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Italy Tourism - Cinque Terra Villages

Cinque Terre Fast Facts

Region: Liguria

Villages that make up the Cinque Terre: Corniglia, Manarola, Monterosso al Mare, Riomaggiore and Vernazza

What to see and do: walking, hiking, sightseeing the breathtaking views, restaurant visits, local wine tasting.

Where the mountains of the Maritime Alps and the Ligurian Appenines plunge down to the coast of the Tyrrhenian and Ligurian Seas you'll find a section of Italy known as Liguria, the Italian Riviera.

The weather is balmy and the mountains that tower high above these seas create a stark contrast to the shore as they meet in rugged, crashing beauty.

On this coastline, clinging to the rocks that rise out of the waters, there is a necklace of five villages — strung together by walking paths that hug the stone walls and provide incredible views of the junction of land and sea. These five small villages are known as the Cinque Terra, five lands.

The cheaper Riviera

Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore and are the names of the villages that make up the chain. The towns lie hidden between Genoa and Pisa, in an area known as the Riviera di Levante — that translates to 'the common man's Riviera' or 'the working man's Riviera'.

Isolated from the neighboring areas of the French and Italian Riviera, these small villages remained the homes of fishermen and farmers. Although roads and railroads finally reached them, the rugged personality remained intact. The coastline, the five villages, and the surrounding hillsides are all part of the Cinque Terre National Park which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Travel between the villages of the Cinque Terra is a hiker's dream. The groves of olive and citrus trees alternate with vineyards on one side. The other side features stunning views of stretches of white beach reaching into the Mediterranean Sea — punctuated by steep cliffs dropping down to the water with waves spraying as they break against the rocks.

Walking through the Cinque Terra

  • The Sentiero Alto (high path) begins at Levanto, on the west and terminates at Portovenere on the east. The entire walk takes about ten hours along an old mule path.

  • The Sentiero Azzurro (blue path) requires a daily pass that costs 5€ for the entire Sentiero Azzurro trail system. This is the most popular path through the five villages and can get crowded during the height of the tourist season.

The east bound route starts in Riomaggiore and hugs the coast and mountains as it meanders through to Monterosso al Mare. The entire walk will take five hours at a steady pace.

Italy Travel - Cinque Tearra -  Via Dell'AmoreIf you just want a taste of the experience ride the train to Manarola and start west at that point. The section of the path that runs between Manarola and Riomaggiore is called Via dell'Amore. There is a small fee to access the path and a cafe midway through so make sure you bring Euros. Although travelers report that this road is tame enough to attempt with high heels, sensible walking shoes are recommended. Basically, this stretch is a wide paved pathway with a rail between you and the drop to the sea. The path was carved into the mountain more than a century ago.

This is the section that anyone not used to hiking should find easy. In return for the half hour of walking you will be rewarded with a taste of some of the most beautiful scenery on the Riviera.

The Via Dell'amore is not the most awe-inspiring section of the walk, but still very memorable. Between Manarola and Corniglia, the path tends to be more the original dirt path. There are more hills to navigate and one steep part is definitely not for the faint of heart.

Italy Travel - Cinque Tearra -  BlueTrailThe hikes from Corniglia to Vernaza and then on to Monterosso are narrow paths that wend up and down the hills. Not every part of the path provides guard rails to grab where footing is difficult. In some places, going downhill is harder than climbing up. Between the steep grade and rocky dirt path keeping balanced on the downhill slopes can be tricky.

If you intend to make the entire trek in one day, be sure to start early. The road is tougher to navigate in the dark and you miss the views. The best idea is to plan several days for the walk and overnight in the villages.

While you are visiting the Cinque Terra, make sure to sample the wines. The simple dry white wine 'Cinque Terre' is delicious with the fresh fish but the prize is the sweet dessert wine 'Sciacchetrà'. Limoncino is a local liquor made from the sweet lemons of the area.

Around the Web, discover more about the sights, sounds, aromas and the friendly locals of the Cinque Terra, with top online guides offering special looks by activities and events, related photo galleries, travel video, and more reasons why a trip to the 'working man's Riviera' should be on your itinerary if you plan a visit to the Mediterranean area.

More about the Cinque Terra around the Web:

The Cinque Terre - Five Villages in Liguria - Slow Travel does their usual top notch overview of travel to the area with "been there" tips on how to get there and what to see.

Postcards from Cinque Terra - The name may give the impression that you'll only find pictures here... not so. The descriptions are almost poetic, the directions are specific and, then, there are the pictures...

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