If you are looking for a European tourist destination, consider the Liguria region of northern Italy, commonly known as the Italian Riviera. This thin strip of land lies on the Ligurian Sea, not far from Monaco and the French Riviera. While Liguria is by no means undiscovered, its crowds are much smaller than those next door. The region is home to many little towns or villages, and an international port city almost smack dab in the center of the coast. This article explores Cinque Terre, five little seaside villages that just might steal your heart. Be sure to read the other articles in this series: eastern Liguria, western Liguria, and Genoa, the capital and largest city of Liguria.
Cinque Terre are five coastal villages located in eastern Liguria. Collectively they form a UNESCO World Heritage site. If you are ambitious and in good shape you may hike through them all. Or take the train from one village to another and live to hike another day.
Some of the trails evolved from mule paths. The most popular one is Sentiero Azzuro (Blue Trail) that runs along the water. It’s about 8 miles (13 kilometers) long and can easily take five hours or more hours to complete.
Monterosso al Mare, population about 1500, is the largest and busiest of these five villages. Stone steps take you from the village center to the port and seaside promenade. Monterosso al Mare is surrounded by hills bedecked in vineyards and olive groves. Thursday is market day.
Vernazza is the only natural port of the five villages and so became wealthier than its neighbors. Consequently its architecture is more elaborate. Make sure to see the Castle of the Doria, the watchtowers, and the Romanesque sanctuary of Nostra Signora di Reggio (Our Lady of Reggio).
Corniglia, a farming village, is the most remote of the Cinque Terre villages and the only one not directly on the sea. To get there from the railway you must conquer 337 steps in 33 flights of stairs. Once you’re there make sure to see the Fourteenth Century Church of San Pietro (St. Peter) built in the Gothic-Ligurian style.
Manarola is the center of the local wine and olive oil industry. What a color feast: the houses are pastel, the water is turquoise, and the rock on which the town sits is black. Make sure to see theVia dell'Amore (Love Road) that joins Manarola with Riomaggiore, said to provide some of the most thrilling scenery in the world. Riomaggiore is the most accessible and therefore the least charming of the five villages. Be sure to see the ruins of a Fifteenth-Sixteenth Century castle.
Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten books on computers and the Internet, but to be honest, he would rather just drink fine Italian or other wine, accompanied by the right foods. He teaches classes in computers at an Ontario French-language community college. Visit his website www.travelitalytravel.com devoted to Italian travel with an accent on fine Italian wine and food. Visit his central wine website www.theworldwidewine.com with weekly reviews of $10 wine and columns devoted to various aspects of wine including wine and food, humor, trivia, organic and kosher wine and lots more.Click to access the original, longer article on this Italian tourist location.
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