Alta Via dei Cinque Terre

This is a hike report of the Alta Via dei Cinque Terre, an 85km long distance footpath from Monte Zatta in the Ligurian Alps to Portovenere on the Mediterranean coast, taking in the five Cinque Terre towns along the way. The report provides a general route description, details of hiking maps, places to stay, and a day by day route description (with GPX files)

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Alta Via dei Cinque Terre

WALKING THE E1 IN ITALY

PART 2A: ALTA VIA DEI CINQUE TERRE

This section describes a detour from the E1 route, following the entire length of the Alta Via dei Cinque Terre (AV5T) long distance footpath, from Monte Zatta (near Passo del Bocco, which is 16 km north of Sestri Levante on the east Ligurian coast), to Portovenere, at the end of the peninsula south of La Spezia, taking in the five Cinque Terre towns along the way.  The total length of the AV5T is around 85 km, which we covered in five walking days in May 2017.

GENERAL ROUTE DESCRIPTION

From Monte Zatta (altitude 1400m), the first three days of the Alta Via dei Cinque Terre (AV5T) pass through alpine woodland and grassland, gradually dropping down to the coastline at Monterosso. The route is mainly easy walking, but there are a few stretches of easy clambering.

From Monterosso, the route runs above the coastline at heights of up to 300m, through woodland and vineyards, from which you can drop down to each of the five picturesque ancient ports of the Cinque Terre. This stretch of the route is very popular, with excellent views of the rocky shoreline and sea.  On the final day, the route follows the ridge above the coastline for the last 15 km of the route down to picturesque town of Portovenere, at the end of the peninsula. 

GENERAL ROUTE PLANNING

For general route planning, we used Michelin map 352 “Liguria” 1:200,000, which covers the whole of the Alta Via dei Cinque Terre (AV5T).

There is no national series of walking scale maps for Italy. The coastal part of the AV5T is a popular walking area, and is covered by several different walking maps. The inland part of the AV5T is less popular, and availability of maps is limited.  See details in specific sections below.

Some walking maps are available from leading map shops internationally, but some only seem to be sold in Italy. The Italian bookshop chain Feltrinelli has a good selection of walking maps in their main bookshops in the cities (including Milano, Pavia, Genova, and Pisa), covering the local region (however, we found their website hard to navigate to find or buy maps!)

We complemented our maps using the Viewranger app on our smartphone, with GPX files of the route downloaded onto it.  GPX files of the AV5T can be downloaded from:

http://trekkando.forumfree.it/?t=69285349

Please note that this GPX file follows the high level variant of the AV5T route for the coastal stretch, and does not drop down to the Cinque Terre towns.

Viewranger has openstreetmaps covering Italy available on it free. We found this mapping pretty reliable for roads and tracks, but it does not include contours and only a few footpaths. We used this to confirm our location and routes when needed, and to track our journey.

We have uploaded GPX files of our own day by day route onto Viewranger (see links on day pages below), which include taking in the five Cinque Terre towns, and some other minor variants, mainly to reach accommodation nearby.

The Alta Via die Cinque Terre (AV5T) is mostly well marked by signposts on the ground, and on the maps (see exceptions in day by day descriptions).

On the AV5T, accommodation options are limited for the first two nights, and we stayed in local B&Bs as close to the route as we could find. The coastal stretch is a popular tourist area with many places to stay along the way.

DAY BY DAY DESCRIPTIONS

Below are day by day descriptions of the various sections of the Alta Via dei Cinque Terre, which we completed over 5 walking days, walking 15-25 km per day). The times given are for average stamina experienced walkers, and include short stops, but not long stops of over 15 minutes.

Day 1: Passo del Bocco to Cassagna

Passo del Bocco (Altitude 950m): Rifugio del Bocco is located at Passo del Bocco, and offers a full hotel service with restaurant and bar.  There is a bus service 2-3 times a day from Passo del Bocco to the coast. There are no shops at Passo del Bocco.

Distance: 15 km (including 6 km detour to accommodation in Cassagna)

Total Climb: 600m                  Hours: 7 hours

Map: ‘Alta Val di Vara: Alta Via dei Monti Liguri’, Map SP4 published by Libreria Universita Genova (www.edizionidelmagisterio.it); 1: 25,000. Available from good bookshops in Genova.

Routemarking: The route is well waymarked along the way with red and white waymarking. Be alert that red and white markers may also indicate other footpaths that are not part of the AV5T.

Viewranger GPX File Link: http://my.viewranger.com/track/details/NjI4NzkwNw%3D%3D

Route Description:

  • From Passo del Bocco (alt 950m), the route follows the Alta Via dei Monti Liguri (AVML) to the south, climbing up through woodland to reach the top of Monte Zatta  di Ponente (alt 1350m). The route then follows the ridge east to Monte Zatta di Levante (alt 1400m), with spectacular views south (4 km, 2 hours)
  • 200m beyond the top of Monte Zatta di Levanti, the Alta Via dei Cinque Terre (AV5T) starts, heading south east, while the AVML continues to the north east.  The AV5T route follows a subsidiary ridge through open grassland down to Monte Copello (alt 1060m), and then over Monte Chiappozzo (alt 1130m), before dropping down to Passo della Biscia (alt 890m) (5 km, 3 hours)

 

Stay: 6 km south-west from Passo della Biscia is the medieval village of Cassagna, where is found B&B Baldo & Chicca (basic, but very welcoming). From Passo della Biscia, turn right onto the main road for 300m, before turning left onto a minor road that zig-zags down the hillside to the town of Statale (shop, restaurant, but no accommodation at time of our visit). From Statale, follow the track south-west round the hillside to the small village of Cassagna (alt 450m)(6 km from Passo della Biscia, 2 hours)

Navigation Warning: The map shows a waymarked route from the AV5T 2 km beyond Passo della Biscia, which appears to be a shorter route down to Statale. At the time of our visit, this path was no longer accessible. The attached GPX file shows a big detour while we searched for this route! Follow the minor road from Passo della Biscia to Statale, as outlined above.

Day 2: Cassagna to Velva

Distance: 25 km (including 6 km from accommodation in Cassagna back to AV5T, and 1.5 km from AV5T into the village of Velva)

Total Climb: 700m                  Hours: 8 hours

Maps:

  • ‘Alta Val di Vara: Alta Via dei Monti Liguri’ (see Day 1 for details). Covers the route as far as Monte Zenone
  • ‘Cinque Terre e Golfo del Tigullo’ Map 23, published by Istituto Geografico Centrale, Torino (www.istitutogeograficocentrale.it); 1:50,000. Covers the route from just south of Monte Zanone to Velva

Both maps are available from good bookshops in Genova.

Routemarking: The route is mostly well waymarked along the way with red and white waymarking. Be alert that red and white markers may also indicate other footpaths that are not part of the AV5T.

Viewranger GPX File Link:


Route Description:

  • Follow the route from Cassagna (alt 450m) back up to Passo della Biscia (alt 890m) to rejoin the AV5T (6 km, 2.5 hours)
  • From Passo della Biscia, the route follows a track south east  through woodland and open grassland towards Monte Porcile, rising up to 1000m altitude.  The route then turns south to pass on the west side of Monte Porcile, and on the eastern flank of Monte Capra, before dropping down to Passo del Bocco di Bargone (alt 900m)(8 km, 2.5 hours)
  • From Passo del Bocco di Bargone, the track continues south east through woodland, passing by the western flank of Monte Zenone (variant of the route climbs to the top of Monte Zenone at 1055m), then follows the ridge to the southeast, sloping down to Colle di Velva (alt 550m)(9 km, 3 hours)

 

Stay: In the village of Velva (alt 400m), 1.5 km south-west down the road from Colle di Velva is found the B&B Cosi Verde.  There is a restaurant at Colle di Velva, but no other services in Velva village.

Day 3: Velva to Monterosso

Distance: 25 km (including 1.5 km from accommodation in Velva back to AV5T, and 2 km from AV5T down into Monterosso)

Total Climb: 550m                  Hours: 9.5 hours

Map: ‘Cinque Terre e Golfo del Tigullo’ (see Day 2 above for details)

Routemarking: The route is mostly well waymarked along the way with red and white waymarking, but is unreliable in certain sections (see navigation warnings below). Be alert that red and white markers may also indicate other footpaths that are not part of the AV5T.

Viewranger GPX File Link:

  • Velva to Foce di Dosso:

http://my.viewranger.com/track/details/NDk3MzM0OQ%3D%3D

 

Route Description:

  • From Velva (alt 400m), follow the road back up to Colle di Velva (alt 550m) to rejoin the AV5T(1.5 km, 0.5 hours)
  • From Colle di Velva, the route heads south east along a woodland path, rising up to Monte Groppi (alt 870m), and then south to the telecoms masts of Monte San Nicolao (alt 850m). It then follows a minor road down to meet the main road at Baracca (alt 590m, no services)(6 km, 2.5 hours)

Navigation Warning: Be careful to follow the minor road down from Monte San Nicolao to the main road at Baracca, and not to follow the waymarked footpath off to the left, part way down the road – this is not the AV5T! Note that the GPX file above shows a detour we took as a result of this navigation error)

  • From Baracca, the route follows minor roads south to Monte del Vaggi (alt 640m) for 3 km, before heading off on a woodland path that passes round the western flank of Monte Guaitarola. The path then contours round the hillside to the east, above the village of Lavaggiorosso, before dropping down onto a track down to the road at Foce di Dosso (430m)(6 km, 2.5 hours)

Navigation Warning: The AV5T route shown on the GPX file and on the map between Monte Guaitarola and Foce di Dosso is along a footpath that is no longer maintained, and is only just passable (very slow, poorly marked, steep in places). Follow the AV5T waymarked route on the ground that passes lower down the hillside. Note that the GPX file above shows the wrong route to follow on this stretch!

  • From Foce di Dosso, the route follows the minor road to the south east, rising up to 600m altitude, before dropping down to join the main road just before Foce del Termine (9 km, 3 hours)

 

Stay: Monterosso is 2 km down a steep but well maintained path from the Monastery of San Madonna di Seviore into the town. When the minor road joins the main road just before Foce del Termine, turn sharp right onto the main road for 200m to reach to Monastery. Walk through the Monastery complex to reach the path down to Monterosso. (2 km, 1 hour). Monterosso is the westernmost of the five Cinque Terre towns, and has lots of hotels, restaurants, and shops.

Day 4: Monterosso to RioMaggiore

Distance: 18 km                  Total Climb: 800m                  Hours: 8 hours

Maps:

  • ‘Cinque Terre e Golfo del Tigullo’ (see Day 2 above for details)
  • Sciacche Trail Map: 1:25000. Available from the tourist office in Monterosso, showing all of the main local footpaths. Many of these footpaths pass along steep hillsides - check with the tourist office for any paths that may be closed for repair.

 

Route: The main AV5T passes along the ridge above the Cinque Terre towns, at around 600-700m altitude. It offers attractive general views, but the much more interesting route follows closer to the coastline, dropping down to each of the five charming Cinque Terre towns along the way.  On the local maps, this is shown as the SVA route, or Blue Route. It is quite strenuous in parts, passing through woodland and hillside vineyards, but is well marked, and well worth the effort. There is also a popular train services linking each of the towns, if you do not wish to walk all of the route.

Viewranger GPX File Link: http://my.viewranger.com/track/details/NDk4NTU0NQ%3D%3D

Route Description:

  • From Monterosso, the path climbs steeply out of the town before heading round the headland, and dropping back down to Vernazza (3 km, 1.5 hours)
  • From Vernazza, the path climbs up and then along the hillside before dropping back down to Corniglia (3 km, 1.5 hours)
  • From Corniglia, the coastal path to Manarola was not open at the time of our journey (May 2017). The alternative path (paths 587/586/506) climbs steeply up to around 300m altitude, and along to the village of Volastra, before dropping back down to Manarola (5 km, 3 hours)
  • From Manarola, follow waymarked path 531, which climbs steeply out of the village and over the headland, before dropping down into Riomaggiore (2 km, 1.5 hours) (Note: The Blue Route from Manarola to Riomaggiore follows a much longer but less steep inland loop, adding another 3 km to the journey)

 

Riomaggiore: The easternmost of the five Cinque Terre towns, has a range of hotels,  B&Bs, restaurants, and shops

Day 5: Riomaggiore to Portovenere

Distance: 14 km                   Total Climb: 600m                  Hours: 6 hours

Map: ‘Cinque Terre e Golfo del Tigullo’ (see Day 2 above for details)

Routemarking: The route is mostly well waymarked along the way with red and white waymarking. Be alert that red and white markers may also indicate other footpaths that are not part of the AV5T.

Viewranger GPX File Link: http://my.viewranger.com/track/details/NDk5NTI4NQ%3D%3D

Route Description:

  • From Riomaggiore, follow the waymarked path SVA heading east up to the ridge at Colle del Telegrafo (alt 520m, restaurant/cafe), where the route rejoins the high level AV5T path. (6 km, 2.5 hours)
  • From Colle del Telegrafo, the route heads south-east alongside a minor road for 2 km, before dropping down to the village of Campiglia (no services), and then onwards following woodland paths along the hillside to the south of Monte Castellano,  to Monte Mazzerone, before dropping steeply down to the town of Portovenere, at the end of the peninsula (8 km, 3.5 hours)

 

Portovenere is a popular and attractive tourist town, with a wide range of hotels, B&Bs, restaurants, and shops.