I wasn’t sure what I was getting into when I ventured over to Cinque Terre, it was just highly recommended because of its coastal trails. I spent my first day on the Cinque Terre trails linking Levanto to Monterosso, then the ‘blue trail’ between Monterosso, Vernezza, Corniglia + Manarola. Little did I know I would get so excited about the trails that I was up with the sun on my second day in the area. Technically I was moving onto my next city/hostel, but I wasn’t going to let that hold me back from a day of trail-venturing. I stashed my bag at the Grand Hostel Manin + headed for the train.

After a cappuccino at the train station [they’re kind of awesome at tasty cups of caffeine!] I was back on the train headed north into Cinque Terre. This time, rather than heading to the northern most town, I was stopping at the first town, Riomaggiore. The only section of the ‘blue trail’ I didn’t cover the day before was between Riomaggiore + Manarola — however, that trail was also detoured + onto road, so I had no problem skipping it.

Rather than get back onto the ever popular ‘blue trail’ I was headed away from it. Once I arrived in Riomaggiore I was going to run/hike the trails that linked this iconic Cinque Terre trail to the end of the Cinque Terre peninsula, at Porto Venere. This was another route highly recommended by Tim, my newfound hostel trail adviser. Once again, his advice was spot on!

Riomaggiore to Port Venere [train to bus] = ~13km / 8mi

From the Riomaggiore train station I immediately go onto a boardwalk trail that took me around the rock + over the ocean before leading me into the back of Riomaggiore. Once in the town it was a mysterious zig zag of narrow alley ways that eventually dropped me off at the jetty in the middle of town. From here the trail immediately headed up stairs. Oh yes, another day of stairs! At first the stairs wove through town where I did a fair bit of second guessing [always on the look out for white/red stripes + always finding them, eventually!].

The stairs took me up, up, up + above the town of Riomaggiore. When you’re hiking crazy steep cliffs like this always remember to look behind you…

Eventually the trail opened up to a church building of sorts that appeared to have a cafe inside of it…but not at 9am. From this church you have two options — a different route back down into Riomaggiore or a forest trail up + over, toward Campiglia + Telegrapho. I was headed for Porto Venere, which was at the end of the trail that lead to Campiglia + Telegrapho.

Riomaggiore to Campiglia

That’s the one catch with this stretch of trail — you can’t just follow signs to Porto Venere, because the signage doesn’t exist. Instead you’ll initially be hiking toward Campiglia, Telegrapho + eventually Porto Venere. This will keep you on the trails marked “SVA” + “AV5T”. I’d highly recommend stopping by Cinque Terre Trekking [local running store — definitely worth a visit] to make sure you’re following the right trail. The trails are all well-marked, but sometimes they separate + re-connect, so a map is really helpful!

The trail toward Porto Venere leads you through vineyards, around refuges + into dense forests. Along the way you’ll come upon a few restaurants or refuges [solo buildings along the trail that offer coffee + food] + at least one village [Campiglia]. I didn’t stop by any of the restaurants so I have no personal input, but I can get on board with this European hiking where there is always a cafe full of treats waiting for you along the trail!

Campiglia to Porto Venere

Once you leave Campiglia, headed toward Porto Venere [you’ll see signs for Porto Venere at this point] the trail gets spicy. Up until this point most of the trail was wide + runnable. Outside of Campiglia it become steep + technical with very exposed areas. But it was so worth it. The views were amazing — the coastal views were jagged + raw, eliciting emotions that photos will never properly capture.

Just like the Manarola to Corniglia stretch was my favorite along the ‘blue trail’ in Cinque Terre, this trail from Campiglia to Porto Venere stole my heart. It was absolutely amazing + I was never sure if my heart was pounding from the fear of falling off a cliff, the stunning views or the effort of the climbs. It was my kind of trail! I was falling head over heels in love with a chunk if Italy I hadn’t even considered visiting until the week prior.

The trail down into Porto Venere was crazy steep on uneven ‘stairs’. Watching people hike up this trail made me very glad I had come up the even stairs out of Riomaggiore! Once in Porto Venere I discovered another small village that resembled the colorful stacked cities of Cinque Terre. It was a beautiful port with a historic tower at the edge of the village + an island with a castle of sorts.

I grabbed a bus in Porto Venere that took me back to La Spezia along some very windy roads. The ride lasted about 20 minutes + may have left me a bit motion sick. Back in La Spezia I made my way back to the hostel to pick up my bags. On my way back to the train station for my ride to Genoa I stopped by La Pia Centenaria to grab a focaccia stuffed with ham + cheese with a side of delicious farinata [essentially chickpea flour pancakes]. It was time to move on to my next adventure…regrettably another city full of people rather than dirt ribbon through the wilderness.

All in all, it was a beautiful hike + I’d highly recommend it. Especially if you’re looking to get away from the crowded main trails of Cinque Terre. If you’re comfortable scrambling around on technical terrain get out on that trail between Porto Venere + Campiglia. But if technical trails along cliffs isn’t your jam grab a bus to Campiglia + hike toward Riomaggiore from there for a slightly less exposed adventure.

Bits + Pieces of My Life…As Seen in the Story Above



6 Comments

Jordan Kidd · August 28, 2018 at 6:09 pm

How long did this hike take you?

    Heidi Kumm · August 29, 2018 at 1:18 pm

    This route took me about 3.5 hours — hiking the ups, running the downs.

Nicole · September 7, 2018 at 2:58 am

Hi Heidi,

I just did Monterosso to Corniglia and was thinking of going back while in Tuscany to do the Riomaggiore to Portovenere section. How ‘technical’ is the rocky part of the trail that requires scrambling? And are we talking like if you barely miss your footing you could fall off the side of the cliff? I am wondering whether it will be fine to hike it by myself.

Thanks!
Nicole

    Heidi Kumm · September 7, 2018 at 5:25 am

    Hi! First, I’d definitely recommend it…it’s a gorgeous stretch. There are some short stretches where a stumble may lead to a longer fall, but these stretches also have enough rock/terrain to allow you to use your hands to steady yourself. Technically speaking there are a few stretches of maybe 50-100 feet that would qualify as “class 2” scrambling where you need three points of contact.

    I saw a few people headed up to these stretches with trekking poles. Personally, I wouldn’t want to go through them with poles because I needed my hands to feel more confident. The trail is also reasonably wide so you can huge in inside when in doubt.

    If you’re comfortable scrambling you’ll be fine. If you have some experience with exposure + do okay with it you’ll also be fine. It’s worth slowing down to work through these sections.

    Hope this helps, wish I had some photos to show you these sections!

David Thomson · September 15, 2018 at 1:52 am

My wife and I just hiked Riomaggiore to Portovenere yesterday and it was much less demanding, technical and exposed than I had expected based on this description- in fact the only stairs/steps that day that came close to crazy steep were down from our apartment in Riomaggiore (seriously!) There are no cliffs you’ll be falling off.
My wife was nursing 2 knee injuries so poles were great for her. I agree it would be trickier if wet but slow and careful will get you down or up anything here.
This hike was.much less crowded than the rest of the coast and a real gem!

    Heidi Kumm · September 16, 2018 at 3:19 pm

    It is a beautiful trail + those stairs are crazy steep.

    I also think there are two possible routes — one is a wider trail through the forest while the other goes along the edge of the cliffs. I could be wrong, but the trail I opted for definitely had stretches where it was no more than 10-14 inches wide over jagged rocks with big step ups/downs. Feasible for most, for sure, but still worthy of three points of contact while moving along, wet or dry. Both are good to be aware of so you can get a bit of whatever you’re hoping for out there!

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