“The Five Lands” Cinque Terre, Italy

It’s the colors that strike you first. Candy-colored homes, narrow stone walkways and breathtaking views of the glistening azure and turquoise Ligurian Sea. Few Americans have heard of these tiny villages, set like jewels into the Ligurian Coast and known as the Cinque Terre or “The Five Lands”.

The Cinque Terre is made up of 5 villages: Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore perched up in the cliffs overlooking the Ligurian Sea.  Whether you are here for a day or several, visiting this enchanting region is a must to tantalize your taste buds with fresh pesto, regional wine, local seafood.

Of the five villages, we suggest staying at Monterosso because it is the largest and less than 2 hours from Genoa airport which makes it easy to reach via private car or train. Monterosso has many accommodation options, wine shops, restaurants and one of the best beaches.  In an area like the Cinque Terre you will not find hotels like the Ritz Carlton, but you can make up what you lack in luxury accommodations with the breathtaking views and amazing service provided by the locals. The Hotel Porto Roca is one of the 4 star hotels located here. Perched on a cliff the hotel comes with a 180 degree view of the sea which can be seen from your very own terrace.

A great option for those wishing to stay in Manarola, the southern part of town is La Toretta. Here you will find a perfect marriage between modern and old world luxury with beautifully decorated rooms. Each room is also equipped with floor to ceiling marble paired with a jet powered soaking tub.

You wouldn’t want to go to Cinque Terre and only visit one of the villages, you must visit all 5! Make sure you bring a pair of comfortable shoes as most of the site seeing is best done on foot.

Cinque Terre is also known as the Five Lands and has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In 1998 the Italian Government passed legislation to protect the natural environment and to further encourage ecological balance in the water and on the land. Today it is enjoyed by millions of visitors who have come and left with a small piece of enchantment.

Hiking trails, in all manner of upkeep, crisscross the land. From paved walkways suspended above the sea to rough steep gravel pathways, there is something for every visitor looking to experience fresh air and views above and along the coast.

Starting in the most northern or southern tip is the best way to go;  if you choose to start in the most southern point of Riomaggiore it is here that you enter the national park and the start of the hiking trails that connect all the villages. Prepare yourself for a mind blowing experience; the stunning rugged coast of the Italian Riviera has been seen on thousands of postcards and once you visit you will realize why. As you hike through each village you will see that each have their own charm. If you’re not an avid hiker there is also a railroad line that you can use to avoid some of the not so pleasant stretches of the hiking trail.

The Cinque Terre is well known for its Sciacchetrà wine which is native to this region.  It is made with a mixture of Bosco, Albarola, and Vermintino grapes and has a sweet flavor. A Sciacchetrà Riserva wine is one which has been aged for three full years prior to commercial release. They offer aromas of honey and white blossoms, with hints of citrus perfect for sitting on your balcony taking in the marvelous scenery!

Restaurants in the area tend to display the days catch from the Lingurian Sea next to the door menu for tourists to view as they are passing by. Be adventurous and let the chef decide for you! If you have room for dinner try Gambero Rosso. This seafood restaurant is set in the picturesque Piazza Marconi, framed by the bell tower of Santa Margherita and the tall keep of the Doria Castle. Considered by many to be the best restaurant in Vernazza, you will need to book ahead. Be sure to sample the stuffed mussels, fresh pastas and of course the freshly made pesto is a must! Cinque Terre in the Italian Riviera is a five star vacation spot that has to be added to your bucket list hands down.