Trails of Cinque Terre
Paths and hikes in the magical, enchanting environment of the Cinque Terre.
The magical, enchanting environment of the Cinque Terre offers a large numbers of paths and hiking trails through the Mediterranean maquis of the Gulf, with the chance to venture right into the heart of the landscape and admire the Cinque Terre in all its splendour, with its marvellous sea and the lush Mediterranean maquis that adorns the hills along with the terracing and the olive trees.
There are three main paths visitors to the Cinque Terre can explore:
1) The Red Path
2) The Blue Path
3) The Sanctuaries Trail
In addition to these, there is a network of numerous smaller paths that link the first two (the Red and Blue paths) and cross all the neighbourhoods and villages of the Cinque Terre, while others are ideal for walking trips or to reach the points of interest located along the coast.
THE RED PATH runs for about 35 kilometres from Portovenere to Levanto: the path along the ridge, recently restored and accessible from start to finish, starts out in the mediaeval village of Portovenere and runs alongside the walls before opening out onto a delightful view of the Gulf and the sea, with the rocky overhangs of the Muzerone and the Castellana.
The path then makes its way towards the Portoro marble quarries and the Muzerone Fort (dating back to the 19th century), before reaching the nearby neighbourhood of Derbi, close to the Napoleonic Fort of Monte Castellana. It then continues for a stretch along the rocky slopes of the Costa Rossa, becoming less steep towards the woods and the mediaeval village of Campiglia, before heading on to the San Antonio pass and the nearby Telegrafo Hill, where the path turns onto the tarmac road that comes up from the neighbourhood of Biassa.
There are a number of points of interest in the surrounding area: one is "La Croce", the Cross, a huge sandstone monolith sculpted by the hand of Man with an iron cross, standing at a place that can be reached along a path running from the San Antonio pass to Schiara; in addition to this, there are numerous splendid views to be enjoyed along the route that runs along the ridge of Monte Verrugoli, parallel to the coast.
The path then continues along the ridges of the mountains that encircle and close off the Cinque Terre, winding its way along at a consistent altitude and intersecting with the paths and mule tracks that link the villages of the Val di Vara with those on the coast, especially the path that joins the inland area of La Spezia with the first of the Cinque Terre villages (through the villages of Castê and Carpena), followed by the one that joins San Benedetto with Manarola, as well as a set of paths that run along the ridge at several points, linking the areas of Pignone and Corvara with the village of Vernazza.
After leaving the Vernazza valley behind, the ridge moves away from the coast and the path descends towards the mouth of Drignana before continuing on to Termine, where it goes back onto the provincial road that comes up from Pignone; at Monte Soviore it moves on towards the ridges of Monte Crocettola and Monte Bardellone, where the path continues to the left, heading down towards Montale and finally towards the Levanto plain.
The second of the Cinque Terre paths is the BLUE PATH, which runs along the coast. The path begins with the Via dell’Amore, or Way of Love, famous all over the world as one of the main attractions of the Cinque Terre, which links Manarola with Riomaggiore, offering splendid views, and then splits off into a number of smaller paths and steps that cross and connect the villages of the Cinque Terre.
The third path is the SANCTUARIES TRAIL, the route that allows visitors to explore the ancient pathways of the Cinque Terre and links the sanctuaries and the places of worship in the area. As well as offering unforgettable views of the marvellous nature oasis and the Mediterranean maquis, each one of the Cinque Terre villages has a sanctuary, usually situated above the rest of the village. The path can be tackled all the way along on foot, as well as by bicycle or on horseback.
The Sanctuaries Trail starts out near La Spezia, on the climb up to Biassa, and stretches out on the mountains behind the five villages of the Cinque Terre, allowing visitors to discover and learn more about the rich cultural and religious heritage of the local community, the roots of which stretch back a long way. The first stage along the route is the Sanctuary of Nostra Signora di Montenero at Riomaggiore, dating back to the 14th century: the sanctuary, dedicated to the Madonna, was built on top of an even earlier construction (dating to the 7th century) and the square in front of it offers views sweeping right from Portovenere to Monterosso.
The second stop on the route is the Sanctuary of Nostra Signora della Salute at Volastra, also built near Riomaggiore in Romanesque style, surrounded on all sides by the terracing and the coasts for a view of the characteristic Cinque Terre landscape.
Continuing on towards San Bernardino (named in honour of San Bernardino of Siena), you can reach the third of the sanctuaries, the Sanctuary of Nostra Signora delle Grazie.
There are a further two sanctuaries to visit: Nostra Signora di Reggio (above Vernazza) and Nostra Signora di Soviore (above Monterosso). The former is famous for the painting of the Black Madonna (known as “l'Africana” by the faithful) and for the festival dedicated to the Madonna on the first Sunday of August, which attracts large numbers of pilgrims. The latter is of significant historical importance, and dates back to the 8th-9th century. According to the accounts passed down through the centuries, refugees in flight from Albereto (destroyed by the Longobards in 629) were guided by a dove towards a point where a statue of the Madonna was found, and the chapel and the sanctuary we know today were later built on the spot; near this sanctuary too, festivals and events are held that attract numerous locals and visitors.