The Cinque Terre
Cinque Terre which means “Five Lands”, is part of the UNESCO World Heritage List and is one of the most photographed and painted areas of the Ligurian coast. Five small coastal villages of Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso are a marvelous tourist destination at the foot of terraced hills that fall steeply toward the sea.
The train is the easiest way to get to the Cinque Terre from Milan, because a car is not needed here, and it would be almost impossible to park in these tiny hillside towns, in any case. You can plan a day trip by leaving early in the morning and spending the entire day walking and hiking and taking the local boat or train from town to town. We suggest getting off at Riomaggiore, the southern most town, and then walking north to the next town, Manarola along the famous “Via dell’Amore” (Lover’s Walk). You'll be amazed by the Mediterranean herbs and trees that grow spontaneously from the top of the hills down to the water level.
When you get to Manarola, wander around the narrow streets and stop for a refreshing granita before proceeding to the next village. If you feel like swimming, it is possible to swim in the sea at each of the 5 villages. There are two large sandy beaches at Monterosso, a small sandy beach at the harbor of Vernazza, and pebble beaches near Riomaggiore and Corniglia.
Shopping for a "delicious" souvenir? The fame of the Cinque Terre is also due to its food products, the dry white wine, simply called 'Cinque Terre' and the 'Sciacchetrà', a prized dessert wine made from prime grapes dried to the point of holding only a few drops of sweet juice. A colorful addition to the Cinque Terre products is 'limoncino'; a dessert wine made from steeping lemon peels in pure alcohol and then adding sugar and water to make a fragrant and fresh liquor.
Ready for lunch? By this time you should have travelled from Manaola to Corniglia the little town perched on the top of the hill, and on to Vernazza. The cuisine of the Cinque Terre almost perfectly conserves the characteristics of the past with deep respect for the flavors and fragrances of the primary ingredients.
One of the local specialties is called "Trofie", a kind of twisted pasta made from chestnut or wheat flour. Its condiment is usually Pesto Sauce, an original Ligurian sauce made from basil leaves, extra virgin olive oil, grated cheeses, and pine nuts. Delicious!
Take a boat or local train from Vernazza to the last town: Monterosso, the largest village of the Cinque Terre. The Aurora tower, on the hill of San Cristoforo, divides the old medieval hamlet, from the new part of the village, developed along the Fegina beach. In the XVI century Monterosso was defended by thirteen towers. Today only three of these towers are standing: the tower of the castle, the medieval tower converted into San Giovanni church bell tower and the the Aurora tower.
Each of the five towns has its own character so be sure to spend some time in each village before taking the train back to Milan.
All the villages have small hotels or inns, and there are many bed and breakfasts throughout the area that offer excellent service and frequently breathtaking views of the Mediterranean and the surrounding hills. If you wish to stay overnight, however, we suggest booking well in advance because the hotels and inns fill up quickly, especially on the weekends.
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