Italy: Cinque Terre

Guided Walking Tour, Italy: Cinque TerreGuided Walking Tour, Italy: Cinque Terre

Italy

Cinque Terre

overview

Magnifico! On the Italian Riviera, special moments abound. Mild climate, the charm of old fishing villages, and exceptional natural beauty have made this landscape a popular destination since the age of the Romantic poets. Hamlets of multicolored homes and fishing skiffs in dazzling sunlight delight the eye, while waterfront banquets of fresh fish and pesto reward your appetite. Amid frequent invitations into local homes, you’ll trek to Portofino, perhaps the most beautiful port on the Mediterranean, and follow cliffside paths above the Bay of Fruttuoso into the narrow canyons of Pietre Strette. At secluded San Fruttuoso, accessible only by foot or boat, a 10th-century Benedictine abbey conveys its blessing. Travel to Corniglia, Cinque Terre’s most untouched village; drink in the beauty of seaside Manarola, the region’s wine capital; behold the bright tower houses of Riomaggiore. Hop a boat to the island of Palmaria, a Natural Regional Park with fortress museum and Mediterranean grottoes. Then wander the alleyways of Portovenere, a Roman- Byzantine World Heritage site that confirms the region’s rich history.

 

Activity Level
Moderate with
challenging
sections;
3-5 miles daily
Meet
Santa Margherita Ligure, Italy
Depart
La Spezia, Italy
Daily Itinerary
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itinerary
Reading List
Recommended
pre-trip reading
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From our blog

Guided Walking 
7 days, 6 nights Trip Includes 

Trip Includes

  • Two expert, local guides (for groups of 8 or more), with you 24/7
  • All meals except for one lunch and one dinner; local wine included
  • All accommodations while on tour
  • Transportation from the meeting to the departure point
  • Entrance fees and special events as noted in the itinerary
  • Basic travel insurance coverage
  • The unbeatable and cumulative experience of the CW staff
per person double occupancy
Single supplement + $375
 

Solo surcharge + $0
 

Call 800.234.6900 to book this trip.

REQUEST RESERVATION
Number of Travelers
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per person double occupancy

Call 800.234.6900 to book this trip.

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Itinerary and Accommodations

Days
Destination
1
Santa Margherita Ligure
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2
Santa Margherita Ligure
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3
Monterosso al Mare
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4
Monterosso al Mare
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5
Portovenere
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6
Portovenere
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7
Portovenere
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Day 1

Santa Margherita Ligure

Meeting in Santa Margherita Ligure. Nozarego to Portofino; 2 miles, easy to moderate, elevation gain of 385 ft. and loss of 885 ft.

After meeting at your charming in-town hotel, a brief public bus ride takes you to the village of Nozarego, the starting point for an approximately two-hour afternoon walk to the seaside resort of Portofino. From the charming sanctuary of the Madonna della Neve (situated at 500 feet above sea level), a 10-minute ascent over the luxuriant green hillside, followed by a short level stretch, brings you to the hamlet of Gave and its restored chapel, the Oratorio di San Gerolamo. From here you enjoy a wonderful view over the Abbey of Cervara, an Italian national monument dating to the 14th century, before continuing on to Portofino in one of two directions—the route decided upon by your guide(s).

The first option rewards you with a less-challenging walk along a shaded, cobbled path past farmhouses, through terraced olive groves down to Paraggi, a tiny coastal town bordered by a beautiful sandy beach. An easy paved promenade, shaded beneath the canopy of a holm oak forest, winds along the sea delivering you to the cobblestoned streets of Portofino.

The alternative option departs the hamlet of Gave along an undulating path before reaching Acqua Morta and Acqua Viva, two small streams, the second so-called because it gave life to a series of 35 olive, chestnut, and wheat mills (one of which is now a visitors’ center), while the former did not have any mills along its course. Reaching Olmi, the highest point of today’s walk at 885 feet, you begin the long descent down a paved path into Portofino, passing by the chapel of San Sebastiano and enjoying splendid views along the way.

The picturesque village of Portofino, nestled into a cove between hills, was rediscovered by the jet set shortly after World War II and is considered to be among the most beautiful Mediterranean ports. Where once only fishing boats docked in the emerald-green inlet, now yachts arrive from around the world. You may choose to relax at an open-air café in the main piazza overlooking the colorful boats bobbing in the harbor, while indulging in a paciugo—a heavenly cup of strawberry and vanilla gelato (Italian ice cream) topped with fresh berries and cream. There is time to independently explore the small streets and browse the town’s boutiques and shops. For stunning views of the entire bay and the Tigullio Gulf, you can walk from the famous village square, simply called La Piazzetta, up to the Church of San Giorgio. Perched high above the town, this church contains relics of St. George, Portofino’s patron saint. From here continue to another lookout point at the Castello Brown, a castle dating to the 16th century, before moving on to the very tip of the promontory and the Punto del Capo (Portofino lighthouse).

You return to Santa Margherita via a 20-minute ferry (time- and weather-dependent) or bus ride before gathering for a welcome aperitivo and orientation meeting at your hotel. Dinner tonight is a welcome feast at an inviting family-run restaurant in town. Bountiful seafood antipasti may be followed by the classical Ligurian primo, pansoti con salsa di noci (cheese-filled pasta topped with walnut sauce).

Hotel Jolanda

Santa Margherita Ligure, Italy

A pleasant, small hotel decorated with charming antiques, nestled on a side street in bustling Santa Margherita Ligure. Offers a small fitness area and sauna.

Day 2

Santa Margherita Ligure

Ruta to San Fruttuoso; 3.5 miles, moderate to challenging, elevation gain of 750 ft. and loss of 1,500 ft. Additional option of San Fruttuoso to Portofino; 3 miles, moderate to challenging

After a satisfying breakfast of coffee, bread, cheese, yogurt, and fruit, you transfer by public bus to the tiny and picturesque village of Ruta, where you enter the Regional Park of Portofino for an approximately four-hour morning walk. An initial 45-minute, 500-foot undulating yet steady ascent along a shady trail punctuated with a series of rough steps brings you to a spectacular ridgeline trail commanding an enchanting view of the Bay of Tigullio to the east and the Bay of Paradise and city of Genova to the west. Continuing beneath a canopy of chestnut, pine, and oak trees, you traverse the Portofino promontory—ascending 160 feet over a 40-minute period—and arrive at Semaforo Nuovo (“New Signal Station”). At 1,300 feet, you are rewarded with radiant coastal views. Refueled with a snack and water break, you set off on a beautiful cliffside path overlooking the Cala dell’Oro Bay and the Bay of Fruttuoso. The dirt trail—bordered by fragrant Mediterranean macchia, myrtle, and berries—gently climbs and descends for just over an hour, at which point you reach Pietre Strette (“Narrow Stones”), an area of narrow canyons surrounding the 1,500-foot summit of the forested ridge. Over the next hour you descend several stony switchbacks and old mule paths (elevation loss of 1,500 feet) to sea level and the hamlet of San Fruttuoso. This secluded haven, which can only be reached on foot or by boat, is picturesquely situated in a small, rocky cove. Under ownership and protection of the National Trust of Italy, this hamlet has recently begun the process toward recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Following an optional swim in the inviting clear blue waters of the San Fruttuoso Bay, you sit down to a much-anticipated lunch—perhaps a fresh green salad along with the region’s signature dish, homemade pasta with pesto. Following lunch, you may accompany your guide(s) on a fascinating visit to the Abbazia di San Fruttuoso, a 10th-century medieval abbey. This afternoon, you may choose to continue on a scenic two-hour walk to Portofino; otherwise opt to indulge in a bit of la dolce vita by taking a boat back to Santa Margherita (with a possible stop in Portofino). This evening you reunite at a fine seaside restaurant for a delectable dinner of typical Ligurian specialties, complemented by the region’s crisp white wine.

Hotel Jolanda

Santa Margherita Ligure, Italy

A pleasant, small hotel decorated with charming antiques, nestled on a side street in bustling Santa Margherita Ligure. Offers a small fitness area and sauna.

Day 3

Monterosso al Mare

Levanto to Monterosso al Mare; 3.5 miles, moderate to challenging, elevation gain and loss of 1,300 ft.

This morning a one-hour train ride brings you to the splendid seaside resort of Levanto, with breathtaking sea views along the way. Upon arrival at this ancient town, known as the “Gateway to the Cinque Terre,” you set off along its curved and colorful main street to visit its medieval frescoed loggia and Chiesa di Sant’Andrea (Church of Saint Andrew), exemplary of 13th-century Ligurian Gothic style with its façade decorated in black-and-white bands, and a magnificent rose window crowning the main door.

You may opt out of the day’s scheduled walk and enjoy an independent afternoon by taking a train directly to Monterosso al Mare, the first of the Cinque Terre villages and the day’s final destination. Alternatively, depart on the afternoon walk from Levanto’s medieval walls on a long, gradual climb along an ancient trade route passing through olive groves and terraced vineyards. The trail eventually levels off for an easy stretch with spectacular views before beginning another rigorous ascent over rough steps through oak woods. A much easier stretch of trail ensues through a pine forest, culminating at the promontory of Punta Mesco. At 1,000 feet, your hard work is rewarded with an amazing bird’s-eye view of all five villages of the Cinque Terre. A final steep 45-minute descent down large stone steps delivers you to Monterosso al Mare and your family-run hotel set amidst a garden of towering palm trees, just around the corner from Fegina Bay and the best beach in the Cinque Terre. After settling in to your new home for two nights, you stroll to dinner at Ristorante La Lampara, a lively, local restaurant where you are welcomed by the legendary and charismatic chef-owner Luigi Corciulo (“Ciak”) with a dazzling array of seafood antipasti—freshly caught prawns, squid, sea snails, steamed mussels, and the highly prized anchovies from Monterosso served fried, stuffed, marinated, or salted!

Hotel Palme

Monterosso al Mare, Italy

A small and very simple hotel located in a quiet setting by the sea. There is a lovely garden shaded by palm trees, and the hotel is just a short walk from the public beach.

Day 4

Monterosso al Mare

Cinque Terre: Monterosso to Vernazza; 2.5 miles, moderate with challenging sections, elevation gain and loss of approximately 700 ft.  Please note: due to fragile nature of the Cinque Terre landscape, this trail may be closed in the event of inclement weather or to accommodate necessary repairs. In such circumstances, a comparable walk will be offered and the rest of the day's highights will remain unchanged.

The “Five Lands” of the Cinque Terre are Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore: five small, remote villages strung along the coast northwest of La Spezia. They are linked by boat, rail, and footpath, allowing you to customize your walking experience over the next two days. Today’s scheduled walk, and arguably the most spectacular, begins in Monterosso, and continues for approximately two hours along a well-established footpath while offering views of the Ligurian Sea. After an initial lengthy climb up a steep cliffside stairway of several hundred steps, the trail winds up and down through groves of lemon, orange, and olive trees and beautifully terraced vineyards supported by hundreds of miles of hand-built dry stone walls. Known as mura a secco, these walls are a testament to the centuries of labor involved in shaping this fascinating landscape. Traversing extremely narrow trails—perched on terraces with a wall on one side and a drop of 10 to 15 feet on the other—you pass farmers at work using monorail systems to transport grapes and supplies up and down the steep hillsides. You reach Vernazza in time for lunch—likely a simple, authentic pizza or plate of homemade pasta—in the town’s colorful waterfront piazza.

This afternoon you are free to explore Vernazza or additional Cinque Terre villages by train, boat, or on foot. Dinner this evening is at your leisure; your guide(s) will provide suggestions from among the many dining experiences available in Monterosso al Mare.

Hotel Palme

Monterosso al Mare, Italy

A small and very simple hotel located in a quiet setting by the sea. There is a lovely garden shaded by palm trees, and the hotel is just a short walk from the public beach.

Day 5

Portovenere

Vernazza to Corniglia; 2.5 miles, moderate with challenging sections, elevation gain and loss of 700 ft. Corniglia to Manarola to Riomaggiore (the latter section scheduled to reopen in 2014); 3.5 miles, easy to moderate. Transfer to Portovenere. Please note: due to fragile nature of the Cinque Terre landscape, this trail may be closed in the event of inclement weather or to accommodate necessary repairs. In such circumstances, a comparable walk will be offered and the rest of the day's highights will remain unchanged.

Today’s exploration includes more of the picturesque “Five Lands” and culminates in the charming medieval town of Portovenere, situated at the mouth of the spectacular Golfo dei Poeti (Gulf of Poets). The gulf is so named because many poets, including Dante, Petrarch, Byron, and Shelley, have sung its praises—even the boats in the harbor sport romantic names inspired by these poets.

Similar to yesterday’s walk from Monterosso to Vernazza (but with fewer steps!), the trail from Vernazza to Corniglia begins with a steep ascent up a set of stone steps before leveling off through terraced vineyards clinging to seaside cliffs. The narrow trail continues for approximately two hours before reaching Corniglia, the most untouched of the Cinque Terre villages. Unlike the other villages of the Cinque Terre, Corniglia is not directly adjacent to the sea. Instead, it is on the top of a promontory more than 300 feet above the sea, surrounded on three sides by vineyards and terraces, while the fourth side descends steeply into the sea. From Corniglia, you set off on your next leg: a 45-minute walk to the cozy, classic seaside town of Manarola and the center of Cinque Terre’s wine production. Comparatively easy, the route winds down a lovely little road through vegetable gardens and terraced vineyards. After a slight ascent, you are rewarded with a final cliffside stretch rich in panoramic views. Leaving the pink-colored houses of Manarola behind, your exploration of the Cinque Terre concludes with a 20-minute stroll along the Via dell’Amore (Road of Love), a scenic paved waterfront promenade leading to Riomaggiore, the southernmost of the five villages known for its historic character and colorful tower houses.

A ferry ride (weather dependent) brings you to your final destination: the Roman-Byzantine town of Portovenere, a UNESCO World Heritage site, where you view both the sea and the nearby Apuan Alps. The captivating town paints a colorful canvas against the azure sea with its tall and narrow pastel-colored houses lining the waterfront promenade. Perched high on a rocky cape overlooking the sea is San Pietro, a 13th-century Gothic church. Its black-and white-striped exterior has made it a landmark recognizable from far out at sea. After settling in to your seaside hotel, you embark on a short boat ride to the island of Palmaria—just off the coast of Portovenere—for a magical alfresco dinner, overlooking the waters below.

Hotel Paradiso

Portovenere, Italy

Situated on the Gulf of Portovenere, the Hotel Paradiso features comfortable guest rooms with views of the sea and nearby Apuan Alps, as well as a fine restaurant with an outdoor terrace

Day 6

Portovenere

Isola Palmaria; 2.5 miles, easy to moderate, elevation gain and loss of 1,200 ft.

Following breakfast on the terrace overlooking the sea, you begin the day’s adventure with a return boat trip across the bay to Palmaria. This beautiful island, declared a Natural Regional Park, boasts a network of walking paths with stunning viewpoints of its dramatic cliffs and nearby Tino Island. Disembarking in the small harbor of Terrizzo, home to the island’s few homes and a restaurant, an easy 20-minute walk leads you to the meticulously restored 19th-century fortress of Umberto I, which now houses a museum dedicated to the oceanography and undersea archaeology of the Mediterranean. From this spectacular viewpoint, the trail gently ascends into a sea of terraced olive groves before leveling off through a forest of holm oak and pinewood. The air is perfumed by sage, broom, and myrtle underfoot as you approach the southern tip of the island. Here lush Mediterranean vegetation is replaced by steep rocky cliffs, deep ravines, and abandoned quarries of the golden-veined black Portoro marble—now home to wild goats and an extensive colony of herring gulls. A challenging, yet short (20-minute) climb leads to the summit where you are rewarded with unsurpassed 360-degree views.

After a snack and water break, a 45-minute descent by way of an asphalt road or more challenging dirt trail returns you to the hamlet of Terrizzo, where your boat is waiting. Time and weather permitting, you boat around the island to explore several wonderful grottoes—the famous Grotta Azzurra (Blue Grotto), the Grotta Vulcanica, a volcanic grotto housing an ancient freshwater spring, and the Grotta dei Colombi, where Paleolithic evidence was discovered in the 19th century—before returning to Portovenere for lunch at a seaside trattoria.

Following lunch, you may accompany your guide(s) on an optional walking tour of Portovenere, whose highlights include the churches of San Pietro and San Lorenzo and the Genovese Doria Castle. This evening a stroll along the waterfront leads to an elegant restaurant for a sumptuous farewell feast of seafood from surrounding waters—a perfect venue for toasting your Ligurian adventure and new friends.

Hotel Paradiso

Portovenere, Italy

Situated on the Gulf of Portovenere, the Hotel Paradiso features comfortable guest rooms with views of the sea and nearby Apuan Alps, as well as a fine restaurant with an outdoor terrace

Day 7

Portovenere

Departure from La Spezia

After a bountiful breakfast, you are driven to La Spezia train station where you continue home or on to your next destination.

Itinerary Disclaimer

Bear in mind that this is a typical itinerary, and the actual activities, sites, and accommodations may vary due to season, special events, weather, or transportation schedules. We reserve the right to alter the itinerary since tour arrangements are made up to a year in advance, and unforeseen circumstances that mandate change may arise. Itinerary changes are made to improve the tour and your experience. If you are currently booked on a CW adventure, an itinerary has been sent to you for your exact departure date. Please call CW at 800.464.9255 if you have any questions about the exact itinerary or hotels selected for any of our tours.

Guides

Francesca Assandri

A native of Genoa, with Piedmontese ancestry, Francesca's enthusiasm for Italy is contagious. A certified guide of Liguria, Francesca generously shares her knowledge of the geological features of Liguria and Piedmont and her passion for the local cuisine and customs. With a degree in geology from the University of Genoa, her ‘other’ career has taken her as far away as Texas, working for an offshore oil company.

Alessandro Gullo

Alex is a native of Italy with Sicilian ancestry. Educated in the U.S. as well as Italy, he is a certified guide of historic monuments in Umbria. He combines his charming personality with a vast knowledge of culture, art, history, food, and wine on many of our vacations in Italy.

Christopher Wellington

Having lived in Italy for more than thirty years, Christopher combines a deep love of his adopted country with wide-ranging knowledge of its past and present. A history graduate of Cambridge, he taught English and religion before moving into guiding. He is fascinated by the art and architecture of Italy, and how it has grown out of the countryside and life of the people, the source, too, of his interest in the food and wine of each region. He guides in the Italian Lakes, Cinque Terre, and Piedmont.

Marzia Borghi

Passionate naturalist Marzia Borghi grew up on her grandparents’ farm in the historic town of Volterra, Italy—chasing pigeons around the yard and exploring the scenic Tuscan landscape. She studied linguistics at the University of Pisa and spent years teaching Italian at a prestigious university near London before returning home to Pisa, where she worked as a researcher for the European Union. In addition to being a certified walking guide for CW, Marzia works at the Tuscan Archipelago Islands National Park on the island of Elba.

Angelica Turi

Angelica has been working in the field of art restoration in her hometown of Florence for many years, specializing in paintings on canvas and icons. She is equally comfortable in the Tuscan countryside where her family has been producing wine and olive oil since the mid-19th century. An outdoor enthusiast, Angelica has a deep appreciation of the fine food and wine of Italy, which she gracefully shares on many of our Italian tours.

Elizabeth Namack

With her warm smile, Elizabeth brings her love of all things Italian to tours in Tuscany, Umbria, and the Cinque Terre. She first came to Italy, and more specifically to Florence, as an American college student to study Italian art history and language. Well, that was almost twenty years ago and she never left! Her active lifestyle and interest in regional wines and cuisines—coupled with her academic background in art history and painting restoration—all help make getting up those hills a little easier—there is a lot to talk about!

Guest Comments

D. Fineberg, New Mexico, May 2013

Worth every penny to be worry free and to find the best food to eat in out-of-the-way places. Instead of being "rained out", we spent the day "rained in" at a great museum in Genoa.

J. Brown, New York, April 2013

For me a trip that includes walking is by far the best. As a diabetic, it gives me more freedom to enjoy the cuisine. I could balance eating with exercise. We both loved this part of Italy with olive groves and vineyards, local fresh food and wine and of course, the architecture and history. Our guide, Angelica Turi, was not only knowledgeable but fun. I hope someday we can go back. It was a well-organized trip with each day being unique.

V. Sharratt, Florida, September 2011

Every day was well rewarded with exceptional seafood, pasta meals, and wine, along with companionship found among new friends.

R. Souto, Colorado, May 2012

Our last evening's sunset boat ride with wine and prosecco was truly an unexpected pleasant surprise.

L. Schlageter, Ohio, May 2012

More than wonderful... exciting, educational, challenging, and inspiring!

D. Buchanan, Texas, May 2012

I loved the CW experience. The guides were great and walks in the Cinque Terre were incredible. The villages and the views from the top of the hills (mountains) could not be as beautiful from any other perspective.

A. Gertz, Connecticut, October 2011

It was an absolutely fantastic trip! The hiking was challenging, but so rewarding with wonderful views and scenery along the way and terrific meals with new friends in the evening.

S. Hennessey, Maine, October 2011

A perfect blend of planned events and free time. Options available and happy, helpful, knowledgeable guides.

M. Lavender, Illinois, May 2011

The Cinque Terre adventure exceeded our expectations in every way―the quality of the guides, the itinerary, choice of lodgings, local foods, mix of cultural, religious, folkloric, and historical knowledge was fascinating along with exposure to flora and fauna and geologic features of the region.

J. Powers, Illinois, September 2011

This area with its picture-book villages, terraced vineyards and intimate relationship with the sea is just a magical spot on our planet.

C. Low, Vermont, September 2011

Our Cinque Terre trip was just fantastic―great hiking (not walking)―in charming, colorful, old Italy. Our wonderful Italian guides pulled all the many logistics together like clockwork―plus kept us informed in the areas of history, culture, food, language, etc.

R. Rudzonis, New Jersey, September 2012

This was our 3rd trip to Italy. The first 2 trips were self-guided and focused on the big tourist points of interest. This trip was so much richer culturally because our brilliant guide brought to life the history of these smaller towns and villages. And the hiking was challenging too! Perfect combination of learning, sightseeing, physical activity, eating and drinking with the locals.

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