Located along 18km of cliffs between Levanto and La Spezia, the Cinque Terre is one of Italy’s most prized treasures. These five villages, with names like Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore, are cut off by mountains overflowing with olive groves and dry-stone walled vineyards, where for many centuries farmers have made their living.
In 1997, the Cinque Terre was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. It includes a protected marine park area and became a national park (Parco Nazionale delle Cinque Terre) in 1999. The traditional way of transporting grapes by wine growers is still used to ferry themselves and their produce.
Cars and motor bikes are not permitted in the villages, which are connected by train about 5 minutes apart mostly through the tunnels. Electric buses scale the sheer streets and park authorities close the walking paths when it becomes too congested. It is best to visit in the morning when it is cooler and less crowded. If you seek accommodations, many villagers have rooms to rent, look out for signs reading camere (rooms) or affittacamere (rooms for rent). There are also booking offices in Riomaggiore that can assist you in organizing a room ahead of your stay. The Cinque Terre’s restaurants and some of its hotels tend to close from around November until March or April. However, restaurateurs in the villages arrange it so at least one restaurant in each village remains open on any given day all year round.
When you plan a vacation in Europe, make sure to include Cinque Terre as one of your stops. These five Ligurian villages seem stuck in time as they cling to the steeply terraces cliffs and form one of Italy’s most spectacular stretches of coast.
Photo: Glenn van der Knijff, Lonely Planet Photographer