When I respond to friends who ask me where I went in Italy recently with “Cinque Terre,” I get a lot of blank looks. This remote area on the Italian Riviera is not well known, and for good reason. It’s really hard to get to.
Located south of Portofino, the five towns (Cinque Terre means five lands) are nestled between five mountains, with absolutely stunning views. It’s a lot like the Amalfi Coast only better. What makes it better? There are no roads.
That’s right. Visitors drive to the parking lot outside of Monterossa, the northernmost of the five towns, park and then walk or taxi into the town. From there they either take a ferry, a train or hike a footpath to the other four towns. It’s delightful. No huge tour buses to scare the beJesus out of you. No little ones either.
While definitely a tourist destination, the visitors were mostly from Europe, many of whom were there for the hiking. Not only can you hike between the five towns, but also hikers can enjoy even more strenuous higher mountain trails. And how lovely. After a healthy hike, head to a village for fresh seafood, wonderful olive oil and great local wine.
We spent almost four days there, comfortably ensconced in what the New York Times calls, “a war horse of a hotel,” the Porto Roco. Views were fabulous. Staff delightful. A bit of a “time stood still” kind of spot.
I loved visiting the five towns, each slightly different but all with bunched homes climbing the hillside with quintessential Italian colors. Street performers were fun and shops cute. We were fortunate to have glorious sunshine making it all even more dazzling. The life is slow and relaxed and to be relished.
The boat rides were amazing. At one point we could see all five towns from the small boat we chartered. Stephano, our captain, said these towns flourished for centuries because they could get fish and salt from the sea, grow olives and grapes on the steep hillsides and they could see the pirates approaching from quite a distance.
He said, “I live a dream life here.”
I agree. One of my traveling companions proclaimed that he wants to rent a house here every October. Great idea.
We enjoyed the walks, boat rides, the food, the street performers and the beautiful scenery. It’s a destination well worth visiting.
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