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Hiking Cinque Terre with Kids

We love hiking with our kids while traveling, so when we were planning our family vacation to Italy, we knew hiking Cinque Terre with our kids was a must. Cinque Terre is one of Italy’s most beautiful locations and the hiking between the legendary five coastal villages is truly epic.

The Cinque Terre villages are so beautiful and charming, but the Cinque Terre hiking trails often lead you to elevated viewpoints which give views you simply don’t get from the five villages. And best of all, we were able to share this experience with our two kids, aged 1 & 3. 

Want to visit Cinque Terre with kids too? Here’s what you need to know: 

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Visiting Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Italy. It’s a region made up of five villages, all of which hug the coastline and mountains in dramatic fashion. The five villages (from north to south) are: Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore.

Besides the historic charm of the Cinque Terre villages, a main draw to this region is to hike the walking paths between the villages. You will need a mandatory Cinque Terre Card in order to enter the park to enjoy the hikes. We recommend getting the “Treno” version of the Cinque Terre card, which gives you unlimited train travel between the five villages.

The terms “SVA” and “Blue Trail” refer to the main coastal hiking route between the five Cinque Terre villages.

Watch for the Red/White/Red trail markers which signify you are on a main Cinque Terre hiking trail (the SVA or a secondary path).

The Cinque Terre hiking trails are well marked, but we recommend having a Cinque Terre hiking map on your phone

Cinque Terre Hiking Tip: There are route location signs along the Cinque Terre hiking trails, which help identify your location to authorities in case of emergency.

Cinque Terre hiking trails have mergency location signs such as this one on the Vernazza-Corniglia trail

Hiking Cinque Terre with Kids

Hiking with kids is a great thing to do on a family vacation to Italy. Thankfully you don’t need a lot of extra hiking gear to enjoy your visit to Cinque Terre with your kids:

To carry our kids we used the Deuter Kid Comfort 3 hiking backpack carrier. We like this carrier so much that we bought one for each child. Having these carriers with us allowed us to enjoy some of the harder Cinque Terre hikes while letting the kids come along for the ride.

Hiking Cinque Terre with a toddler is easier with a backpack carrier

If your child is under two, airlines typically let you bring the backpack carrier as your ‘baby item’ in lieu of a stroller. We’ve brought ours to Japan, Italy and Norway as a ‘baby item’ on our flights and have never been charged extra. Learn more about flying with a backpack carrier.

The Deuter backpack carriers have a compartment to store a hydration bladder, which is a convenient way to carry larger amounts of water for the family.

We use the AllTrails hiking app to help us find and stay on the proper hiking trail while traveling. We like how easy it is to get the Cinque Terre hiking maps right on your phone and how your phone’s GPS will track your current location relative to your hiking trails.

The Cinque Terre hiking maps and elevation charts shown below are from our GPS data imported into Google Earth.  

We have an entire post full of all our best tips for hiking with kids and this one with all the best hiking gear for kids.

Where to Stay in Cinque Terre with Kids

With five Cinque Terre villages to choose from, finding the right place to stay is a bit more work than usual.

We chose to stay in Monterosso al Mare with our kids. It has superior train connections, has an excellent playground and has a nice long stretch of beach. Monterosso isn’t as charming as the other Cinque Terre towns, but we chose it for better train connectivity, grocery stores and it’s great playground.

We rented a two-bedroom Airbnb at the northern end of Monterosso al Mare. We chose to stay at an Airbnb as we enjoy the family-friendly amenities like separate bedrooms, a kitchen and laundry facilities.

There are plenty of kid-friendly Cinque Terre Airbnb rentals to choose from. If you are new to Airbnb, you can sign up with our link and get a nice discount towards your first stay.

If hotels are more your style, we personally use and recommend using Booking.com as their Top Picks for Families search filter makes it easy to find good family-friendly accommodation.

Cinque Terre Hikes

Over the 5 days we spent in Cinque Terre with our kids we were able to hike all the trails which connected all the villages between Levano to Riomaggiore. We didn’t do the coastal hikes in one straight line or direction, but rather in the sequence which worked best for us.

Each of these Cinque Terre hikes was a half-day event, which left the other half of the day to enjoy the other pleasures of the region.

Corniglia to Vernazza Hike via SVA

In Corniglia, the hard work begins even before you get to the trailhead! Corniglia is not at sea level, which makes it unique among the five Cinque Terre villages.

Cinque Terre hiking always rewards you with great views, such as this one of Corniglia, Italy

Guess where the Corniglia train station is? Yup – sea level! In order to get from the Corniglia train station to the town, you’ll need to climb roughly 370 steps up.

We finished climbing the stairs at 9am and Corniglia seemed nearly deserted. This was great time for taking pictures as the Cinque Terre villages typically become overrun with people later in the day.

The 90 minute Corniglia to Vernazza hike was approximately 4 miles in length with roughly 1,800 feet of cumulative elevation gain.

Panoramic photograph of the view from the Vernazza to Corniglia hike in Cinque Terre

Hiking northwest towards Vernazza in the morning was a good choice as the sun was at our backs and not in our eyes. The trail is a mix of steps and dirt and there are picnic tables halfway through.  

View of Vernazza Cinque Terre from the Corniglia to Vernazza hike
A Cinque Terre hiking map of the Corniglia to Vernassa hike - GPS data imported into Google Earth

Manarola to Cornigila Hike via 506, 586 and 587

The Cinque Terre hike between Manarola and Corniglia was hard. It was a reasonably short 4.6 miles in length, but the 2,400+ feet of cumulative elevation gain made it challenging enough that it took us 3 hours to complete. The path consists of a lot of steps and uneven rocks, so be sure to wear proper hiking shoes

Many of the Cinque Terre hiking trails are steep, so when hiking Cinque Terre with a toddler you will need a backpack carrier

There was a lot of variation in scenery on this Cinque Terre hike from Manarola to Cornigila, which made it quite enjoyable. There were vineyards, olive groves, forests, sweeping views of the towns and epic ocean views.

A mother and toddler enjoy a beautiful forest on the Corniglia to Manarola hike in Cinque Terre

The little sanctuary town of Volastra is very charming and makes for a nice rest stop along the way. Sections of Cinque Terre trail #586 are flat enough with gravel paths that toddlers could get out of their backpack carriers and walk – just keep them away from the edge!  

When hiking Cinque Terre with kids look for flat sections of trail where the kids can walk, such as this one from the Corniglia to Manarola hike
A Cinque Terre hiking map of the Manarola to Cornigila hike - GPS data imported into Google Earth

Riomaggiore to Manarola Hike via 531

The famous coastal hike Via dell’Amore (“The Way of Love”) between Riomaggiore and Manarola is still closed due to a 2016 landslide. Current projections for this easy, romantic Cinque Terre walking trail call for it to reopen in spring 2021. But don’t despair, there is an alternative hike to the Via dell’Amor.

Unlike the easy Via dell’Amore walking path, this Cinque Terre hike is very steep uphill with steps that were quite high. There wasn’t much flat pathway at the top of the climb – it basically goes straight up and then straight down again. The downhill hike to Manarola was really challenging it was steep with staggered, adhoc rock steps.  

Hiking Cinque Terre with a toddler on the Manarola to Riomaggiore trail

One of our favorite moments on our trip to Italy with kids happened on this hike. Italians love kids and were so friendly towards our kids during our entire family vacation to Italy.

This Cinque Terre lemon farmer on the Riomaggiore to Manarola hike stopped us to give our kids some world-famous Cinque Terre lemons from his lemon grove

In this example of Italian hospitality, we were hiking through a patch of lemon groves when we were flagged down by a local farmer who in a combination of Italian and body language beckoned us to come back to his farm. He cut two lemons off the trees – one for each child. They were so happy! And so were we as we made an incredible lemon pasta dish for dinner that night!

The Riomaggiore to Manarola hike is hard and won’t be for everyone. It took us approximately 90 minutes to complete the 1.2m hike, with 900 feet of cumulative elevation gain.

Hiking Cinque Terre with a toddler on the Manarola to Riomaggiore trail

To be honest, the views were not as rewarding on this Cinque Terre hike as there were no real stretches of pathway where you can leisurely walk and enjoy the view – instead, you are always looking down at your footing. 

A Cinque Terre hiking map of the Riomaggiore to Manarola hike - GPS data imported into Google Earth

Monterosso to Vernazza Hike via SVA

Given it was cloudy this day, we decided to hike south-east from Monterosso to Vernazza as we didn’t need to worry about the sun in our eyes.

The beginning part of this Cinque Terre hike was steep with many steps, although they were “real” steps and weren’t too hard. After the steep climb, the hiking trail levelled off. There were many stretches where a well-behaved toddler could easily walk, but never for too long. 

Vernazza, Italy as seen from the Vernazza to Monterosso trail in Cinque Terre

The Cinque Terre hike between Monterosso and Vernazza is mostly through vineyards and trees and offers good views of both towns. The stretches of level pathway allowed us to enjoy the amazing Italian coastal scenery, instead of looking at our feet.

Hiking Cinque Terre with a toddler on the Vernazza to Monterosso trail

This hike was approximately 3 miles long with 2,160 feet of cumulative elevation gain. It took us approximately 1h45m to complete the hike.

A good backpack carrier is essential hiking gear when visiting Cinque Terre with a toddler

It started to rain just before we finished and we could tell how slippery the rocks would get if it was really wet, so be careful if it’s a rainy day.

A Cinque Terre hiking map of the Monterosso to Vernazza hike - GPS data imported into Google Earth

Levanto to Monterosso Hike via SVA

We hadn’t intended on doing the full SVA hike from Levanto to Monterosso, but as we got going, it felt wrong for us to turn around, so we decided to do the full length.

It starts with well-formed stairs leading to a paved road, eventually transitioning to a nice, reasonably smooth dirt trail. After 5 full days of hiking, I’m glad to report that you don’t ever get tired of the world-class Cinque Terre scenery.

The beautiful blue waters of the Ligurian Sea as seen from the Monterosso to Levano trail in Cinque Terre, Italy

At the beginning of this Cinque Terre hike, the views looking back at Levanto and beyond are really quite nice. The hiking trail also offers nice views of the beautiful blue water along the coastline. There are stretches where a well behaved toddler could easily walk, but most of the hike would be too difficult for them.

Levano, Italy as seen from the Levano to Monterosso trail

There are stretches where the path goes through a beautiful, dense forest. The hiking trail becomes rocky and uneven close to the turn at the top of the cape. The decent into Monterosso was mostly on steps, but it transitions to paved road near the town.

The Levano to Monterosso trail provides excellent views of many of the 5 Cinque Terre cities

This 4.5m hike with 2,100 feet of cumulative elevation gain took us roughly 2.5 hours.

If you are looking for things to do in Cinque Terre with kids that is not hiking, check out this kid-friendly bike ride from Levanto to Framura.  

A Cinque Terre hiking map of the Levano to Monterosso hike - GPS data imported into Google Earth

The Cinque Terre hiking ranks up there as one of the most beautiful hiking destinations we have ever visited. The hiking is not overly kid-friendly, but we made it fun for everyone with our backpack carriers.

We are so grateful we could visit Cinque Terre with our kids. We hope your trip is as rewarding!

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