Cinque Terre’s Most Beloved Hiking Path Finally Reopens After More Than a Decade

But in an effort to ensure more responsible tourism, new rules for visiting require reservations and limit how many people can walk the trail daily.

Colorful houses and buildings cling to seaside cliffs in the village of Manarola in Cinque Terre, Italy

The section of Via dell’Amore that connects the towns of Riomaggiore and Manarola (pictured above) is now accessible to visitors.

Photo by Ivan Franco/Unsplash

Via dell’Amore, Cinque Terre’s iconic footpath that traverses the Ligurian coastline, is finally opened for visitors, albeit partially. The 2,950-foot stretch has been one of Italy’s most trekked destinations since it was first carved out in the early 1930s. But imperiled by landslides, the craggy “Lover’s Lane” (or “Path of Love”) was closed in 2012 to allow for an intensive restoration project, leaving visitors left out of love for more than a decade until a 555-foot stretch of the trail reopened last month.

Nearly a quarter of Via dell’Amore (between the towns of Riomaggiore and Manarola) is now accessible to visitors as part of a three-month trial program. (Reports indicate it will be extended beyond the test period if it is deemed a success.) The program is meant to inspire sustainable tourism throughout Cinque Terre, an iconic stretch of rugged coastline along the Italian Riviera that includes five seaside towns: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso.

“A heritage of Liguria, Italy, and the world is being recovered,” Giovanni Toti, president of the Liguria Region, which includes Cinque Terre, said during a press conference announcing the reopening. “Via dell’Amore is a jewel for our region, not just for those who visit.”

How to visit the reopened Via dell’Amore in Cinque Terre

Prior to its 2012 closure, Via dell’Amore was free and open to all. Now, visitors must first book a timed half-hour group tour online, at a cost of five euros (US$5.50), if they want to experience the Path of Love. The trail will be open for an experimental period through September 30, 2023. It will be open daily from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., and for evening visits through September 3 from 7 to 9:30 p.m. The time slots are being limited to 30 visitors per reservation, and with approximately 20 slots per day (not including the evening slots), some 600 people will be able to walk the trail each day during the trial period.

During the half-hour tour, visitors will be able to marvel at the gorgeous Ligurian Sea while guides share the story of the Via dell’Amore from its inception in the aftermath of a railway development project to the contemporary restoration efforts, an ongoing collaborative project with a price tag of 21.9 million euros (US$24 million).

Completion of the Via dell’Amore restoration is expected in July 2024 when the entire 2,950-foot path is slated to reopen.

The Via dell’Amore in Cinque Terre, Italy, a walking path with guardrails that hugs the coastal cliffs

Safety and preservation were top of mind during the restoration efforts for the Via dell’Amore.

Photo by Shutterstock

The new Via dell’Amore—what visitors can expect

The newly reopened short stretch of Via dell’Amore is a glimpse at an entirely new Lover’s Lane and coastal cliffside where environmental integration, safety, and preservation are top priorities. Beginning in January 2021, specialized rock workers were flown in via helicopters to block the rocks above and below the route with steel mesh for nearly 28,000 square feet of rockfall barriers. An artificial tunnel that provides subterranean support for the path has been extended, and down below a 574-foot breakwater is being built to prevent erosion from high seas.

Along the cliffs, more than 8,800 plants have been reintroduced to reinforce the natural landscape, and the new Via dell’Amore has pigmented concrete designed to be visually and architecturally compatible with the natural environment—the colors and design blend in with the rocks. A geotechnical monitoring system that keeps track of rock movement has been installed to provide advance warning for any critical situations that could lead to landslides.

How Via dell’Amore in Cinque Terre came to prominence

At 100 feet above sea level, the Via dell’Amore is part of the longer CAI Number 2 hiking route known as the Sentiero Azzurro (blue path), a 12.5-mile walking trail that connects all five villages and traverses the entire Cinque Terre region from Riomaggiore to Monterosso.

Via dell’Amore was never intended to be the poster child for trekking, trysts, and Instagram selfies. Dating back to the 11th century, the cliffside villages along the trail were originally only accessible by sea and then eventually by meandering and arduous footpaths. The Via dell’Amore did not exist until the 1930s, when it was carved out as part of the new railway that efficiently connected the towns of Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Riomaggiore, and Manarola.

Distant view of colorful buildings on a coastal cliff in Cinque Terre, Italy, with terraced hills at left

Authorities are hoping to encourage visitors to also spend more time off Cinque Terre’s well beaten coastal paths.

Photo by Nike Swigunski/Unsplash

The popularity—and necessary preservation—of Italy’s Cinque Terre region

Even before Rick Steves put Cinque Terre on his must-visit destination map in the late 1970s, the string of small villages along Italy’s western coast attracted travelers who trekked the footpaths connecting the towns to enjoy sweeping sea views and memorable hikes. Considered the easiest of Cinque Terre’s more than 48 trails and hikes, the Via dell’Amore was also picture perfect, winding along pastel-colored buildings and featuring scenic views. In the 1950s, vacationing journalist Paolo Monelli spied a rock with the words Via dell’Amore and immortalized the path as “Via dell’Amore” effectively guaranteeing its allure with visitors. In 1997, Cinque Terre, along with neighbor Portovenere, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.

But there is more to Cinque Terre than the views. In the years before the path was closed, more than 870,000 people visited Via dell’Amore annually, a hefty amount compared to the 4,000 residents who make up the five villages’ combined population. On average, more than 2.4 million people visit Cinque Terre per year. Given the onslaught of visitors and growing concerns about the effects of overtourism, it’s no surprise that the reopening of the Via dell’Amore limits the number of visitors. In fact, the trail’s reopening is part of a larger trial program aimed to inspire sustainable tourism throughout the entire Cinque Terre territory.

For instance, Cinque Terre has been promoting beach cleanups, professionally guided responsible hikes, wine tourism, and local artisan exhibitions to get visitors off the beaten Sentiero Azzurro path and deeper into the region with a focus on cultural heritage and environmental preservation. Luring visitors off the more popular treks and diffusing tourism throughout the villages through various cultural activities supports the local communities, reduces erosion from foot traffic, and contributes to funding preservation projects of those very cliffs and footpaths that everyone wants to visit.

For those who want to embrace the area’s natural wonders, the Cinque Terre National Park offers a Cinque Terre Card, a day pass that provides access to the park’s more than 70 nature trails, as well as its historic towns and sanctuaries. It also offers guided tours that include a “plogging” hike—plogging is a new clean-up and exercise trend where one jogs while cleaning up litter.

Each village encourages visitors to dive deeper into the territory with alternative experiences like trekking vineyards to learn about the nearly vertical conditions, exploring the area’s castles, visiting local art studios, and kayaking the coastline. Finally, the best way to help reduce overcrowding of Cinque Terre is to visit in the off season. The UNESCO site—its trails and towns—is open all year, so consider hiking during November through February.

“The beauty of our area is the balance of man and nature,” says resident Christine Mitchell-De Fina, comanager of the restaurant La Cantina di Miky. “The fragility of these villages is something we can share by showcasing how our wine is made, what our artists are doing, and alternative trails.”

Erica Firpo is a journalist with a passion for art, culture, travel, and lifestyle. She has written and edited more than 20 books, and her travel writing has appeared in Yahoo Travel, Discovery Magazine, BBC Travel, the New York Times, Travel + Leisure, Fathom, Forbes Travel, and Huffington Post.
From Our Partners
Sign up for our newsletter
Join more than a million of the world’s best travelers. Subscribe to the Daily Wander newsletter.
More From AFAR