Italy is such a diverse country in terms of landscape. You have ancient cities, rolling hillsides and villages built high in the cliffs. Cinque Terre is in the Italian Riviera in the Liguria region of Italy. “The Five Lands” is composed of five villages: Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. The coastline, the five villages, and the surrounding hillsides are all part of the Cinque Terre National Park and are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I’ve been to Cinque Terre twice now, once in 2006 and once in 2010. What I love about these five villages is that they are quite literally a breath of fresh air. It is so refreshing to visit them after going to a few larger European cities, such as Rome.
A walking trail, known as Sentiero Azzurro (“Light Blue Trail”), connects all five villages. I’ve never done all five hikes in one day, rather split the hike into two separate days. The trail from Riomaggiore to Manarola is called the Via Dell’Amore (“Love Walk”) and is the easiest walk, as it is all paved and fairly flat. The stretch from Manarola to Corniglia is also easy to hike, although the main trail into Corniglia finishes with a climb of 368 stairs, and on a hot day, man oh man it feels like a lot more!
Cinque Terre is built on cliffsides along the ocean and the mountainsides are heavily terraced and are used to cultivate grapes and olives. The grapes of the Cinque Terre are used to produce two locally made wines. The eponymous Cinque Terre and the Sciachetrà are both made using Bosco, Albarola, and Vermentino grapes. Both wines are produced by the Cooperative Agricoltura di Cinque Terre (“Cinque Terre Agricultural Cooperative”), located between Manarola and Volastra. Other DOC producers are Forlini-Capellini, Walter de Batté, Buranco, Arrigoni. I’ve tried a few of these wines, and their quite good, and seriously, the local wine is dirt cheap, you can buy a bottle for about three Euros, it’s cheaper than buying water! This area, and the region of Liguria, as a whole, is known for pesto, and it is soooo good. I had an amazing meal sitting on the rocks watching the sun set over the cliffs. I bought a pesto pizza from the local pizzeria and a bottle of wine and had the perfect picnic. Best part, the whole meal probably cost about eight Euros. Can’t beat that!