The highlight of a trip to the Cinque Terre is a hike between the 5 villages. The distance from Riomaggiore to Monterosso al Mare is 12kms, and a lot of the trail is steep and rocky.
The walk from Riomaggiore to Manarola is the easiest. It is paved all the way, and the hardest part is probably the flight of stairs from the station at Riomaggiore up to the start of the path. Other than that the path is fairly flat and suitable for prams and high heels. This section of the trail is called the Lovers Lane. The walk from Riomaggiore to Manarola is 1km long and takes about 15-20 minutes, depending on how long you stop to gaze at the view!
The next section of the walk is from Manarola to Corniglia. This section is 3km long and takes about 1 hour. Parts of this trail are again pretty easy, but it is steeper and at times the ground is uneven under foot. The most exhausting part of this section is at the end, once you arrive at Corniglia train station. The station is located at the bottom of the hill, by the ocean, but the town of Corniglia is located on top of the hill....and there are approx 365 stairs to climb up to get up to the village!!
My favourite part of the hike is the section between Corniglia and Vernazza. This is the most scenic part, through varied landscapes - you walk through olive groves and forest, and then along the cliff edge, with spectacular views coming into Vernazza. This section is 4km long and takes about 1.5 hours to complete, though we found ourselves stopping quite a bit to admire the views - not because we were tired or anything ; )
The section between Vernazza and Monterosso is the most difficult. It is 4kms long and has lots of ups and downs and steep stairs. It is little less scenic than the others, but you do get a good view of some of the local vineyards. The beauty of Monterosso makes up for it all, plus the availability of a gelato or refreshing vino bianco at one of the many bars helps to ease those weary legs!!
Equipment: Good walking shoes, water and your camera!
The neat thing about these five villages, is that in one day you can hike between all five and then take the train back to where you are staying. There is only a few kilometers separating each villa if that and the train stations for each villa are right next to the town. Bring your camera and plenty of sunscreen. Stop in each town for a snack of Gelato for energy.