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 enjoy the area's unique mix of Italian culture and nature. There isn't a Fiat or museum in sight — just sun, sea, sand (well, pebbles), wine, and pure, unadulterated Italy. While the region is now well-discovered and can get jam-packed, I've never seen happier, more relaxed tourists.
At a Glance
▲▲ Monterosso al Mare Resorty, flat, and spread out, with a charming old town, a modern new town, and the Cinque Terre's best beaches, swimming, and nightlife.
▲▲ Manarola Mellow, hiking-focused waterfront village wrapped in vineyards and dotted with a picturesque mix of shops and cliff-climbing houses.
▲ Riomaggiore The most workaday of the five villages, with nightlife, too.
▲ Corniglia Quiet hilltop village known for its cooler temperatures (it's the only one of the five villages set above the water), fewer tourists, and tradition of fine wines.