Along a beautifully isolated six-mile stretch of the most seductive corner of the Italian Riviera lie the Cinque Terre — five (cinque) small, traffic-free towns gently and steadily carving a good life out of difficult terrain. Each village fills a ravine with a lazy hive of human activity — calloused locals and sunburned travelers enjoying the area's unique mix of Italian culture and nature. There's not a Fiat or museum in sight — just sun, sea, sand (well, pebbles), wine, and pure, unadulterated Italy. Enjoy the villages, swimming, hiking, and evening romance of one of God's great gifts to tourism. While the Cinque Terre are now discovered (and can be unpleasantly crowded midday, when tourist boats and cruise-ship excursions drop by), I've never seen happier, more relaxed tourists.
At a Glance
▲▲▲ Vernazza The region's gem, crowned with a ruined castle above and a lively waterfront cradling a natural harbor below.
▲▲ Monterosso Resorty, flat, and spread out, with a charming old town, a modern new town, and the region's best beaches, swimming, and nightlife.
▲ Riomaggiore The biggest and most workaday of the five villages.
▲ Manarola Waterfront village dotted with a picturesque mix of shops, houses, and vineyards.
▲ Corniglia Quiet hilltop village known for its cooler temperatures (it's the only one of the five villages not on the coast), few tourists, and tradition of fine wines.