The Beautiful Villages of the Cinque Terre
The "Five Lands"
The Cinque Terre, or "five lands," is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful areas of Italy. If you have been fortunate to experience this rugged coastal area on the Italian Riviera then you know first hand how beautiful it truly is. Connected by the local train, the ferry, and it's renown trail system, this Unesco World Heritage Site has something for everyone. The beautiful mountainsides of the Cinque Terre are heavily terraced and are used to cultivate both grapes and olives. The Cinque Terre was designated a National Park in 1999 and as such, requires a small fee to utilize the network of trails that connect the villages.
The northern most of the five villages, Monterosso, is the only one of the five with an extensive sand beach area. It is also the closest thing to a resort feeling on the Cinque Terre coast. Monterosso has more hotels and restaurants than any of the other villages and has more night life than the other quieter villages. Monterosso was built to accommodate many tourists so its modern apartments and hotels lack some of the charm of the other towns. While its beachfront area has an abundance of restaurants and cafes, its back streets are not quite as interesting as some of the other villages.
MonterossoClick thumbnail to view full-size
The trail from Corniglia to Vernazza is undoubtedly the toughest stretch of the trail system that connects the five villages. The effort, however, is greatly rewarded with stunning views as you make your way down to the small harbor area. Here you can go for a dip, eat in one of the outdoor cafes, or simply watch the coming and goings of this quiet fishing village. If you choose to continue on to Monterosso from Vernazza, you will find heading out of town to be very steep. The views looking back toward Vernazza, however, are spectacular.
VernazzaClick thumbnail to view full-size
We chose to make Corniglia our home on our visit to the Cinque Terre. Its location as the middle of the five villages and its reputation as the quietest of the villages drew us here. Corniglia is the only village that is not on the water as it is located high up on a rocky cliff. The only access to the village from the train station is by climbing the 365 steps up the hill (not recommended with luggage) or there is a bus run by the National Park that takes people back and forth. The high vantage point allows for wonderful views up and down the coast. There are some wonderful restaurants here in Corniglia and we thoroughly enjoyed our stay in this quaint and scenic village.
CornigliaClick thumbnail to view full-size
Manarola, the second of the five villages, is a very easy hike on the coastal trail from Corniglia. The approach here will offer one of the iconic images of the village as you round the last bend in the trail and the village comes into view. The lower part of town is filled with boats of all types and the village's main industry continues to be fishing, wine making, and of course, tourism. From Manarola, it is a short 200-meter walk to Riomaggiore on the "Via dell' Amore" or "Walk of Love".
ManarolaClick thumbnail to view full-size
Riomaggiore is the first of the Cinque Terre that one meets as they head north out of La Spezia. Most of the action in Riomaggiore occurs on the main street, the Via Colombo, where there are a variety of cafes, bars, and restaurants. While Riomaggiore is a fairly small village, it is quite steep as you head inland from the shore and can be tough on the legs. Riomaggiore is widely known for its locally produced wine.
RiomaggioreClick thumbnail to view full-size
The five villages are all unique and beautiful in their own right. Which one appeals to you is simply a matter of your taste and preferences. No matter where you opt to stay during your visit to Cinque Terre, be sure to visit as many of the villages as possible. They all offer stunning coastal views and wonderful food and local wine. Enjoy your visit.
Ciao for now.
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© 2012 Bill De Giulio