Although the Cinque Terre arguably put Liguria on the international map, there’s a lot more to this Italian region than these five quaint little villages. For starters, although it’s a relatively narrow strip of land, Liguria stretches from the border with France at its westernmost point and borders Piedmont, Emilia Romagna, and Tuscany.
The region is formed by the Ligurian Alps and the Apennines, creating a natural border between the mountains and the sea. When hiking you can take in stunning panoramic views over the sea while enjoying mountainous terrain. The proximity of the sea to the mountains also creates an interesting mix of microclimates and biodiversity that can be enjoyed all year round thanks to the mild climate.
We’ve put together five of our favourite hikes and hiking areas to give you an idea of what this region has to offer:
Hike from San Rocco – San Fruttuoso – Portofino
Based in the Portofino Natural Park, this hike starts from San Rocco di Camogli. You can get there directly from Camogli via a fairly steep set of stairs, or you can drive up or take a bus directly to San Rocco di Camogli.
Stock up on focaccia at Panificio Maccarini and take in the beautiful panoramic views across the aptly named ‘Golfo di Paradiso’ (Paradise Gulf) from the church.
From here you can opt to take the scenic and exposed route along the clifftops, or head up into the shadier and more sheltered woodland, marked by a circle. The scenic route, marked with two red dots, is reserved for experienced hikers due to the exposed cliff edges and the use of chains that will help you to get across them – you don’t need any specialised gear but you will need a head for heights.
You’ll need 2-3 hours to get to San Fruttuoso, walking across the Portofino promontory and taking in spectacular views as the jagged coast meets the sea. Once you arrive in San Fruttuoso, and after a swim in the beautiful waters, or a rest on the beach, continue on along the coastal route to Portofino. Here you will take in more stunning views, this time across the Golfo di Tigullio (Tigullio Gulf). From Portofino you can continue walking along the coast until Santa Margherita to take the train back to Camogli or onto your next destination.
This hike can be enjoyed year round, however the most enjoyable time to visit is during the spring, autumn, and winter – summer can get very warm and it’s a very exposed and sunny route! Make sure to wear proper hiking shoes as the terrain can be rocky and uneven, and bring along your swimming things in the spring and autumn. The best swimming spots along the route are at San Fruttuoso, and Paraggi!
Hiking in Beigua Geopark
Editor’s note: The woodlands around Genoa, including in Beigua Geopark are currently closed to hikers and mountain bikers due to swine flu
The Beigua Geopark is located in the districts of both Savona and Genoa and can be easily accessed from Arenzano and Varazze.
The park is part of UNESCO’s Global Geopark network due to its geological importance. If rocks are your thing then there are plenty of hikes to enjoy the area’s geology, and dedicated hikes to make the most of what the park has to offer.
The Beigua Geopark is also a great place for bird lovers and is an important migratory route for birds of prey, with the best time to spot the eagle owl, peregrine, kestrel, honey buzzard, and even golden eagles during spring and early autumn.
The Beigua Geopark is also just a great place to enjoy a hike. You can enjoy panoramic views across the sea, while in a mountainous environment. There are many well signed routes in the park, with plenty of information boards to explain the local geology and ecology in both Italian and English.
The Ligurian High Route (Alta Via dei Monti Liguri) also passes through the park…
Hiking The Ligurian High Route
The Ligurian High Route (Alta Via dei Monti Liguri) stretches 440 km (273 mi) along the Ligurian coast, starting in Ventimiglia in the Ligurian Alps, and finishing in Ceparana, near La Spezia and the Tuscan border.
The route once frequented by merchants and shepherds travelling across Liguria, is possibly the best way to experience all the region has to offer as it takes you across the Alps and Apennines, through valleys, and gives you spectacular views across the Mediterranean Sea.
The Ligurian High Route is marked with a red and white sign with ‘AV’ which stands for Alta Via. It stays close to the coast but always at around 1000 m above sea level, therefore you can enjoy the views out across the mountains and the sea.
There are 44 legs of the route which can be enjoyed individually, in stages, or altogether. The hiking isn’t particularly difficult and so can be enjoyed by all levels, there’s also plenty of B&B’s along the route to stay in.
Hiking in Val d’Aveto
Hiking in Val d’Aveto offers a totally different experience from the usual coastal routes. Here you’ll find unspoilt mountainous views across the Apennines, ancient beech woodlands, meadows and pastures, rocky crags, and wetlands, with the Aveto river running through.
Val d’Aveto is a protected area within the Val d’Aveto Regional Nature Park and while the park can be enjoyed year-round, it’s particularly beautiful during the autumn, where the leaves turn red and orange and you’ll get a real sense of the changing season.
The area can also be enjoyed in the winter with snowshoes, cross country skis, and if there’s enough snow, there are even a few pistes for some downhill skiing.
Hiking to La Scalinata di Montesteroli
Technically Monesteroli is still in the Cinque Terre Park, however, if you’re already thinking of visiting the Cinque Terre then it’s worth a mention. You’ll find Monesteroli a little further on from the classic Cinque Terre villages. Here you’ll find similar sweeping views across the sea, quaint villages, and olive groves, with fewer crowds.
The nearest car park is in Campiglia Tramonti. This is a great place to finish your hike and watch the sunset! From here you can take the 535 route (sentiero in Italian) along the coast towards Monesteroli, where the path deviates into route 536. After walking a little way along this path, you’ll come across around 1100 steps that descend sharply down to the sea. Expect incredible views out across the sea along with great photo ops.
You can take the steps all the way down to the sea, or nip down to the small village of Monesteroli clinging to the cliff edge, and then head up again.
You can reach the route directly from Campiglia, or you can start the route from the Cinque Terre, which will take quite a bit longer.
If you’re coming from the Cinque Terre then the best way to reach Monesteroli is to go up from Riomaggiore to the Santuario di Nostra Signora di Montenero and then go via Colle di Telegrafo, along the tarmac road until the Sant’Antonio church where you’ll meet route 504. This route will lead you through Fossola to Monesteroli. If you choose this option then allow yourself plenty of time to get there and back as it’s not easy to get back to the Cinque Terre from Campiglia or Portovenere with public transport.
As always, make sure you have adequate hiking shoes and bring plenty of water with you, especially during the summer!
There’s a lot more to Liguria than initially meets the eye. It’s understandably best-known for its sea and summer activities, but this region has a lot to offer all year round. Wherever you find yourself in Liguria, you will never be far away from some interesting trails. So even if you find yourself on a glamorous weekend away in Portofino, you’ll still be able to factor in some hiking time in the great outdoors.