Imagine walking along a spectacular coastal path with the Mediterranean on one side, mountains on the other, and Italian fishing villages just ahead.  Now multiply that experience by five.  Welcome to the captivating region linking the “five villages” of the Cinque Terre.  Footpaths cross the terraced slopes leading to brightly painted boats in small harbors.  Continue on to the wooded hills decending into Portofino.  Along the route there is Liguarian cuisine, with Italian pesto made from locally grown basil.  Enjoy the rare, crisp, fragrant white wine, Sciacchetra’, a specialty, harvested from the Cinque Terre’s terraced vineyards. Then stop in at the Hotel Splendido, #8 in Top Ten Hideaways & Inns. www.hotelsplendido.com

Just across the border, between Genoa and Pisa lays Italy’s Cinque Terre.  Cinque Terre means “five lands”.  It is a quintet of villages accessible by train.  Boarding the train in La Spezia, you are taken into the mountains.  Ten minutes later, you burst into the sunlight.  Your train nips in and out of the hills, teasing you with a series of Mediterranean views.  The government has declared the Cinque Terre a national park to preserve the land. 

The five villiages are Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso Al Mare.  Vernazza is in the middle and it’s one street connects the harbor with the train station.  When I arrive I will check in and prepare for my day of hiking.  I will catch the early train to Riomaggiore to begin my day long hike.

Riomaggiore – The biggest non-resort town of the 5, has a tangle of colorful homes, and homemade gelato next door to Bar Centrale.  An uncrowded cove holds Riomaggiore’s beach and is a 2 minute walk from town.  From there follow the signs for Via dell’Amore (“Walkway of Love”).  This photogenic 20 minute promenade leads to . . .

Manarola – There is no beach in Manarola, but follow the stairway that leads to remote rocks for sunbathing.  Buy a picnic lunch before walking to the beaches of Corniglia.

Corniglia  – the only Cinque Terre town not directly on the water, it sits high on the hill top.  Despite this, vistors are lured to its scrawny, stoney beach and the Cinque Terre’s best swimming.  After lunch, I want to tackle the 370  stairs that zig zag up to the actual town.  Those who make the climb are promised to be rewareded with the Cinque Terre’s finest wine and most staggering view.   Ten minutes out of Corniglia on the high trail to Vernazza, you’ll see Guvano beach far below.

Vernazza – The 90 minute hike from Corniglia to Vernazza is the wildest and greenest of the coast.  The trail is rugged, but flowers and ever-changing views entertain you at every step.  As the trail decends scenically into Vernazza, you will have many opportunities for breath taking pictures of the beach and countryside.  Once in Vernazza, you can take a train or a boat to Monterosso al Mare.  If I’m brave and not exhausted, I may give the scenic, up-and-down-a-lot hike a try, with its narrow, but easy to follow (though some report dangerous) paths.

Monterosso al Mare boast the area’s only sandy beach.  This is the resort town with cars, hotels and rented beach umbrellas.

Cinque Terre – Home of the pesto.  Basil grows plentiful here where the plants thrive on the regions temperate climate.  Pesto – Basil mixed with half parmigiano (cow cheese) and half pecorino (sheep cheese), garlic, olive oil, and pine nuts.

Sciacchertra – is a sweet sherrylike wine.  Sciacchertra’ is made from near raisions and where 10 kilos of grapes yield 7 liters of local wine, 10 kilos of grapes yield only 1.5 bottles of Sciacchertra’.  Sciacchetra’ comes with 50% more alcohol than regular wine.

When I’m back in Vernazza, in the cool evening, I will sit out and look at the water and sip my Sciacchertra’, full and happy.  I may try to blog to you my readers and share pictures of what I imagine is going to be a wonderful day.  Then have a good nights sleep, and maybe get up and do the whole thing all over again.   Aaaaaaaah

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