Cinque Terre a certain music in the name seems to promise an otherworldly delight, a magical realm just a few steps removed from the everyday. And Cinque Terre does not disappoint.

Draped delicately like a string of pearls across the rugged cliffs of the Italian Riviera, five ancient villages preserve a centuries-old way of life while welcoming visitors with open arms. This unique and enchanting chain of fishing towns, overlooking the stunning blue of the Mediterranean from a craggy Apennine cradle, has long been known as the “Five Lands”— or Cinque Terre. It is a stunning place to hike, to paint, to swim or to stop for a fresh seafood meal. 

The Cinque Terre is about an hour from either Lucca or Portofino. From Portofino arrive by boat or rail.  From Lucca, drive to Lerici or Portovenere to take the boat to Riomaggiore, the southernmost village of the Cinque Terre

Gulf of Poets & Riomaggiore

Riomaggiore, Liguria, Italy

The five villages were available only by sea until early last century and this may still be the most beautiful way to arrive. The boat ride itself is one of the joys of the trip as you cross first the Gulf of Poets, known as one of the most beautiful gulfs in the word. Arriving at the dock in Riomaggiore, be ready to leap ashore. We recommend walking from south to north, as the walk gets increasingly difficult going north and because the sun tends not to be in your face.

Via dell’Amore

Via Dell'Amore, Liguria

After a look around Riomaggiore it’s time to take to the Via dell’Amore! Part of the charm of Cinque Terre is the series of well-worn shepherds’ paths winding through the fragrant Mediterranean macchia past olive groves and vineyards (local grapes are used to make the Cinque Terre’s renowned white wine, which shares the same name). Connecting each village to the next, the paths offer breathtaking views out over the cliffs to the sea.

Manarola

Manarola, Liguria, Italy

This first section leading from Riomaggiore to the next village, Manarola, is the easiest and most well known section of the trail. Wide and smooth, the path is suitable for those who do not wish to climb, and can even accommodate a stroller. Benches are placed at intervals along the way for resting in comfort. (There are also lights, which make an evening stroll a pleasant possibility.)

Reaching Manarola, you may wish to take advantage of an opportunity for swimming along the rocky coastline or wandering the streets of the village, which preserves the spirit of its heritage as a fishing community. Continuing the walk onward from Manarola the trail becomes steeper. Depending upon your party’s inclinations, you may wish to continue the walk ahead to Corniglia; from there on to Vernazza; or all the way to Monterosso al Mare. (For easy travel back and forth between the villages, it is also possible to take the train which passes between villages in a matter of minutes – mostly in tunnels.)

Corniglia & Vernazza

Vernazza, Liguria, Italy

Corniglia is known for its exceptional views over the other villages and much of the coastline. It also offers a somewhat secluded beach (reached through an abandoned railway tunnel). Vernazza distinguishes itself by its dramatic position on a rocky outcrop and a pleasant natural harbor below. A challenging climb up and down leads to the northernmost village, Monterosso al Mare, with a popular beach, as well a delightful old town where visitors can enjoy the 17th-century Capuchin monastery — home to a fine painting collection — and an ancient castle. No matter where you elect to halt your trek, you are sure to find a tasty lunch before boarding a boat back to your starting point. Swim in the sea, dine at Locanda Miranda in Tellaro (exquisite fish menu) and return to Portofino or Lucca.