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Cinque Terre

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!

Cinque Towns

From north to south, here is the list of villages comprising the Cinque Terre:

  • Monterosso al Mare
  • Vernazza
  • Corniglia
  • Manarola
  • Riomaggiore

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.

If la dolce vita is making you restless, you can always rent a canoe or kayak to work up an appetite. Walking is the recommended means of getting around the Cinque Terre, and Strada dei Santuari's path linking the five villages is sure to burn some calories. Keep your eyes open for The Terraces, which are "steps" sculpted into mountain slopes and used for growing grapes and olives. The Sentiero Azzurro and Via dell'Amore are shorter trails, the latter an easy mile going from Manarola to Riomaggiore.

The presence of the past is inevitable on a trip to a heritage site! Step inside the 14th Century Gothic structures of San Pietro Church (Corniglia) or Santa Margherita Bell Tower (Vernazza) to experience that sense of the old world that brought you to Italy. Marvel at the remaining collection of fine art in Monterosso's Church of San Francesco before heading back outside to the living wonders of the region. Near Riomaggiore's marina you'll find that Torre Guardiola on Fossola Beach is a good starting point to watch for birds, smell some flowers, or walk the ever-present coast.

Italian Indulgence

The Cinque Terre on the Italian Riviera is best reached by train from La Spezia or by boat from numerous points in the Med. Views of the sea from the Cinque Terre's craggy vantages are enough to keep people entertained and inspired. As if that weren't enough, the area has a fine selection of seafood, white wine, focaccia bread, and honey gelato (specific to Corniglia). Don't just cruise on by this patch of history and agriculture! Get your feet on the trails and really experience the Cinque Terre for yourself!

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