Italy’s beauty, culture, art, food and wine are admired worldwide. Regions such as Veneto, Lombardy, Sicily, Sardinia and Tuscany are crowded each year with tourists wanting to enjoy, at least once in their lifetime, the beauty of such famous cities as Venice, Rome and Florence, or to relax on the beautiful beaches of our islands, which compete with some of the most exotic tourist spots on the globe.
But even some of the lesser known Italian destinations can be equally interesting. Among these the increasingly popular Italian Riviera and its coastal stretch: The Cinque Terre.
Recently listed by the New York Times as one of the top 20 most beautiful places to visit on earth and a Unesco World Heritage site since 1997, the Cinque Terre has gained huge popularity with American tourists in the past couple of years and even China and Japan recently chose this beautiful location as a travel destination, , as evidenced by last year’s high number of visitors from Asia.
Let’s find out more about the Cinque Terre:
RIOMAGGIORE – Nestled between two steep terraced hills whose cliffs descend to the sea, the ancient village of Riomaggiore strikes visitors at first impact with its tall, delightfully coloured houses. The path Via dell’Amore – The Path of Love – starts from here and arrives at Monterosso, curving around the coast and passing by each of the five villages. It is just one of the paths through the Cinque Terre, but definitely the most spectacular because of its breath-taking panoramic view of the beautiful coast.
MANAROLA – “A bright and colourful scene, a paradise of vineyards and olive trees, an ancient village with sea-stained coloured houses which seem to rise from the cliffs of the narrow harbour.” A poetic, but truthful description by Manarola that confirms what anyone who has visited the place experiences: the poetic beauty of Manarola. In addition to its beautiful views of sea and landscape, Manarola offers an array of sites to see: the Gothic Ligurian church of San Lorenzo (1338), built on three naves with a baroque interior; the Campanile Bianco, the old control tower; the historic San Rocco Hospital; and the Oratory of the Disciplinati della Santissima Annunziata that dates back to the 15th century.
CORNIGLIA – Corniglia stands on an imposing promontory about 100 meters high and is the only village without direct access to the sea. To reach this ancient Roman village you will need to climb up the “Lardarina”, a long brick staircase made of 33 flights with 377 steps or take a slightly more comfortable path (but less characteristic) that starts at the railroad. In Corniglia you can visit the parish of St. Peter, considered among the most interesting monuments of the entire coast.
VERNAZZA – Perched on a majestic and fascinating cliff, Vernazza is now classed among the one hundred most beautiful villages in Italy. It has a long and ancient seafaring tradition and, thanks to its natural harbour, preserves its appearance of an ancient marine village better than any other town of the Cinque Terre. We suggest reaching the village by sea in order to enjoy the view of the harbor framed by pastel colored houses. Once there, visit the church of St. Margaret of Antioch and the remains of the fortified city. When walking through the medieval town it is easy to note the magical and mysterious alleyways enclosed by multicolored houses in hues of pink, red and yellow.
MONTEROSSO – Monterosso al Mare was much loved by Eugenio Montale, 1975 Nobel Prize winner for literature. He spent summers in the “rocky and austere village, asylum for fishermen and farmers … “. Here between narrow, intricate streets you can visit the church of San Giovanni Battista or, in modern Fegina, the art nouveau villa of the Montale family. You may also decide to visit the beach and take a swim in the beautiful sea. The beach of Monterosso is the largest on the Cinque Terre coast and alternates between sandy stretches and isolated rocks.