Holy hike. This place is incredible. I'll let the photos do the talking.
above: #views at the top of the hike from Riomaggiore to Manarola (more on that later)
We took a train from Florence to La Spezia Station (about 2.5 hours) and then, a short local train to Riomaggiore - the first town of five. These photos are in no particular order though. Below and left you see a train station from the hike we took. To the right is Monterosso, where you can lounge on the beach endlessly and wonder how you managed to get yourself to the Italian Riviera with a cup of gelato in hand. Like, what???????
The three photos above are Manarola. You can climb the rocks and jump into the turquoise sea right there. People were lounging, reading books until the sun heated them to a crisp, and then they'd cannonball into the water to cool off. You can see in the above photo my hesitation to wade into the tide pool - it was prettttty chilly! But also pretttty magical.
We accidentally took this hike from Riomaggiore to Manarola. We thought we'd be going around the mountain, with the rest of those who'd like a gentle walk to the next town. But instead, we followed our own path, only to hike up OVER the mountain on a "experienced hikers only" rocky, uphill path. The most experience I had up until then was that of stuffing my face with as much food as I could eat. So two hours (and several unforgettable views) later, our legs were jello and we slid down these steps with one thing in mind: PASTA.
There are lots of tourists, but they have the right idea. This is one of the most incredible places I've ever been.