The Cinque Tere is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located on the beautiful Italian Riviera. Truly, one of the most captivatingly picturesque places in all of Italy, The Cinque Terre continues to retain its old world characteristics.
And that, of course, is a problem for travelers who do not like to find themselves amidst a horde of tourists. The question is not whether to go, but when. Our recommendations: May or June; September or October. It is still warm, but not as warm and humid as the height of summer.
Modernity in all its dubious glory has not managed to impinge itself too heavily because The Cinque Terre is well off the main highways and rail lines that give life to modern industry and create the usual activity that a growing population demands. Not only that, but steps have been taken to protect the natural - and man-made - environment from over development.
The unique, rugged landscape of The Cinque Terre, consisting of sharply defined mountains, steep valleys, daunting cliffs and narrow beaches, is almost all within the Parco Nazionale delle Cinque Terre and it has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Moreover the local waters are a protected marine area within Italy.
There are a few cars within Cinque Terre, and a small network of roads used by local people, or by the drivers who bring goods to the place, but for travelers and tourists, it is mostly inaccessible by car. Better to take the train (or a coastal ferry) from Spezia (south), or Levanto (north), and take-in the sites on foot.
There are a number of well-worn paths in The Cinque Terre, but the Via Dell'Amore - the lover's walk - strings all five villages, winding its way along beaches, and through the many olive orchards, vineyards and chestnut woods on the terraced seaside slopes.
The easiest part of the route is from Riomaggiore to Manorola, but things get more difficult from Corniglia to Vernazza, and very difficult from Vernazza to Monterossa, as the hills become steeper and more challenging. At some points you will be 1000 feet above the level of the sea.
During the summer months, along the beaches one can take the sun at one of several Lidos, or perhaps find a small stretch of beach. If you want to be more active, you can hire a boat, swim in the azure waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea, or go snorkeling or scuba diving in the Riomaggiore area. The local waters team with fish, so you can hang a line from pier, rock or boat.
Strolling through the medieval villages you will encounter many churches, including the oldest in Manorola, whose cornerstone dates to 1060 AD. When you are hungry, and perhaps tired from your wanderings, each of the villages has its share of cafes and restaurants.
It will not surprise you that Ligurian fare is heavily oriented to sea food with pasta running a close second. The the sauces, many of them based on basil, pine nuts and other local produce, are sensational. If you are a lover of wines, then eat your meal with one of the delicious local wines.
The Cinque Terre is situated on an east-west axis, but still, there are stunning views across the water to the west where you will see blazing Mediterranean sunsets you will be unable to describe to your friends back home.
The Cinque Terre is the ultimate in the paradox which confronts the veteran and novice traveler alike: avoiding the most heavily touristed places means not seeing the places that are most heavily touristed because of their profoundly attractive virtues. In the case of Cinque Terre - we suggest you submit yourself to the experience.