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Overview

Although a decade of popularity has changed the unspoiled charms of these five remote villages, they are still scenic, atmospheric and lovely. And the trail between them is well worth hiking, especially the less-trammeled and wilder segment between Corniglia and Vernazza. Here hikers sense what the legendary Sentiero Azzurro was once like, as the narrow path carves a precarious corniche in the cliffs, and surf crashes on the rocks below – far below. Although a road now traverses the steep coast, it is far higher than the towns, requiring steep descents and climbs from the limited parking spaces above each.

It's much better to ...

Although a decade of popularity has changed the unspoiled charms of these five remote villages, they are still scenic, atmospheric and lovely. And the trail between them is well worth hiking, especially the less-trammeled and wilder segment between Corniglia and Vernazza. Here hikers sense what the legendary Sentiero Azzurro was once like, as the narrow path carves a precarious corniche in the cliffs, and surf crashes on the rocks below – far below. Although a road now traverses the steep coast, it is far higher than the towns, requiring steep descents and climbs from the limited parking spaces above each.

It's much better to take the train, which runs hourly through tunnels in the cliffs, from La Spezia (south) and Sestri Levante (north). From the station in each town (except clifftop Corniglia), follow streets down to the little harbors. Even if you’re not hiking the path, follow it north as it climbs out of Vernazza for the view back into town. Although many of the vineyards that once provided a livelihood to residents of the Cinque Terre are now abandoned, a few still produce the wine for which the region was once best known. In October 2011, heavy rains triggered floods that buried Vernazza and Monterosso in mud, but the region is largely back to normal now. The entire area is a national park and UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Barbara Rogers
About the Expert

Barbara Radcliffe Rogers has written or coauthored more than 30 guidebooks, including The Portugal Traveler, Drive Around Portugal, City Spots Munich, City Spots Helsinki, City Spots Stockholm, Eating New England, and the Maine section of Thomas Cook's Independent Traveller USA.

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Barbara Rogers for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

  • Location: Located on a rugged portion of coast of the Riviera to the west of the city of La Spezia in the Liguria region of Italy. Comprising five villages, "The Five Lands": Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore.
  • Language: Italian
  • Currency: Euro
  • Research: Wikipedia | Wikitravel
  • Weather: Rainfall | Daylight

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    Spring and fall; winter is cold and rainy, summer hot and crowded.