Between the gorgeous port towns of Portofino and La Spezia on Italy's Mediterranean coast, you will find the UN World Heritage site Cinque Terre in all its rugged splendor. Cinque Terre's 12 miles of coast encompass five villages nestled in narrow inlets among steep cliffs. This area is protected under the auspices of Parco Nazionale delle Cinque Terre, which includes a marine park and diving sites. Part of the Cinque Terre's rocky charm is due to its pedestrian walkways and hiking trails; don't come here intending to see the villages from the confines and convenience of your rental car. You'll be on foot… and you'll love it!
From north to south, here is the list of villages comprising the Cinque Terre:
Each village has its own appeal. Regardless of where you sleep at night, you'll want to visit all of the Cinque Terre's individual villages during the course of your stay. People come to Monterosso to lie on the sandy beach at Fegina. Campari cocktail in hand, you'll feel totally at peace in Monterosso. Surprisingly, Vernazzo is the only village with a harbor. Come here to see bright buildings surrounding the inlet that provides the Cinque Terre with a little hustle and bustle.
Corniglia is an agricultural village located 300 feet above its lovely sheltered beach. Sit down with a glass of the white wine that is produced to some acclaim in this quiet, bucolic area. In Manarola you will find colorful but muted houses perched on cliffs overlooking the sea. Jaunt off to this village when you need some privacy. Riomaggiore is headquarters for the national park. Choose from a selection of its seafood restaurants or make your way to one of the dive sites nearby.