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Vernazza-Cinque Terre-La Spezia (Italy)

The Cinque Terre is a rugged portion of coast on the Italian Riviera. It is in the Liguria region of Italy, to the west of the city of La Spezia. “The Five Lands” comprises five villages: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore.

The coastline, the five villages, and the surrounding hillsides are all part of the Cinque Terre National Park and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Cinque Terre is noted for its beauty. Over centuries, people have carefully built terraces on the rugged, steep landscape right up to the cliffs that overlook the sea. Part of its charm is the lack of visible “modern” development. Paths, trains and boats connect the villages, and cars cannot reach it from the outside. It is a very popular tourist destination.

In 1998 the Italian Ministry for the Environment set up the Protected natural marine area Cinque Terre1 to protect the natural environment and to promote socio-economical development compatible with the natural landscape of the area.

In 1999 the Parco Nazionale delle Cinque Terre2 was set up to conserve the ecological balance, protect the landscape, and safeguard the anthropological values of the location.

A local train from La Spezia to Genoa connects the “five lands”. The tracks run most of the distance in a tunnel between Riomaggiore and Monterosso. The train does emerge from the tunnel along the way and there are quick glimpses of the Mediterranean sea.

A passenger ferry runs between the five villages, except Corniglia. The ferry enters Cinque Terre from Genoa’s Old Harbour and La Spezia, Lerici or Portovenere.

A walking trail connects the five villages. The trail from Riomaggiore to Manarola is called the Via Dell’Amore (roughly, “Lovers Walk”) and varies in difficulty from an easy stroll to a rough and physically challenging hike. The stretch from Manarola to Corniglia is the easiest to hike, although the main trail into Corniglia finishes with a climb of 368 stairs. The trail from Corniglia to Vernazza is steep at certain places. The trail from Vernazza to Monterosso is by far the steepest. It winds through olive orchards and vineyards and is rough in places, but offers the best view of the bay and the spectacular approaches to both Monterosso and Vernazza.

There are fees to use the more popular walking trails, but the less frequently traveled (and most arduous) are free of charge. All of the trails are relatively narrow and are usually crowded in high tourist season. Experienced travelers know that small rains will clear the trails and will jump back on the path after one has passed. The Park has trails that can take hikers up into the steep hills. Casual travelers should look at one of the park maps, which will give some idea of how difficult a trail is to travel. Although more challenging and strenuous, these high paths offer different sights than the main trail.

All the villages have small hotels or inns and there are many bed and breakfasts throughout the area, many with beautiful views of the Mediterranean and the surrounding hills. There is a youth hostel located at the top of the town of Manarola (Hostel Cinque Terre). Also, many small apartment owners in some of the villages have banded together and offer use of their apartments through small, locally-owned hospitality businesses. The quality of these accommodations varies greatly, from great to something less than ideal for some. There are usually beds to be found even in the highest part of the tourist season.

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