One of the most popular tourist destinations in Italy, Cinque Terre still preserves natural beauty of the landscape full of wine grapes, orange orchards, prick pears overlooking majestic cliff shore with groups of tiny colorful houses growing out of the rocks.
Cinque Terre- means ‘five lands’ as once these locations were completely separated like different ‘lands’ hidden from the eyes of intruders.
For centuries these small villages were accessed only by the boat, or by the narrow paths hidden in the rocks, the passages known only to the locals.
As the response for growing number of the visitors, these hidden paths were developed into one long walkway, which connects all five locations.
The path stretches along the coast offering spectacular views of hills covered with wine grapes and, sometimes, prickly pears, orange blossom and rosemary above the water, which persistently fights against sharp cliffs surmounted with tiny, colorful houses.
Following one of Europe’s most famous footpaths takes good five hours, fortunately the local train makes another option for the tourists, who don’t want to spend more time for walking.
The train line links all five villages, and it runs quite frequently during the season, there is also a possibility to get off on one station and later jump into the train on another.
Also the ferry boats run between chosen villages.
The wandering spirit of discoverer who follows the coastal path is spoiled a bit by the toll gates on both ends of the path, but the spectacular views explain paid entrance fee.
Riomaggiore features of 14th century castle ruins with two preserved towers and hidden on the hill sanctuary of Our Lady of Montenero.
The 20 min walk from Riomaggiore to Manarola is known as the Via dell’Amore with stone bridges and path tunnel beneath overhanging rocks.
After visiting the remains of Roman culture in Manarola the tourist head towards Corniglia passing by another sanctuary ( Our Lady Victorious).
Another small village on the way – Corniglia is located on the cliff some hundred meters above the sea.
The path between Corniglia and Vernazza leads through olive groves and vines, as this is the beginning of the vineyards, that give the famous local white wine known under the name Sciacchetrà.
The tour ends in Monterosso al Mare, on the sandy beach, the only one in five villages, near the remains of the picturesque castle touched by the coast waters.
The church of St. Francis of Asissi preserves the art masterpieces, including Van Dyck and Bernardo Strozzi.
How to get to Cinque Terre
There are plenty of international flights to Genoa, from where starts the local train to La Spezia, which goes through five villages.
Monterosso is on the Genoa side, while Riomaggiore is the closes location to La Spezia. La Spezia is easy accessible by motorway from Florence and Bologna airports.
The coastline with the five villages, and the surroundings are all part of the Cinque Terre National Park and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
[Manarola,Cinque Terre photo courtesy of Robert Crum]