The Best Hike in Italy? San Fruttuoso to Camogli: A Scenic Trek Along the Italian Riviera

VIDEO: Big & Small have discovered the best hike in northwestern Italy! The San Fruttuoso to Camogli hike is a challenging one, including lots of dizzying switchbacks, inclines and declines, and steep slopes that require steel chains to maneuver through. Click above to watch!

The Ligurian coast boasts some of the most scenic hiking trails in all of Italy, including the well-beaten paths that link up the enchanting five towns known collectively as Cinque Terre. While tourists swarm straight to Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore, those looking for a less-congested but just as spectacular walk should set their sights a little further northwest to take on the San Fruttuoso to Camogli hike.

Taking the Ferry from Genoa and Nervi

A look at Camogli from the sea.

We were based in Genoa, the grand capital of Liguria, home to pesto, focaccia, Christopher Columbus, and Europe’s biggest historical center. From there, we first took a day trip to the seaside resort area of Nervi, where we walked along the Passeggiata Anita Garibaldi, a 2-km path along the water that features a number of rickety metal stairways that lead down to tiny beach areas and large, flat rocks meant for dedicated sun-worshippers. Nervi is a great day trip from Genoa, accessible via train or ferry. See more about Nervi in our video above!

Beach time in Nervi.

Still, we wanted to get out on the Ligurian Sea and discover more of the region’s hidden treasures. Our main goal was to get to the former fishing village of Camogli, whose colorful stacked houses sit as sweet and pretty as any positioned in a Cinque Terre town—but, first, we wanted to hike. To do that, we headed to the tiny bay of San Fruttuoso, nestled between Camogli and the popular (ahem, overpriced and overtouristed) Portofino.

Getting to San Fruttuoso

A fast and furious ride on the Ligurian Sea.

Forget the car, the only ways to access San Fruttuoso is via ferry or foot. To get there, we took a 2pm ferry from Genoa’s Porto Antico (the old port) with Golfo Paradiso. The ferry service also stops at Nervi, so if you happen to be there, you can pick it up at Nervi’s main port as well. The entire trip from Genoa to San Fruttuoso costs 15 EU (about $16.65 USD) and takes roughly 1 hour and 20 minutes, with a quick stop in Camogli.

We figured out it’s most cost-effective to take the ferry the whole way to San Fruttuoso, then hike to Camogli, where we could catch a train back to Genoa. Of course, the ferry offers some beautiful views of the coastline, but, beware—it’s fast and furious. We both got a little seasick on our way there, so we were relieved to be back on solid ground.

The tiny bay of San Fruttuoso.

Arriving in San Fruttuoso, you’ll first notice the sparkling turquoise waters, tiny pebble beach, and formidable 10th-century Benedictine monastery, the Abbey of San Fruttuoso of Capodimonte, towering above it all. There’s a small selection of bars and restaurants with tourist prices, so budget travelers will want to be prepared with extra water and food before arriving.

We got a quick espresso for a little boost before our hike and set off for the trail. I had read that there were two trails—an easier one that takes you inland, and a perilous one that lines the craggy coastline. We planned on taking the “easier” path, until, well, we couldn’t find it. Instead, we came across this sign:

No big deal … !

San Fruttuoso to Camogli Hike

The 8.7-km path along the coast.

Ready and willing to get going, we accepted this challenge and set off. Within the first 30 minutes, we crossed paths with a handful of hikers coming the other direction. Each had a slightly different opinion of the journey we had ahead, but all seemed to indicate it was going to be long—and tough.

From that point on, we saw no one. With cicadas providing the soundtrack, we zigzagged our way through the hills, climbing slowly up along relentless switchbacks. We captured quick shots of jagged cliffs rising above the blanket of blues, before heading into the depths of the forest.

Holding on for dear life!

As we approached the coastline again, we finally saw them: the steel chains we’d been warned about. These chains can be found strategically attached to the sloped edges of the cliffs. At first, we thought, no big deal, this is a cinch! But then the path grew narrower and rockier, and sloped ever steeper toward the sea.

Around every bend, we were hoping to see some signs of civilization, but then there would be another bend, and another set of chains. Finally, around the 3-hour mark, we caught a full view of Camogli and eventually came across a small collection of houses. A little further along, we ended up in the tiny area of San Rocco.

A sweet site: Camogli from a distance.

From here, we started to see a scattering of tourists, as the trail eventually turned into a paved path and then a long set of stairs heading down. Camogli—and a buttery piece of focaccia—was now easily within eyeshot.

Getting to Camogli

The whole hike from San Fruttuoso to Camogli is roughly 8.7 km and took us about 4 hours. We headed straight to Via Giuseppe Garibaldi, the lively road that lines the sea, to catch the sun setting at Bagni Lido, grab an aperitivo, and try out a fresh slice of focaccia al formaggio, the region’s famous bread stuffed and baked with stracchino cheese.

By 10pm, we had to catch the train back to Genoa. We wish we had more time to explore Camogli—it’s yet another charming Ligurian town that rivals the five among the Cinque Terre, or even the “Alternative Cinque Terre” (see video below!).

VIDEO: Big & Small explore six coastal villages along the Ligurian coast. This is our Alternative Cinque Terre (or rather Sei Terre, “six lands”). See the towns of Porto Venere, Lerici, San Terenzo, Levanto, Bonassola, and Framura. Click above to watch!

Need to Know: Hiking Italy

Liguria has several hiking paths that snake around its hills and coastline. The San Fruttuoso to Camogli one is our most recommended for seasoned hikers who want to get away from the crowds.

Here are some quick tips for getting the most out of your hiking trip in Liguria:

TAKE THE FERRY & TRAIN: To do this hike, we recommend taking the ferry from Genoa with Golfo Paradiso. See their schedule and current rates on their website (we paid 15 Euros for a one-way from Genoa Porto Antico to San Fruttuoso). We saved money (and escaped the crowds) by going straight to San Fruttuoso, hiking, and then taking the train back to Genoa from Camogli.

COME ALREADY FUELED & BRING SUPPLIES: Bring plenty of water (we recommend at least 2 liters per person), especially on a hot day. There’s no place to fill up on the path, until you get close to the finish line. Be prepared with a few snacks as well, and know that the options available in San Fruttuoso are extremely limited. (We couldn’t find any small store, only bars and restaurants.)

DRESS APPROPRIATELY: Wear sturdy shoes. You’ll be covering diverse terrain that includes jagged rocks, dirt paths, and slippery slopes. Dress in comfortable clothing, making sure nothing fits too loosely—you’ll see why this is important when maneuvering through those cliffs with the help of steel chains!

FOLLOW THE TRAIL MARKERS: This hike is well-marked. Just follow the two red dots, which come in especially handy in some of the rockier areas where the path blends in with everything else.

GIVE YOURSELF PLENTY OF TIME: We recommend planning for at least 4-5 hours on the trail. That includes time for breaks, picture-taking, and enjoying some nature and solitude.

STAY SAFE AND INSURED: When doing any sort of hiking, especially in a foreign country, it’s important to have a quality insurance plan. Big & Small recommend SafetyWing, which offers excellent travel medical insurance at an affordable price. This is a great option for nomads and both short- and long-term travelers.

Big & Small’s 2018 Year in Review

Italy, the Middle East, SE Asia, USA and the Balkans

Taking in one of Italy’s most glamorous views in Positano.

Big & Small did slightly less traveling in 2018. Still, we managed to do a complete trip around the globe—starting in Italy, we headed east, only to end up back in Italy for the close of the year. We slept in a total of 41 beds, and visited 8 new countries. Through it all, we made use of planes, trains, automobiles, trams, buses, tuk-tuks, scooters, and our own two feet to get across vast oceans and mountain ranges, charming old towns and coastal villages, and sprawling metropolises.

Here are our top 12 highlights—and all of our YouTube videos!—from Italy to the Balkans, the Middle East to SE Asia, and the USA to a few hidden treasures in between. Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel for regular updates on our adventures!

1. Puglia, Italy

Big & Small skipped the car and decided to rent scooters to explore the charming towns of Puglia, Italy, including the magical home of the fairytale-like trulli—Alberobello! Other towns we visited include: Ostuni, Cisternino, Locorotondo, Martina Franca, Carovigno, Costa Merlata, Torre Canne, San Vito dei Normanni, Monopoli, and Polignano a Mare. We had a few scooter problems along the way, but enjoyed the beauty of the countryside and the stunning coastline of one of Italy’s most underrated regions. Follow our journey!

2. Valbona to Theth Hike, Albania

We made it to the top of Albania!

After a quick change in travel plans, we decided to head into Albania from Montenegro. We had heard about the Valbona to Theth hike, a roughly 10-km trek that takes you between two tiny villages nestled deep in the heart of the Albanian Alps. This is the first time Big & Small hiked with everything on our backs, navigating rocky terrain as we made our way to the peak from Valbona before walking through dense forest on the knee-buckling descent to Theth. We managed to do this hike at the tail-end of the season in October, which meant we were rewarded with spectacular fall colors—swaths of bright reds and oranges blanketing the rugged mountain edges. We relished the fresh air, local food, and lack of WiFi. Just getting to this area of Albania is a journey in itself (including a ferry and some harrowing bus rides). But that means it remains rather unspoiled, and we sure hope it stays that way.

3. Sarajevo, Bosnia

Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, is a city where wars began and olympics were held. You’ll see stunning landscapes, sweeping mountains, and remnants of tragedy. Here are 10 things to do in Sarajevo, including taking the new cable car up Trebevic Mountain, walking along the abandoned Olympic bobsled track, trying local food and coffee, and learning about the city’s most harrowing moments under siege.

4. Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Dubai was Big & Small’s introduction to the Middle East, and it did not disappoint. We spent a whirlwind two days in this luxe desert city, hopping between glamorous malls, a 7-star hotel, faux beaches, and the tallest building in the world. But the best part was getting a taste of the much more modest Old Dubai.

5. The Amalfi Coast, Italy

Discover southern Italy’s Campania region and the jaw-dropping Amalfi Coast! This is the land of colorful, cliffside villages; narrow, nail-biting roads; stunning hidden beaches; and pure luxury living. But this doesn’t mean budget travelers can’t experience all the fun and fabulousness. Here are our tips on doing the Amalfi Coast on a budget.

6. Galle, Sri Lanka

A visit to this pearl of the Indian Ocean was an unexpected surprise. The island of Sri Lanka is a must-see, thanks to the kind and generous people, fresh and vibrant foods, beautiful beaches, calm waters, and the chance to meet sea turtles and a monkey in stylish pants! Our journey to the southern coast town of Galle began with a rickety but scenic train ride and took us to hidden beaches, a sea turtle hatchery, and the locals’ best breakfast spot.

7. Belgrade, Serbia

Belgrade, Serbia, is a mix of grit, decay, hipness, and luxury, and its dynamic energy is like no other European capital we’ve explored. Once the heart of the former Yugoslavia, the Balkans’ grandest city has a fascinating history—plenty of it dark—which can be found in everything from its scenic fortress overlooking the Sava and Danube Rivers to the shocking ruins of the NATO bombings of 1999. But Belgrade is just as much a bustling metropolis for the young at heart, with its great restaurants, sleek cafes, renowned nightclubs, newly renovated waterfront, and one of the coolest museums devoted to Serbian inventor Nikola Tesla.

8. Sofia & Seven Rila Lakes, Bulgaria

One of the most beautiful hikes in the Balkans.

The capital city of Bulgaria has a fascinating history interwoven with its diverse mix of influence from the Romans, Ottomans, and Greeks. Throughout the city center, you’ll walk through old Roman ruins; catch a full view of a mosque, Catholic cathedral, orthodox church, and synagogue all at once (the Square of Tolerance); and pass by dilapidated, Communist-era buildings sitting alongside hip new cafes and restaurants. In Sofia, we visited the Museum of Socialist Art, took a free food tour, drank some “miracle” mineral waters, and explored the nearby Vitosha Mountain. But our most memorable moment in Bulgaria was hiking the Seven Rila Lakes trail (part of the highest mountain range in the Balkans), one of the most breathtaking and rewarding hikes we’ve ever done. 

9. Liguria, Italy

If you’ve already battled the crowds of Cinque Terre and are looking for a more tranquil side to the seaside region of Liguria, Italy, we’ve got your itinerary. Big & Small based ourselves in the larger town of La Spezia, and traveled by bus and train to six other nearby coastal villages that rival the five towns of Cinque Terre for their spectacular views, colorful houses, and fresh seafood. Join us as we walk through Porto Venere, Lerici, San Terenzo, Levanto, Bonassola, and Framura. This is our “alternative” Cinque Terre—or more like our “Sei Terre” (Six Lands)!

10. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Big & Small spent a month in Malaysia’s gleaming, bustling capital of Kuala Lumpur. Our intention here was not only to take in the city’s spicy food and melting-pot culture, but to be true “digital nomads,” i.e. save money and focus on our online work. But we found plenty of time to sit by the pool and explore the city as well. We visited the Petronas Towers and the national mosque, checked out traditional Malay dance, dodged monkeys at the Batu Caves, and caught plenty of whiffs of the world’s stinkiest fruit.

11. Montenegro

Montenegro boasts fewer than 700,000 residents, but welcomes more than 1 million tourists every year. This is because this small Balkan country has quite a lot to offer, from its rugged mountains to its narrow strip of beaches along the Adriatic coastline. Big & Small traveled through the country via bus and train. We walked the boardwalk of Bar, meandered our way through the old towns of Kotor and Budva, enjoyed fresh seafood and pomegranate juice, and visited the largest lake in the Balkans. But we also had a few disappointments along the way…

12. San Francisco, California, USA

This was our home base for several years, so we enjoyed being reintroduced to San Francisco’s many charms (even with its growing ills, too). The City by the Bay is now infamous for its outrageous prices, but it’s still a place full of things to see and do that require nothing but your curiosity.

The Best Way to See Puglia, Italy: On a Scooter!

Big & Small traveled to the southern Italian region of Puglia to see if we could pull off the unthinkable—getting around without a car. Now, most people will tell you it’s damn near impossible to see this region without a good set of four wheels, but we like to prove most people wrong. We also hate driving.

So, we made our way to scenic beach towns via buses and bustling inland cities via trains. But to really get a sense of the charming, quiet countryside and stunning undeveloped coastline, we opted to try out Italy’s most beloved mode of transport—the scooter!

Enjoy our video above, and keep reading below for more info on all of the towns we visited on our epic scooter trip through Puglia, Italy.

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How to Do the Amalfi Coast in Italy on a Budget

Big & Small welcome you to southern Italy’s Campania region and the jaw-dropping Amalfi Coast! This is the land of colorful, cliffside villages; narrow, nail-biting roads; stunning hidden beaches; and pure luxury living. But this doesn’t mean budget travelers can’t experience all the fun and fabulousness. Watch our video above for all of our tips on doing the Amalfi Coast on a budget. Keep reading for more details on exact prices and itineraries.

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A Day Trip to the Artsy Tuscan Town of Pietrasanta, Italy

Roberto Barni Exhibition in Sant'Agostino, December 2017

Big & Small took the train up from Lucca to the chic Tuscan town of Pietrasanta to enjoy an artisanal chocolate festival and the opening of the stunning Roberto Barni exhibition. The Italian sculptor’s works were scattered around the main square (Piazza del Duomo) and the former 14th-century church of Sant’Agostino. To be honest, our main mission of the day was to snatch up a whole lot of handmade chocolate, but we were pleasantly surprised to discover such a charming artistic enclave full of trendy boutiques, galleries, and restaurants.

Here’s a look at our day and night (when the town really comes alive) in Pietrasanta.

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48 Hours in Lake Como on a Budget

On our busy tour around Northern Italy—which included Trieste, Venice, Bologna, Bergamo, Brescia, and Verona—Big & Small fell head over heels for the spectacular Lake Como. With its glistening waters rippling against the foothills of the Alps and its scenic towns colored by stacks of modest abodes and luxury villas, it’s hard not to fall in love. Even big-name celebrities like George Clooney and Madonna have been unable to resist its charms.

This kind of high-profile place can be intimidating for budget travelers, but Big & Small were able to keep costs low while taking in all the natural beauty and effortless elegance of this Italian gem—it just takes a little strategizing. Here, we offer some tips on how to enjoy a quick 48-hour trip to Lake Como on a budget. And click the video above for more information!

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7 Fun Facts About the Leaning Tower of Pisa

PRESS PLAY ABOVE TO FIND OUT 7 FUN FACTS ABOUT THE LEANING TOWER OF PISA!

We hate to ruin our undoubtedly cool image (!), but Big & Small are, well, history geeks. So, when we were deciding on a place to settle down for a few weeks in Italy, we chose the cozy, historical town of Pisa. Of course, staying in Pisa for more than 24 hours isn’t your typical itinerary. There’s usually only one bullet point on most tourists’ checklist: a peek at the world’s most famous architectural screwup, the Leaning Tower. Admittedly, this is what Big & Small did on our first trip to the town in 2015. But upon our return, we found there was much more to love about Pisa and much more to learn about its most popular attraction.

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VIDEO: See the Best of Rome in Just 3 Minutes!

There are few places left in this world where you can casually walk through 2,000 years of history. Wandering through Rome, Italy, you are constantly reminded of a storied empire that laid the foundation for Western civilization. Around every corner, you’ll run into a formidable ancient monument, grandly gilded cathedral, or priceless piece of Renaissance art. But behind all that outward splendor and beauty are tragic tales of power, religion, death, and destruction – this is history served up in all its brutal rawness.

To capture Rome in every bit of its glory, Big & Small Travel present this quick video of its highlights.

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PhotoPhiles: Cinque Terre, Italy – The Italian Riviera

 

Monterosso in Cinque Terre
Monterosso in Cinque Terre

It’s hard to pick the most breathtaking spot in a country full of them, but this is one part of Italy that will truly wow you into submission. On the coast of the Italian Riviera, in the Liguria region, Cinque Terre or “The Five Lands” comprises a quintet of quaint villages: Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. The stunning and jaw-dropping architectural beauty of Cinque Terre was created over a millennium by farmers and residents. Houses and buildings rise sharply from the sea, as do intricate rows of grapevines.

Our home base while visiting Cinque Terre was in La Spezia, a mid-sized town just south of Riomaggiore. It’s a convenient and more affordable spot to stay when visiting the area, and has easy access to the train line that runs between the villages. It’s also a great base for a day trip to Pisa (just a 1-hour train ride) or even Florence (a little over 2 hours on the train). Each town has its unique flair: Be sure to purchase a hiking and train pass to make a stop at each. We recommend grabbing an espresso in Monterosso, sharing a pizza in Vernazza, slurping up a basil-olive oil gelato in Corniglia, digging into stuffed mussels in Manarola, and topping it all off with a glass of red in Riomaggiore. (Don’t worry, the steep, sometimes treacherous, hiking will burn it all off!)

Enjoy our photos and videos showcasing one of the world’s most charming corners.

Manarola: Taking in the sunset after enjoying stuffed mussels and incredible Italian red wine.

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Corniglia from the hiking trail: Primary industries here are fishing and winemaking.

Manarola: The stunning harbor and vista in the town center.

Cinque Terre Vista
Vista point from the hiking trail, near Corniglia.

Manorial: The terraces in Cinque Terre are supported by over 7000 KM of dry stone walls.

Monterosso: JCrew enjoys coffee time along the Liguria Sea.

Monterosso: The biggest town in Cinque Terre brings in the biggest crowds with its expansive sand beach.

Handstand Steph at Monterosso.

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Corniglia: The Oratory of Rocco dates from 1480.

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Riomaggiore: Hiking along the free trail, just outside the town.

Beach in Monterosso.
Monterosso: Beautiful blues line the Cinque Terre’s most northern town.

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Near Corniglia: Cinque Terre resident selling freshly squeezed orange juice along the paid trail.