably a good idea to take note of the number, just in case.

Monterosso to vernazza hike

What to take on the Cinque Terre hike

I know we’ve all seen the word hike before and it’s ended up being more of a gentle walk totally doable in sandals, but this really is not one of those times. Only proper trainers or hiking boots will do on the Cinque Terre trails.

Make sure to take plenty of water – I saw some right sweaty beasts on the way round. You don’t want to get dehydrated, or sun stroke. I’d heard a rumour there were water fountains along the track, but I never saw one so stock up before you get started on the Monterosso to Vernazza trail.

I completed the track at about 4pm and it was absolutely roasting. Every so often you’d find a shady part to cool down, but most of it was uncovered, unsheltered trail so make sure you bring some sun lotion too.

A fan never goes amiss either. You might feel a little fancy wafting one about but, I promise it’ll make the hike from Monterosso to Vernazza a little less sticky.

Then, depending on how mum-like you want to be, you could pack some plasters – you know, just in case – a banana for some extra energy and don’t forget to pop your emergency contacts in your phone. Then there’s the essentials like sunnies, money and your phone/camera.

And don’t forget the swimsuit. Unless you’re a Sally-no-sweat, you’ll likely be in need of a cool down once you reach the end. You’re in luck because whether you’re walking from Monterosso to Vernazza or doing it Vernazza to Monterosso, there’s amazing beaches at either side so you can strip right off and take a dip. If you’re doing that, maybe pack a small towel too.

And just because I mentioned the word beach does not mean you should throw all of this in the beach bag. For a Cinque Terre hike, only a sensible backpack will do so that both hands are free for any potential wobbles.

Look out points on the Monterosso to Vernazza trail

Monterosso to vernazza hike

You’re on the coast, the very edge of Italy, so 90% of the trail makes for a perfect look out point, but there are a few key look out points along the path. Between medic post 11 and 12 you’ll find a great picnic bench where you can sit and have a snack. Everyone was passing the clued up Spaniards that were sat there with a bottle of wine and foccacia bread with a look of pure envy.

Read more  Hiking from Monterosso to Vernazza: Our Unforgettable Experience In Cinque Terre

If you can handle the extra weight, I’d be popping one in the backpack as well.

Monterosso to vernazza hike

At medic point number 15 there’s a love lock post, which if you’re after a romantic spot along the way could do the job.

Monterosso to vernazza hike

The views are absolutely stunning all the way so make sure you have enough charge on your camera or phone. I couldn’t actually stop taking photos on the way round. Coming into Vernazza was one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen, and I wouldn’t say that lightly.

Monterosso to vernazza hike

Monterosso to vernazza hike

Cost of hiking the Monterosso to Vernazza trail

This track is normally €7.50 to walk – to help pay for the conservation of the Cinque Terre National Park – but seeing as quite a few of the paths were closed they weren’t charging at all when I went.

If you do need to buy a pass you can do it at either end and they’ll check as you pass through.

Monterosso to vernazza hike

Anyone of normal fitness and ability you’ll be fine on the track. But if you’re a bit worried, start the other way from Vernazza to Monterosso where the first five minutes were a bit more forgiving and see how you get on.

Click to see the best hotels in the Cinque Terre on Booking.com.

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Monterosso to vernazza hike

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— Update: 31-12-2022 — cohaitungchi.com found an additional article Hiking from Monterosso to Vernazza: Our Unforgettable Experience In Cinque Terre from the website landoftravels.com for the keyword monterosso to vernazza hike.

Monterosso to vernazza hikeVisiting Cinque Terre – a UNESCO world heritage site along the shores of northwestern Italy in the region of Liguria – had been on our bucket list for so long. We spent one and a half days in July exploring Cinque Terre and loved hiking from Monterosso to Vernazza along the Blue Trail during our visit to the region.

Stunning Cinque Terre consists of five picturesque villages nestled along the dramatic cliffs of the Italian coastline.

Cinque Terre is widely considered as the most beautiful stretch of the Italian Riviera and is also the smallest national park of Italy.

I am guessing that if you are reading this post, you might be planning on visiting Cinque Terre soon and perhaps even considering hiking along the beautiful trails in the region.

So here’s a photoessay and travel guide about our experience of hiking from Monterosso to Vernazza along the Blue Trail (Azure Trail). This post also covers the details about how to reach Cinque Terre, our hike along the Blue trail, hiking tips and things to do in Vernazza.

Cinque Terre – an introduction and how to get there

The five villages of Cinque Terre are Riomaggiore (the southernmost, closest to La Spezia), Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare (closest to Levanto). While all of these villages have the same shades of charming pastel buildings, they each have a unique feel to them.

For example, Monterosso is the more resort-like village with a classic Italian beachfront, larger hotels and attracts a lot of tourists.

On the other hand, the smaller, but probably the most beautiful village of Cinque Terre – Vernazza, exudes charms with its boat-filled natural harbor, tiny beach, narrow alleys, and a castle.

Monterosso to vernazza hike

While both Monterosso and Vernazza are quite touristy, the equally charming villages of Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore are a delightful base for visitors who would prefer to experience the quieter slice of Cinque Terre.

The five villages of Cinque Terre are seamlessly connected by train, bus and boat services. We arrived at Cinque Terre after spending a memorable day in Pisa. Our train from Pisa brought us to La Spezia in about 1h 20 mins. We switched trains at La Spezia and arrived in Vernazza in about 18 mins.

The trains along the La Spezia to Genova line run frequently and stop at each of the five villages of Cinque Terre along the way. Our train journey from La Spezia to Vernazza was short but dramatic. What I distinctly remember is the train crossing through several tunnels and emerging out to stunning, brilliantly blue hues of the Mediterranean (Ligurian Sea) and pastel-colored buildings of the villages along the rugged coastline. So beautiful! Those brightly painted buildings reminded me of the colorful homes we had seen in Murano and Burano during our trip to Venice.

We hadn’t even stepped off the train yet, but I could already tell that exploring Cinque Terre was going to be a truly memorable experience. Additionally, during the peak tourist season from spring to summer, there are ferries also that run from La Spezia to Cinque Terre.

Hiking in Cinque Terre – The Blue Trail

Monterosso to vernazza hikeWhen visiting Cinque Terre, if you don’t mind an active day of hiking, then one of the best ways to discover the region is to hike along the popular and scenic Blue Trail – Sentiero Azzuro (SVA 2, 592-4).

The Blue Trail starts from Monterosso, passes through Vernazza, followed by Corniglia and  Manarola before ending at Riomaggiore. This trail is about 12 km long and can be hiked in either direction starting from either Monterosso or from Riomaggiore. It is also, of course, possible to hike only certain sections of the trail and visit other villages along the way by either train, boat or bus. A non-stop hike along the full length of the trail takes nearly 5-6 hours.

However, the real charm lies in hiking the trail and discovering each village as you go by. In order to do so, the best thing is to spread the full hike over two days as you explore the five villages, and once you complete the hike, take the boat back to the starting point to see Cinque Terre from an entirely different perspective.

Monterosso to vernazza hike

The level of difficulty, as well as the time needed to hike between villages, varies quite a bit. Without a doubt though, the toughest hike in the region is the trail between Monterosso and Vernazza.

Hiking from Vernazza to Corniglia is also quite demanding and takes about 1.5 hours. Further on, the hike from Corniglia to Manarola takes one along the hills and lasts about 45 mins. The easiest and shortest hike along the Blue Trail is the one from Manarola to Riomaggiore along the level path of Via dell’Amore which takes just 20 mins to complete.

Cinque Terre Card

Monterosso to vernazza hikeCinque Terre is a national park and hiking the trails requires a fee to be paid. The proceeds from the sale of the Cinque Terre card go directly towards the upkeep of the Cinque Terre national park.

The Cinque Terre card can be purchased online or at the welcome centers located in the train stations at each of the villages.

You will notice, that at each end of the section of the trail between the villages, there are checkpoints where this card needs to be shown for entry to the trails of the national park.

There are two types of Cinque Terre cards – the Cinque Terre trekking card and the Cinque Terre Treno MS Card.

The Cinque Terre Trekking Card gives access to the hiking trail and covers the use of bus service between the villages. We purchased the 2-day Cinque Terre Trekking card for €14.50 per person.

On the other hand, the Cinque Terre Treno MS Card includes access to the Park area and its trails as well as train travel on regional trains from Levanto to La Spezia.

Our memorable experience of hiking from Monterosso to Vernazza

We stayed at Camere Nicolina in Vernazza during our visit to Cinque Terre. After breakfast, we made it a point to the first shop for some snacks and water to take along our hike in Vernazza.

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We stopped by the fruit stands in Vernazza to pick up some fresh fruit and at Panificio focacceria to buy some of their freshly made focaccia. Did you know focaccia had originated in Liguria? That makes it a must-try when visiting this region and this delicious treat along our adventurous hiking day was one of the best snacks we had (the pesto focaccia was the tastiest of all the varieties we tried).

After purchasing and snacks and water, we took the train from Vernazza to Monterosso as we wanted to hike the section of the Blue trail (Azure trail) starting from Monterosso to Vernazza.

The start of the hike at Monterosso:

The trail for Monterosso to Vernazza spans a distance of about 3.7 km and takes about 2 hours to complete. Hiking from Monterosso to Vernazza leads one dramatically along the coast and through the vineyards.

It was easy to locate the starting point of the hike as we approached the beachfront of Monterosso from the train station. Facing the sea at the Monterosso beachfront, as we looked towards the left, we could see a concrete ramp heading upwards from the beach along the sides of the nearby cliff.

Monterosso to vernazza hike

To start the hike, we headed towards this well-paved ramp and as we climbed it and looked back, we were able to take in some breathtaking views of beautiful Monterosso al Mare. For those who love visiting the beach, it is clear to see why Monterosso would be an ideal base for exploring Cinque Terre.

Monterosso to vernazza hike

The Panoramic Window Near Monterosso

Climbing further up this ramp, we came across a panoramic window where couples had placed locks to symbolize their love for each other. Looking through this panoramic window, one gets to see the mountain of Punta Mesco – the promontory of the mountain that encloses the gulf of Monterosso. At its summit is an abandoned lighthouse named iL Semaforo.

It was really interesting to learn that the sandstone mines in this mountain that we saw from this window were once mined for stones that were used to pave the streets on Monterosso and nearby villages.

Monterosso to vernazza hike

Moving further and crossing Hotel Porto Roco, the paved concrete ramp ended and a series of steep stone steps started. This was the start of the toughest section of hiking from Monterosso to Vernazza.

The most challenging stretch of the hike – the climb over the numerous, tall steps

Climbing those hundreds of uneven, stony, tall steps was challenging. Even though I am quite accustomed to hiking, my heart was racing and I could see several other hikers stopping to catch their breath at this stretch.

It is best to pace yourself during this section of the hike. The steps are actually spread out over short sections but it was clear to see that just within a short span of distance we had gained quite an elevation by climbing these steps. This stretch of the blue trail from Monterosso to Vernazza definitely requires stamina and for one to be in a reasonably fit condition.

Monterosso to vernazza hike

The hike along the dirt trail further took us along local farms and also people’s backyards that had doors opening straight on to this trail. I couldn’t help but wonder how charming it must be for those locals to just step out of the backyard for a daily stroll onto this trail which happens to be one of the most popular hiking routes in Italy.

We came across locals playing music, sitting along the walls and admiring the views while they chatted with each other. As we passed by, they smiled at us and we exchanged friendly greetings of Buongiorno.

Monterosso to vernazza hike

Past citrus groves, vineyards and farms -the hike starts to get easier

Hiking further, the trail took us past citrus groves that were enclosed by stone walls. We could also see terraced farms with local produce growing supported by these walls. It was incredibly interesting to see and learn that these man-made walls supporting the terraces and farms in Cinque Terre were built without mortar by skilled dry-stone masons of the region. These walls naturally require constant maintenance by the masons and volunteers from the nearby villages and universities.

Moving further away from Monterosso, the landscape started to change a bit – we could see more olive trees, lots of vineyards and lemon trees along the way. We enjoyed walking along this beautiful trail as we ate the snacks we had purchased from Vernazza.

Keep in mind that it is certainly not permissible to pluck any grapes or fruits grown in the orchards along the trails, so be sure to refrain from doing so.

Panoramic views of the Italian coastline

Once the initial stretch of steps finished, the trail became more level most of the times with occasional steps every now and then. It was definitely much easier to hike from this point onwards compared to the challenging initial section.

Despite the hike being arduous, it was clear that the rewards were immense – stunning panoramic coastline views of brilliantly blue Ligurian sea, lush green vineyards and scent of the lemons and flowers growing nearby – I was completely enchanted by this hiking experience.

The hiking trail, in general, was narrow with few sections being so narrow that only one person could cross in a direction and had to carefully squeeze past the hikers waiting to move in the opposite direction.

We crossed by more steep terraced hills and family vineyards where the grapes are grown for the production of the famous local wine of Cinque Terre – Sciacchetrà. These vineyards still use traditional techniques for wine production. Walking along the trail, one could get a sense of how the locals really appreciated the heritage of their beautiful land.

Traversing the valley of Cravarla and Costa Linaro

The trail then traversed the valley of Cravarla and Costa Linaro where we saw lots of shrubs growing on the terraced hills.

A hike along the cliffs on one side of the trail for the majority of the way and the sheer dramatic drops along the other end of the trail was thrilling. The sheerest drop off points tend to have wooden railings next to them. We couldn’t help but stop at several points along the way to Vernazza to soak in the stunning views of the Mediterranean. We were able to spot Monterosso in the distance and kept looking out for the first glimpse of Vernazza.

Monterosso to vernazza hike

Trail markers and information along the way

The trail, in general, had markers along the way indicating the direction in which Vernazza was. The Blue Trail is also marked at some points with a white and blue stripe to guide hikers. Moreover, we came across information boards with location details, medic and emergency contact details along the way. It is a good idea to note such details listed in the board before moving past it in case you need to reach out in the event of an emergency.

Monterosso to vernazza hike

Breathtaking views of Vernazza

The biggest thrill of hiking from Monterosso to Vernazza was our first sight of Vernazza from high up the mountain. We could see this cozy harbor village with its characteristic pastel buildings and prominent castle tower in the distance and it was a lovely sight to behold.

The hike after this point was mostly downhill and easier. We did have to climb down some more steps along the way but those weren’t as tall and steep as the steps of the trail closer to Monterosso. We came across the famous vantage point of Vernazza and stopped by for taking in the beautiful view and plenty of photographs.

Monterosso to vernazza hike

Walking down along the vineyards and olive groves, the dirt trail changed to the stone steps again as we approached Vernazza. The trail brought us back to the narrow alleys of Vernazza and we walked back towards the piazza – straight to Gelateria Vernazza.

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Oh yes, after this intense hike we were craving some gelato and we were in for a treat – there were plenty of delicious flavors of gelato to choose from and we loved eating our gelatos at the cute harbor of Vernazza.

Monterosso to vernazza hike

Things to do in Vernazza

After having some gelato, we decided to explore Vernazza some more. We headed to the beach which is actually located just a short walk from the main drag of Vernazza but is surprisingly quieter compared to the hustle-bustle of the piazza.

Thereafter, we headed up the narrow alleys of Vernazza towards the castle – Castello Doria – located uphill towards the right side of the village. We took the stairs past the alley next to Trattoria Gianni and followed the signs for the Castello as we made our way up to this lookout.

Castello Doria, Vernazza

Castello Doria was once the watchtower warning the villagers of approaching pirates and later during World War, it served as a lookout point as well.

The views from the top of Castello Doria were such a delight – panoramic views of the Cinque Terre coastline, Vernazza and the Mediterranean.

There were several stairs we needed to climb to visit this tower, and the ticket counter was located almost at the top of the climb. Visiting Castello Doria is definitely well worth the effort given the spectacular views you get from the top.

Monterosso to vernazza hike

We enjoyed the views and sitting along the walls of this castle for quite a while as we watched people cliff diving, boating, swimming and enjoying seaside dinners at nearby restaurants. Relaxing and reflecting on the beautiful hike from this perch and taking in the stunning Mediterranean views that lay ahead of us was a true moment of la dolce far niente for us.

Catch the beautiful sunset views at the lookout point near Vernazza

We then hiked up to the vista point on the trail from Vernazza to Corniglia. This vista point is located at top of the trail near the edge of Vernazza and is one of the most photographed spots in the region. We watched the sunset from this point and the beauty of the moment cannot be described in words – well worth the short hike up to this vista to experience this romantic moment.

Monterosso to vernazza hike

Monterosso to vernazza hike

Indulge in a delicious meal in Vernazza

Following the visit to the watchtower, we headed back to Piazza Marconi for a delicious seaside dinner at Ristorante Gianni Franzi. The seafood served at the restaurants of Cinque Terre is delicious. We also enjoyed eating the Caprese salad made with fresh tomatoes and mozzarella. Our favorite dish was without a doubt the hand-rolled pasta topped with freshly made pesto.

When visiting Cinque Terre (and if you aren’t allergic to pine nuts), be sure to indulge in the regional specialty – pesto. This pesto made from freshly ground basil that is mixed with locally produced olive oil, sea salt, pine nuts, and cheese was the most delicious pesto I have ever tasted. And of course, don’t forget to sample the regional wine, Sciacchetrà, when dining in the restaurants of Cinque Terre. Bon appetito!

Monterosso to vernazza hike

Monterosso to vernazza hike

Tips for hiking in Cinque Terre

1. The trails in the region can be quite uneven so be sure wear sturdy, walking shoes with a sole that has a good grip.

2. Avoid hiking the trails if it has rained when portions of the trail could be wet as the stones and steps along the trail tend to be quite slippery when wet.

3. Be sure to pack plenty of water and some snack before heading off to the hike as these are not available on the trail. We purchased focaccia and fresh fruit from Vernazza before heading out for our hike.

Monterosso to vernazza hike

4. Check the official Cinque Terre website and the welcome centers regarding trail closures and conditions before hiking in the region. Trails or sections of the trails can be closed for maintenance and due to landslides so be sure to check before you go.

5. There are actually 48 trails in Cinque Terre national park and the official website lists the details and difficulty levels for each of the trails. Make sure you choose the trail according to your physical condition as certain trails or sections of trails are quite arduous, including hiking from Monterosso to Vernazza.

6. While hiking along the trails, you will likely come across medic and emergency boards – note down the emergency number and keep track of the location listed in case there is an emergency along the way.

Monterosso to vernazza hike

7. The trails are not covered – there may be portions in which the trail passes through a grove and is shaded but most of the trails run along the sunny coastline. Be sure to wear a hat and sunscreen to avoid sun exposure.

Monterosso to vernazza hike

8. If you plan on visiting Cinque Terre during the summer months, then hiking early in the morning is the best option in order to beat the crowds and avoid the heat.

Thoughts about hiking from Monterosso to Vernazza along the Blue Trail

Hiking from Monterosso to Vernazza is the toughest section along the Blue Trail as it requires climbing up several steep steps which are uneven and quite weathered in places. The hike initially requires climbing tall steps – the most challenging stretch – after which it is mostly a level hike as it goes uphill and downhill at a gentler gradient. Approaching Vernazza, the downhill hike is definitely the easiest section of the stretch.

It is said that while hiking from Monterosso to Vernazza is tougher than going in the opposite direction, it offers better views as one approaches Vernazza.

This was the reason we chose to hike in this direction and I also later realized it was a better choice for us given the tall steps we came across this hike. I felt that while it was surely arduous to climb the numerous steep steps along the way from Monterosso to Vernazza, it is probably riskier to climb down these same steps if coming from Vernazza towards Monterosso as the steps are quite uneven.

Hiking along the Blue Trail while discovering the villages of Cinque Terre along the way is one of the best experiences one can have during a visit to Cinque Terre. We loved exploring this beautiful stretch of the Italian Riviera at a relaxed pace and could see why this once off the beaten path destination, has become a must-see on so many itineraries.

Monterosso to vernazza hike

We loved hiking from Monterosso to Vernazza for its stunning mix of panoramic views, nature, friendly locals and a chance to get to learn more about the cultural heritage of the region.

I wish we could have spent a few more days in Cinque Terre but there’s always a next time! We were enchanted by the beauty of the Ligurian sea and would love to visit Cinque Terre again in the future and hike along its trails some more.

Until then…..Ciao Cinque Terre! Happy travels and I hope you have a wonderful time visiting Cinque Terre and hiking along its trails.

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