The French Riviera is legendary – towns like St Tropez, Cannes, Nice
and Monte Carlo are the luxurious seductive resort towns for the rich and
famed, known for beaches, brilliant coast and beautiful people. But
neighboring Italy, the country known for cuisine, climate and amorous
citizens, has its own gorgeous coastline. The Cinque Terre is arguably the
most spectacular stretch of seaside towns clinging to cliffs on the Ligurian
Sea. As a destination, Cinque Terre – the Five Lands, is an ideal place for
exploration, relaxation and a true taste of Italy from centuries ago. Just
know that in the prime summer months, Cinque Terre is very busy. Tour groups
and guidebooks like Rick Steve’s have clued travelers into this Italian
Riviera gem, so it’s far from undiscovered.
The Five towns that comprise Cinque Terre descending the coast from North East about 60 miles below Genoa, are Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. Each town has its own charm and they are all connected by train, by boat or by hiking trails (most quite rigorous) through the seasides vineyards. This area, now a World Heritage Park and UNESCO site, dates back centuries. Roman paths, churches and stone fortifications that cling to the mountainsides attest to the hearty people who have lived and thrived here. Today Italians take great pride in this region which produces excellent vino bianco and Schiaccattra – a sweet but potent white dessert wine, Olive oil, pesto and foccacia to name a few - plus abundant fresh seafood from anchovies to octopus.
However the biggest industry these days in Cinque Terre is tourism. These quaint five towns have been discovered, thanks to Rick Steve’s and his Italian Guidebooks full of Cinque Terre recommendations. We cannot imagine being here during the peak season from June thru August. Be prepared to encounter throngs of tourists at train station, on boat rides and even on aggressive hikes – many of whom are not physically prepared for the rugged landscape of this region.
2012 Travel Update:Dramatic flooding in October 2011 caused damage to the towns of Vernazza and Monterossa. While most of the repair and restoration in Cinque Terre is complete, some hiking paths, roads and terraces are still under construction.