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Cinque Terre, the "Five Lands" in Liguria
One of Italy's most valuable treasures

Cinque Terre/Italy (2012) – I am not exaggerating when I tell you that one of the most beautiful places one can find in Europe is Cinque Terre, the breathtaking "Five Lands", located in the northwest of Italy, in the Liguria region, on the coast of the Italian Riviera. Cinque Terre with its five little villages Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso is a World Heritage Site since 1997 and since 1999 also a declared National Park, the "Parco Nazionale delle Cinque Terre", which also includes the coastline with its hamlets and the villages surrounding hillsides with its famous hiking trails. Although the villages can be reached by car, it's not an idea you should favor when planning a trip to this gorgeous sight. Be aware, visiting Cinque Terre is not like Disneyland with huge parking facilities nor highway-like roads from one to the next destination, to get there and to get around is an adventure to say the least. So forget the car, take the train, a boat or a passenger ferry in between the villages. And be prepared to walk. A lot! Up and down, stairs over stairs, but all in all, so worth it! No matter where and how you start touring Cinque Terre, the charm of the "Five Lands" will take your breath away and blisters always heal.   
How to get around in Cinque Terre? By train, ferry boat or by foot but not by car!
The most convenient way to visit all of Cinque Terre is approaching Riomaggiore first, coming from the direction La Spezia. To arrive until here by car is fine, if you are early enough in the day only, especially during high season. You have no idea how packed this National Park gets by the hour. Check your car into a nice parking spot for the day, it will save you time, nerves and not to forget money and continue from there by train or boat. This is an easy and enjoyable way to travel in between the villages and you always can mix it up a bit by using a hiking trail for a change. If you know what you are up for and you're absolutely sure you're ready for it, you can also use the famous coast trail and hike the whole distance for guaranteed amazing views. On a side note: do your research before if you plan on hiking, because it is always a possibility that some parts of the trails are closed due to damage from previous landslides. The villages of Cinque Terre are from time to time severely affected by torrential rains which cause flooding and mudslides and damage to hiking trails and the villages. But if you consider hiking, you should start from Riomaggiore to Manarola on the famous and very romantic "Via dell' Amore", the walkway of love. It's an easy walk, all flat and with an amazing view especially on the return during sunset. What better way to begin a hike which might end with pain in your legs and some blisters.

Riomaggiore 
Riomaggiore is the most southern village of the five. It's a very colorful village, known for its historic buildings and character. The village offers everything tourists appreciate, restaurants, shops, even a small beach and some local produced wine. When exploring the village you need to be in love with climbing stairs. In order to get around and be able to see what the village has to offer, you will have to climb lots of it! Especially if you want to enjoy the view from on top of the hill overlooking the sea, from the castle of Riomaggiore, built in 1260. Make sure you also see the church of San Giovanni Battista and the church of San Lorenzo, both built in the 14th century.

Manarola 
From Riomaggiore you move on to Manarola, one of the most charming and the second smallest of the Cinque Terre villages and the oldest of the five. In Manarola are not cars parked in the narrow streets between the colorful houses but boats of the fishermen also to remind visitors that it's all about fish in this village. You just have to see this! Manarola is also famous for its wine. Before the Cinque Terre villages could profit from the tourist business, winemaking brought the money in by turning the steep coastline into terraced vineyards and creating under the Ligurian sun the Cinque Terre D.O.C. and the rather sweet Sciacchetrà D.O.C., best paired with cheese or of course dessert.

Corniglia
Unlike the other villages Corniglia, the third on the list of five, is not directly adjacent to the sea, is smaller and more quiet, probably because it's harder to reach, the ferry boat for example doesn't stop there. It sits on the top of a little hill about 100 meters high, surrounded on three sides by vineyards and terraces and the fourth side descends steeply to the sea. Corniglia is connected to the other villages by well maintained footpaths. The walkway to its train station is known as "Lardarina", with other words 377 stairs! Corniglia is an ancient Roman village that has a long and rich agricultural tradition.  

Vernazza
Vernazza, number four of the list of five, is known as the most picturesque village of Cinque Terre and a true fishing village. It's also classified as one of the most beautiful villages in Italy. Vernazza is very old, founded about 1000 A.D. The medieval castle, Belforte, was built in the 16th century to protect the inhabitants from pirates. The harbor area with the colorful fisher boats is a "Kodak spot" and the piazza home to shops and restaurants. Vernazza is surrounded by lots of olive groves on steep terraces which, so I was told, would produce some of the finest olive oil in Liguria.

Monterosso
Last but not least we arrive in the fifth village of Cinque Terre, in Monterosso. A beautiful place with a long beach for some relaxing hours, kind of a beach town you would expect there and the right place you would wish for after having visited the other four villages, water, beach and sun. It's the only sand beach in the Cinque Terre area. Monterosso is the largest of the five coastal villages and divided in two parts, the old and the new town, connected by a tunnel. The new and more modern part is called "Fegina" and can't be missed, since it's dominated by Monterosso's symbol, a huge concrete sculpture which represents Neptune, the God of the sea. The old part is full of historic buildings and ruins of a castle. The village is known for its lemons, olives and white wines which can be bought in one of the many wine shops along the way.

Cinque Terre (Vernazza) made it also to Hollywood, in 2013 the "The Wolf of Wall Street", a Martin Scorsese film with Leonardo DiCaprio, used also the Ligurian gem as film location.

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