Cinque Terre, Liguria Italy

The Cinque Terre is a rugged portion of coast on the Italian Riviera. It is in the Liguria region of Italy, to the west of the city of La Spezia. “The Five Lands” is composed of five villages: Monterosso al Mare,Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. The coastline, the five villages, and the surrounding hillsides are all part of the Cinque Terre National Park and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Over centuries, people have carefully built terraces on the rugged, steep landscape right up to the cliffs that overlook the sea. Part of its charm is the lack of visible corporate development. Paths, trains and boats connect the villages, and cars cannot reach them from the outside. The Cinque Terre is a very popular tourist destination.

Local trains from La Spezia to Genoa and the rest of the region’s network connect the “five lands”. Intercity trains also connect the Cinque Terre to Milan, Rome, Turin and Tuscany. The tracks run most of the distance in tunnels between Riomaggiore and Monterosso. Trains occasionally emerge from the tunnels along the way and there are quick glimpses of the Mediterranean sea; it’s definitely the quickest and easiest way to move around the area. A passenger ferry runs between the five villages, except Corniglia. The ferry enters Cinque Terre from Genoa’s Old Harbour and La Spezia, Lerici or Porto Venere.

A walking trail, known as Sentiero Azzurro (“Light Blue Trail”), connects the five villages. The trail from Riomaggiore to Manarola is called the Via Dell’Amore (“Love Walk”) and is wheelchair-friendly. The stretch from Manarola to Corniglia is the easiest to hike, although the main trail into Corniglia finishes with a climb of 368 stairs. The trail from Corniglia to Vernazza is steep at certain places. The trail from Vernazza to Monterosso is by far the steepest. It winds through olive orchards and vineyards and is rough in places, but offers the best view of the bay and the spectacular approaches to both Monterosso and Vernazza. The difference in height for the whole Sentiero Azzurro is more than 600 meters and the length is more than 10 km. It takes approximately 5 hours to walk it. There are fees to use the more popular walking trails, but the less frequently traveled (and most arduous) are free of charge. You can purchase a pass that includes access to the paths as well as unlimited local train trips between La Spezia and Monterosso for 24 or 48 hours (5 and 7 day passes withdrawn from sale since April 2011). This is a great option if you are planning to spend the day between all of the towns, but train fares themsleves are very cheap within the region anyway. The ferry pass has now been discontinued. All of the trails are relatively narrow and are usually crowded in high tourist season. Experienced travelers know that short rains will clear the trails, and will jump back on the path after one has passed. The Park has trails that can take hikers up into the steep hills. Casual travelers should look at one of the park maps, which will give some idea of how difficult a trail is to travel. Although more challenging and strenuous, these high paths offer different sights from the main trail.

All the villages have small hotels or inns and there are many bed and breakfasts throughout the area, many with beautiful views of the Mediterranean and the surrounding hills. There are youth hostels located throughout the area. Also, many small apartment owners in some of the villages have banded together and offer use of their apartments through small, locally-owned hospitality businesses. The quality of these accommodations varies greatly, from great to something less than ideal for some. Finding an available room in the height of the tourist season can be virtually impossible in several of the towns, and because cars are not allowed, be prepared to drag your bags for miles over uneven stone streets, up steep inclines, and up staircases in the sweltering summer heat.

Given its location on the Mediterranean, seafood is plentiful in the local cuisine. Anchovies of Monterosso are a local specialty designated with a Protected Designation of Origin status from the European Union. The mountainsides of the Cinque Terre are heavily terraced and are used to cultivate grapes and olives. This area, and the region of Liguria, as a whole, is known for pesto — a sauce made from basil leaves, garlic, salt, olive oil, pine nuts and pecorino cheese. Focaccia is a particularly common locally baked bread product. Farinata is also a typical snack found in bakeries and pizzerias- essentially it is a savoury and crunchy pancake made from a base of chick-pea flour. The town of Corniglia is particularly popular for “miele di Corniglia,” gelato, made from local honey.

The grapes of the Cinque Terre are used to produce two locally made wines. The eponymous Cinque Terre and the Sciachetrà are both made using Bosco, Albarola, and Vermentino grapes. Both wines are produced by the Cooperative Agricoltura di Cinque Terre (“Cinque Terre Agricultural Cooperative”), located between Manarola and Volastra. Other DOC producers are Forlini-Capellini, Walter de Batté, Buranco, Arrigoni. In addition to wines, other popular local drinks include grappa, a brandy made with the pomace left from winemaking, and limoncello, a sweet liqueur flavored with lemons.

Monterosso al Mare, Cinque Terre, Liguria, Italy. Monterosso al Mare is one of the five villages of the “Cinque Terre” on the rugged coastline of Liguria.

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Vernazza. Vernazza is a town and comune located in the province of La Spezia, Liguria, northwestern Italy. It is one of the five towns that make up the Cinque Terre region.

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Corniglia. Corniglia is a frazione of the commune of Vernazza in the province of La Spezia, Liguria, northern Italy.

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Manarola. Manarola (Manaea in the local dialect) is a small town, a frazione of the comune of Riomaggiore, in the province of La Spezia, Liguria, northern Italy.

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Riomaggiore. Riomaggiore (Rimazùu in the local Ligurian language) is a village and comune in the province of La Spezia, situated in a small valley in the Liguria region of Italy.

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