The Cinque Terre is one of the most beautiful places I have been to and I’m loving everything about this UNESCO heritage site from the walking, to the wonderful locals who share their intimate villages with us, Lorenza (our B&B host) and the locally caught fish we eat in the evening.
Helpful tips on walking the Cinque Terre
We are staying in Riomaggiore, the closest of the five towns to La Spezia. From what I have seen of the other five villages, Riomaggiore is the most authentic and least touristy. I would highly recommend the accommodation at Casalorenza. It’s close to everything, is very comfortable and Lorenza is a wonderful host, full of great local knowledge about the walks and villages.
The Cinque Terre terrain is very hilly with steps, steps and more steps. The majority of walks are more difficult than I had anticipated, even the coastal walk, but they are still manageable for people with reasonable fitness.
Most of the walks ascend to about 500 metres and in places the ground can be very uneven. While you don’t need walking boots, you do need good trainers with a reasonable sole and I would recommend walking poles as they take a lot of pressure off your knees when coming down hill.
As a general comment, we have found it difficult to get accurate information about the walks, where to start, the duration and the level of difficultly. My recommendation is you need to plan your walk the night before. The tourist offices (if there is one) don’t open until 10 am and you’ll want to be well on your way before then as even in late summer it’s incredibly hot by mid-morning. Depending on where you are planning to walk, it can take you a good 30 minutes plus to get to your starting destination whether it be by bus, train or ferry, unless of course you are starting your walk in the town you are staying in.
Our walk along the peninsula from Riomaggiore to Portovenere.
Portovenere is not part of the Parco Nazionale Delle Cinque Terre. It only includes the five villages; Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso. Many people have said if Riomaggiore is the first village (#1) in the Cinque Terre, Portovenere should be (#0). So we decided to have a look for ourselves.
To get going we caught a bus from Riomaggiore to a town called Colle del Telegrafo to start our hike. It’s a dramatic walk along the spine of the peninsula which divides the Cinque Terre from the Gulf of La Spezia.
We walked though bush to the town of Campigila and stopped for much needed refreshments.
Eventually arriving in Portovenere we found a delightful ancient harbour town on the tip of the peninsula. Like most Italian towns it has an interesting history. During Roman times, Portus Veneris was the major port on route to Spain. It was rebuilt as a fortified town in the 12th century and reconstructed again in the 15th century.
The church of Saint Peter is hard to miss and sits at the end of the peninsula with a black and white façade. It was built-in Gothic style in the 13th century and was supposedly built on the site of a temple dedicated to Venus.
Having taken in the view, hot and exhausted and in need of a beer we flopped into the nearest restaurant. Like all food in Italy, it appears there isn’t a bad meal.
The best way to get back from Portovenere to any of the Cinque Terre towns is on the ferries that travel frequently. This way you can get a great view of where you have been and can pat yourself on the back for your hard efforts. It wasn’t an easy walk but very satisfying to know we have did it.
How to get there
Cinque Terre is accessible by train or car although due to the nature of the tiny street in the villages all parking is expensive and cars are parked outside for the village confines.