The Cinque Terre are five picturesque villages on the west coast of Italy that are connected by a series of popular walking paths and hiking trails. Because the villages are in a national park, visitors must purchase the Cinque Terre Card in order to enter some of the most popular hiking trails. The card allows for a full day of hiking and can be also be topped up with additional days or even unlimited rides on the local train, depending on what you need.
There are two types of cards: the Cinque Terre Trekking Card and the Cinque Terre Train Card. Which one you need—or whether you need one at all—depends on where you plan to visit, how you plan to get there, and what time of year you plan to visit.
When to Buy a Cinque Terre Card
Whether or not you need a Cinque Terre Card at all depends on what you plan to do. There are over 75 miles of hiking trails throughout the national park, most of which are completely free to use. In fact, only 7 miles of the most popular pathway known as the Sentiero Azzurro—or the Blue Path—requires hikers to pay a fee. The trails that connect the towns of Monterosso al Mare to Vernazza and then Vernazza to Corniglia are the only ones that require the Cinque Terre Card.
However, if you're hiking the Blue Path in the offseason, which stretches from winter to early spring, the trails are sometimes partially closed due to weather, and when that happens no one is stationed at the park to check tickets. If you're traveling outside of the busy summer months, ask your hotel or contact Parco Nazionale for the most up-to-date information on the trails' statuses.
The card can be purchased at all entry points onto the trail or online. Purchasing the card in advance during the busy summer months is the best way to avoid potentially long lines, but if you've booked a hotel in the local region ask them first about possible discounts.
Cinque Terre Trekking Card
The Cinque Terre Trekking Card is the one that you must purchase if you plan to hike the Blue Path at any point between Monterosso al Mare and Corniglia. While there are several other hiking trails in the area that are free to walk on and also sublimely picturesque, the Blue Path is the most popular one for a reason. The coastal trail offers some of the most gorgeous views on the Italian Riviera and is also one of the most practical methods for moving around between these scenic villages.
Apart from using the hiking trails, the Trekking Card also gives the holder free use of buses throughout the park and a discounted rate to the museums in the nearby town of La Spezia.
The cost of the card is 7.50 euros for an adult for one full day of use, or about $9, with discounts available for children, seniors, and families.
Cinque Terre Train Card
The Cinque Terre Train Card is also used to hike the same trails as the trekking card, but with the added perk of unlimited use of the local Cinque Terre Express train, which travels from La Spezia to Levanto and stops in each village along the way. The Train Card is 16 euros ($19) for an adult ticket, with discounts also available for children, seniors, and families. A single one-way train ticket costs 4 euros ($5), so if you plan to use the train for a roundtrip journey and also hike on the same day, then you'll save money by purchasing the Train Card.
If you get on a train with your Train Card, be sure to validate it before you board. If you forget, you could end up with a fine even though you've paid for the Train Card.