Situated along the stunning Ligurian coastline, Cinque Terre National Park is an ideal place to lace up your sneakers for a scenic hike. And a hike on the Sentiero Azzurro is the best place to start. This coastline trail connects the historic villages that climb the steep hills rising up from the sea. With stunning views of the sea, vineyards, and the towns, this hike is an activity you won't want to miss in Cinque Terre.
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Preparing to Hike the Sentiero Azzurro
The Sentiero Azzurro, also called Blue Path or Blue Trail, is the easiest and most famous hiking path in Cinque Terre National Park. It's divided into four sections, which connect the five villages in Cinque Terre - Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore.
The full trail length is ~12 km / 7.5 mi. However, sometimes sections of the trail are closed due to landslides or trail maintenance.
Planning Tip: When planning your hike, be sure to check current trail conditions so you won't be disappointed when you arrive. As of fall 2022, a couple of sections of the trail will be closed for 2-3 years.
Check out 2 Days in Beautiful Cinque Terre, Italy for tips and inspiration for your trip.
Hiking Fees in Cinque Terre
During prime hiking season, you'll either need to pay a fee at the start of the trail (cash) or purchase the Cinque Terre Hiking Card to hike on the Sentiero Azzurro. If you're visiting during the off-season (November 1st to March 31), the trails are free.
Cinque Terre Card
Two types of Cinque Terre cards are available for purchase. Both include unlimited access to walking paths, electric village buses, and entrance to some cultural attractions. One type also includes unlimited train travel.
When we visited in July 2022, the cost for a full 2-day Cinque Terre Card was 33€ per person (1-day pass - 18€). The 2-day card which does not include train travel was 14.50€ per person (1-day pass - 7.50€).
Each train station in Cinque Terre has a tourist information center where you can purchase the Cinque Terre card. The offices are not open 24/7 though. So, if you want to get an early start, then I suggest purchasing your pass online.
Who Should Hike the Sentiero Azzurro?
Despite the Sentiero Azzurro being the easiest trail in Cinque Terre, it's still a hiking trail. The trail is rocky and uneven. Plus, it runs along the hillside so hikers can expect to climb up and down throughout the hike.
Anyone in decent physical shape should find the Sentiero Azzurro fairly easy. However, I would not recommend it for anyone who has bad knees or trouble climbing.
When to Hike the Sentiero Azzurro?
Since I've only hiked in Cinque Terre once, I can't really speak to when the best time to hike the Sentiero Azzurro is, but I can offer some thoughts.
We hiked the Blue Trail on a hot, July afternoon when the sun was out in full force. Although the views were beautiful, it wasn't ideal hiking weather as the sun was intense. If you're hiking in Cinque Terre during the summer, I'd recommend getting an early start before it gets hot and the sun is at its peak.
Probably the most ideal hiking time for Cinque Terre would be the shoulder seasons - fall and spring - when it's cooler. I'd avoid rainy days though since the dirt trails would get quite muddy. Plus, you'd miss out on the spectacular views.
Items for Your Cinque Terre Hike
Hiking the Sentiero Azzurro from Corniglia to Vernazza
During our visit to Cinque Terre in July 2022, we decided to hike the section of the Sentiero Azzurro, or Blue Path, from Corniglia to Vernazza. This section is roughly 3.5 km (2.2 mi) in length. It gains ~135 m / 440 ft in elevation, but descends ~211 m / 692 ft.
Since Corniglia is already ~100 m above sea level, whereas Vernazza is at sea level, the second half of the hike is much steeper than the first. So, if you're not fond of hiking uphill, going from Corniglia to Vernazza is definitely better than the other way around.
Starting the on the Sentiero Azzurro in Corniglia
When we began our hike on the Sentiero Azzurro in Corniglia, we had been in the village for a couple of hours, walking around and eating lunch. As a result, we were well-rested from our ~100 m / 328 ft climb up the Lardarina staircase.
The Lardarina is the 377-step jig-jagging brick staircase which climbs from the Corniglia train station to the town. If you plan to start your hike immediately upon reaching Corniglia, then you'll first have to climb this stairway.
In Corniglia, start at the Chiesa di San Pietro, then head west out of the city to reach the trailhead. Along the way, stop to re-fill your water bottle at the fountain before the hike.
Trailhead in Corniglia
As you reach the outskirts of Corniglia and cross Via Stazione, you'll see the trailhead. The green hut along the road is a Cinque Terre checkpoint, where you'll pay the fee or show your Cinque Terre Card.
Gradual Ascent on Sentiero Azzurro
The Sentiero Azzurro begins with a gradual ascent on stony steps in the forest. It's a pleasant way to begin the hike.
Steeper Climb on Sentiero Azzurro
Eventually, the path turns into a dirt trail that is quite rocky and uneven. The climb also gets much steeper as you make your way up to Prevo - the highest point on this section of the Blue Path.
As most of this section was in the sun when we hiked it, we were quite hot and sweaty. Not sure how the sun would be if you hiked it earlier in the day. But, at least it would be cooler and the sun less intense.
The views looking back at Corniglia and of course, the sea views, continued to amaze us as we hiked upwards. The plant life was also quite different from what I'm used to in Hong Kong, including some cacti.
Fresh Juice in Prevo
Arriving at the highest point on the Sentiero Azzurro from Corniglia to Vernazza, (also the half-way mark) was a relief. Although not that tough of a climb, the sun drained our energy like nothing else.
We were pleasantly surprised to come across - Prevo - a small town that (I think) is part of Vernazza. There, we stopped in Bar Il Gabbiano for a cup of freshly squeezed juice. They had both orange (delicious!) and lemon juice (too sour for me).
Descending towards Vernazza
Once you pass Prevo, it's all downhill from there to reach Vernazza. As I mentioned previously, Vernazza is at sea level (as opposed to Corniglia), so the second half of the hike is steeper.
Several sections of the trail consisted of steep stairways that made me feel like I was on a Hong Kong hike. I was extremely glad to be hiking downhill at that point and felt sorry for everyone that passed us going the opposite direction.
Although some parts of the trail had shade, most of it was still in the intense sun. Since we forgot the sunscreen that day, I could practically feel my skin sizzling. Unfortunately, this is a common occurrence on hikes for me so it's why I always add a reminder about sunscreen!
Coastal Sentiero Azzurro to Vernazza
The final part of the Sentiero Azzurro from Corniglia to Vernazza was a coastal trail with the best views of the gorgeous Ligurian Sea. As beautiful as that deep blue water looks in photos, they really don't do it justice!
Finishing the Sentiero Azzurro in Vernazza
After you pass the trailhead for the Sentiero Azzurro in Vernazza, you'll still have a steep descent down many steps to reach the Vernazza train station or main part of town.
As you approach Vernazza, the view of the village and the peninsula with the Castello Doria at the end are incredibly picturesque.
As you work your way through town, you'll be able to admire the vineyards on the hillsides surrounding Vernazza. It's truly a stunning view.
Other Hikes in Cinque Terre
In addition to the Sentiero Azzurro, experienced hikers may prefer to try some of the more challenging trails in Cinque Terre. You can find all of the trails, plus a detailed map, on the Cinque Terre National Park's website.
If you don't feel confident hiking on your own, you could hire a guide for a private Cinque Terre trekking tour instead. On a trekking tour, you'll not only get exercise, but you'll also learn more about the history and local life of Cinque Terre's villages.
Final Thoughts on the Sentiero Azzurro
If you're an outdoor lover like me, hiking in Cinque Terre is an activity you won't want to miss. Even if you visit during the summer and it's too hot to hike the entire way, I highly recommend choosing one section to hike, just to get a taste of it.
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