Instead of travelling by train, the more experienced “walkers” may follow the footpath, which is very demanding and requires good hiking skills: look up Sentiero Azzurro (Blue Path).
The Cinque Terre own a large part of their tourist success thanks to the paths that wind along the coast or reach sanctuaries which overlook each village. The path that connects Riomaggiore to Monterosso is the most famous and spectacular one and is called the “blue path” (“sentiero azzurro”). In order to travel the whole path, one needs to walk for about five hours and to go through a difference in height of 500 meters. The path was traced over the centuries by those who used it to travel from place to place, therefore in some points, it is a real bridle path which unwinds itself by the seaside and connecting the five villages amongst themselves.
Riomaggiore – Manarola (20 minutes)
Starting from the Riomaggiore train station, going up on the left, one can find the access stairs, with ramps for the handicapped, that lead to the Path of Love (Via dell’Amore), the typical path connecting the village to Manarola. The path was dug in the hard rocks and runs close to the sea on which it leans out. Along the way, you can see various types of vegetation such as agaves, pitosfori, Indian fig, vanilla plant, rue and many others.
Manarola – Corniglia (40 minutes)
Once in Manarola, more precisely in the Marina, the path offers two possible way to continue, depending on the time available. If you aren’t in a hurry, you can do the “Birolli” walk which leads to Palaedo. It is a 250 meters section which turns around the Punta Bonfiglio and which has recently been equipped with a playground and a petanque field. Otherwise, you can clamber up the slope which leads to the cemetery of Manarola where the path continues evenly now, skirting the sea. The last section of the path is characterised by a long gravelled and pebbled beach which takes the place of the rocky cliffs.
Corniglia – Vernazza (1 hour 40 minutes)
The path continues, skirting the numerous vineyards of Corniglia. The atmosphere is shady and the land is covered by a meadow where there are many plants such as anemones, orchids and lords-and-ladies. One then goes down small stairs on the left and walks through olive trees, vineyards and Mediterranean maquis until overlooking the residential area of Vernazza.
Vernazza – Monterosso (2 hours)
It is the toughest section of the path. You need to exit the village and start going up towards the cemetery, which skirts the path. The bridle path is in steep gradient: one quickly reaches the altitude of 150 meters; from this moment on, one will continue, slightly going up and down, till the precipitous descent towards Monterosso. Going forward, one goes through the Mediterranean maquis which covers the now abandoned pieces of land. The vegetation is quite diverse, you can find holm oaks, arbutus, white heather Spanish broom, and juniper.