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Cinque Terre, in romantic Italy
Take a look at any picture of Cinque Terre, which is the string of five towns clinging precariously to the most rugged portion of Liguria’s coastline, in Italy and you will keep staring at the amazing sight. That was when we decided needed to visit Cinque Terre, which looked and sounded absolutely romantic. It was!
Apparently Ligurian farmers have been working hard on repairing the wild slopes with neat stone terraces for over 2000 years but catastrophic flooding in late 2011 wiped out the centuries of work. The floods destroyed a lot of the terraced vineyards and parts of the famed paths connecting the five towns. In the intervening year and a half, the locals have stretched themselves thin, to rebuild the terraces, dig out the paths and repair the damaged buildings themselves.
Clearing the debris off the steep cliffs and car-free towns made the whole effort highly challenging, but it’s looking better than ever today say locals. Walking is the best way to experience Cinque Terre, but take it all in leisurely. The five villages of Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore - each village has its own personality and beauty. As you walk, along the way, be sure to explore the small hidden beaches below and climb up to the heights of the five scenic sanctuaries, perched above the towns.
This portion of the Italian Riviera is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and for sure the rugged beauty and the slow pace of life in the Cinque Terre, will relax you no end. Cars aren't allowed, so take local trains or ferries and move slowly from walking from town to town.
The best way to get around the Cinque Terre is with the Cinque Terre card available at all of the local train stations, which gives you unlimited use of the walking paths, electric village buses, the elevator in Riomaggiore and cultural exhibitions.
Hikers enjoy the miles and miles of breathtaking trails since the Cinque Terre is along northern Italy's Riviera. And while trekking through the five villages is certainly a backpacker's dream — each town is a unique destination carved rather amazingly into the steep terraced-vineyard coastline. In fact, the only way to truly experience the sensory overload that this small area has to offer is by getting off those well-trodden paths. It seems almost unfair how much intense beauty, great cuisine and amazing aromas are jam-packed into such a small area.
Before you start connecting the Cinque Terre dots, bouncing from one village to the next, take a short uphill trek through gorgeous vineyards, to the Santuario della Madonna di Montenero. The journey seems out of a picture book, with nature at her best, with fragrant wildflowers and colourful butterflies. Enjoy uninterrupted views of the entire 11-mile coastline from 1,100 feet above sea level. The sanctuary, is church which is still in use, with a pink and yellow bell tower, a great example of the 14th-century buildings that have made these five little towns famous.
When you reach Riomaggiore look for signs pointing to the village's biggest attraction- the Via dell'Amore. It connects Riomaggiore and Manarola, and makes a leisurely stroll, with a lovely flat coastal path that was carved into the mountain almost a century ago. The awe inspiring views and romantic nooks have given it the nickname, the Path of Love.
The tiny town of Manarola is a confection of pastel houses that climb up the side of black cliff, next to the region's famous vineyards. Famous for two specialty wines, the Cinque Terre, a dry white, wine, and Sciacchetrà, a sweet late-harvest dessert wine.
Head to Trattoria dal Billy, for a taste of a home cooking. It's a quaint three-story restaurant tucked into Manarola's lush mountainside where you can enjoy local specialties like anchovies with salt or lemon, and taglierini with tomato, pecorino, pine nuts, baby shrimp, pepper and olive oil.
Since you've probably been stealing glimpses of the Mediterranean Sea since you've arrived, now it's time to enjoy it. Board the last boat to the westernmost and largest village, Monterosso by the Sea, which, as its name suggests, is the most resort like, of them all. And if you didn't come to the Cinque Terre to party, be happily surprised.During the warmer months, day trippers and locals alike will have beach parties along the Via Fegina where luckily all are welcome.
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