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.
This article has essential advice for anyone planning to hike from Monterosso to Vernazza. I’d strongly recommend reading it and making notes if you’re planning on hiking in the Cinque Terre.
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.
Hiking between Monterosso and Vernazza
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 .
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.
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.
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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?
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.
READ MORE: Your Quick Guide to the Cinque Terre
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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.
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
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.
If you can handle the extra weight, I’d be popping one in the backpack as well.
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.
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.
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.
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.