Clusters of brightly colored stucco houses perch above the Ligurian Sea, balanced on impossibly sheer cliffs, and crisscrossed with narrow lanes. Hillsides studded with low rock walls called muretti defy gravity by creating terraces where lush olive and lemon groves cascade down to the quiet blue coves. Cinque Terre travel is one of Italy’s most unforgettable pleasures, and a highlight of Vantage’s new cruise, Sailing the Italian Riviera: Florence to Nice. The ‘five lands” are among the most alluring villages of the crescent-shaped Italian Riviera, but since they are only accessible by train or boat, and since car travel has been banned here for many years, they are not that easy for many tourists to reach. Our small three-masted sailing ship, the S/C Panorama, makes Cinque Terre travel so easy (and fun) by docking right in Porto Venere. From there, a train takes you right to the heart of this traditional — and magical — enclave.
Five Charming Villages
The Cinque Terre is a breathtaking network of five fishing villages — Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore — which hug the Ligurian cliffs of Italy’s western coast. Inhabited since about 643 AD, until the 1960s, they remained isolated and practically inaccessible. Even today, the area’s remoteness has saved it from the intrusions of chain hotels and modern tourist development. Now is the time to discover and explore it. Start by walking along one of the several spectacular hiking trails that connect each town. The famous Sentiero Azzurro, or Azure Trail, is considered the easiest and most popular to hike. Its flat path hugs the coastline, offering panoramic views all along its 7.5 mile route.
Cinque Terre Dining
All that walking means you are bound to work up an appetite, which is a great thing, since dining is one of the great pastimes of Cinque Terre travel. Every cafe tempts with fresh mussels, squid, cuttlefish, sardines, octopus, and more, served in steaming stews and soups, wrapped into fresh ravioli, or marinated and served in flavorful salads. Muscoli ripieni delle Cinque Terre is a local favorite: mussels are chopped with mortadella, pecorino cheese, parmesan, and breadcrumbs mixed with herbs and eggs, then used as a topping for mussels simmering in tomato sauce. Try the local fariinata, a chickpea-based savory pancake. The Cinque Terre village of Monterosso is famous for its anchovies, which are so prized they have received a Protected Designation of Origin status from the European Union. Cinque Terre pandolce is the traditional dessert, a sweet and chewy pastry with sultanas, candied citron peel, fennel seeds and orange flower water. In Corniglia, don’t miss the special gelato made from local honey called miele di Conrniglia.
The Lover’s Walk
Stroll the Via dell’Amore, or Lover’s Walk, which connects the towns of Riomaggiore and Manarola. Located right above sea level, the winding path cuts into the cliff, where you can appreciate a moment to enjoy the breathtaking views as you listen to the sound of crashing waves below. If you plan to take this route with your significant other, have a padlock on hand for when you reach “The Lover’s Lock.” Once there, close the lock, leave it behind, and seal your eternal love for each other as thousands of other couples have done before you.
Cinque Terre is a unique part of the world that was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, national park, and protected marine area. Whether you hike or walk or while away your time sipping wine in a local cafe, you’ll be amply rewarded if some Cinque Terre travel is part of your Italian experience.