Cinque Terre means Five Lands, a reference to the five, small villages that populate a coastline of about 20 kilometers on the northwestern coast of Italy. The region is called Liguria. Liguria includes Genova (of Christopher Columbus fame).
Think of that place just between Tuscany and the south of France. Think of century-old vineyards built onto the sides of steep rocks by fishermen. It’s like the Amalfi coast of the North. Pesto, grapes for white wines, and anchovies (served about two dozen different ways) here are king and a deep source of pride.
Here’s an overview of what the Cinque Terre coastline looks like:
The most famous five villages along this coastline are: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso. These small villages are built along green cliffs that slope into the Mediterranean Sea. Italians refer to the Cinque Terre as “Terre tra cielo e mare,” or Land between Sky and Sea. (When you see it, you’ll know what they mean.)
The Cinque Terre village by village
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The Cinque Terre villages became famous because of their fishermen and their wine producers — the sea was not only incredibly beautiful but also rich, and its vineyards are well-known because they are terraced along steep coastlines, with vines just a few meters away from the sea.
The sea is tempting and that deep but bright beautiful blue.
Locals jump from rocks directly into the water, wherever they are and wherever it is possible.
The feeling that you get from walking through each of these villages is the main reason people come to visit them. But, there are a few other attractions and special things to do while you’re here (besides getting your fill of fresh Italian seafood and delicious Italian wines).
First, there is the hiking. Cinque Terre is actually a national park, and trails connect each of the five major villages. The views you experience while walking the trails will be amazing. One interesting fact — until about 50 years ago, the trails were the only roads that locals used to use in order to get around (apart from riding in their boats).
There is a hike for everyone — the shortest one is 25 minutes, the longest one can take about 2 hours. When you review the trail maps that we’ll provide for you, you’ll see that there are two different types of trails that connect the villages — the ones that run closer to sea level (easy/intermediate trails) and then the other set of trails that run along the tops of the hills (a bit more difficult). The nice thing is that, while you hiking these trails, you can find a spot from which to jump into the sea.
Then, there are the Italian wine tastings. When you taste wines from this area, they will taste different than what you’re used to back in the United States. This is because of proximity of the vineyards to salt water. Be prepared to try many different Italian wines.
And it wouldn’t be a seaside holiday without a proper boat ride, which will give you a totally different perspective and will help you understand why those colored houses are built along these hills the way they are.
Speaking of the sea, let’s not forget that we’ll all be relaxing by the beach when you get here. The water is safe (i.e., no sharks), and refreshing.
Die hard locals will do all of the above in the same day.
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