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Cinque Terre, Italy

Posted: Thursday, October 18, 2012
Cinque Terre, Italy
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  • Cinque Terre, Italy
  • Cinque Terre, Italy
  • Cinque Terre, Italy
  • Cinque Terre, Italy
  • Monterosso
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Cinque Terre. Five villages embedded into 7 miles of serrated cliffs between Levanto and La Spezia on the Italian Riviera. Lonely Planet terms the conglomeration of Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore "higgledy-piggledy", but we think this decidedly unromantic term would agitate the Italians who have groomed the national treasure into an enchanting cultural and beach destination, and UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Beach towns rife with tacky souvenir shops and peddlers hawking T-shirts the five villages of Cinque Terre are not. Thanks to their national park status, awarded in 1999, imposed limits to these types of commercial pursuits have preserved the area's integrity and storybook aesthetics. Further contributing to the villages' environmental well-being are vehicular restrictions. While there are a couple of roads leading into Cinque Terre, cars and motorbikes are not allowed in the five villages, which enjoy motorized connections by train alone. Each is about 5 minutes from the one next to it apart. Within the villages, electric buses move citizens and travelers about.

Room rentals abound in Cinque Terre's friendly villages, identified by signs reading "camere" ("rooms") or "affittacamere" ("rooms for rent"). As with most of Italy's tourist destinations, accommodation booking offices in the train station can assist in securing a room prior to hitting the towns and beginning the exploration of their 15th century footpaths and renowned seafood--particularly the anchovies of Monterosso, which have the European Union's Protected Designation of Origin Status.

Walking amidst the olive groves and dry-stone-walled vineyards and lounging on the beach check in as Cinque Terre's two most popular activities. A single trail, called Sentiero Azzurro ("Light Blue Trail") connect all five villages, while Via Dell-Amore ("Love Walk), a wheelchair-friendly trail, links Riomaggiore to Manarola. The main trail from Manarola to Corniglia represents the easiest hike along the way, but finishes with a brutal, 368-stair climb.

Some Things That Have Happened in Cinque Terre

In October 2011, massive floods hit the Italian paradise, spawning mudslides and $140 million in damage, particularly to Vernazza, which was buried in 13 feet of mud, the "old town" section of Monterosso, and hiking trails in Cinque Terre National Park. But that's the bad stuff. Under a year later, the villages had taken great strides not only to rebuild, but reinvent themselves. Vernazza repaved its Piazza G. Marconi with ancient stones and added public sitting areas, and nearly all of the hiking trails underwent renovations and have reopened.

Other notable Cinque Terre occurrences include the smoking of large quantities of marijuana, and a sociopathic Matt Damon running around in neon green skivvies.

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