Italian Riviera Info

The Italian Riviera, or Ligurian Riviera (Italian Riviera ligure) is the narrow coastal strip which lies between the Ligurian Sea and the mountain chain formed by the Maritime Alps and the Apennines. Longitudinally it extends from the border with France and the French Riviera (or Côte d’Azur) near Ventimiglia (a former customs post) to Capo Corvo (also known as Punta Bianca) which marks the eastern end of the Gulf of La Spezia and is close to the border with Tuscany. The Italian Riviera thus includes nearly all of the coastline of Liguria. (Historically it extended further to the west, through what is now French territory as far as Monaco.)

The Riviera is centred by Genoa, which divides it into two main sections: the Riviera di Ponente (“the coast of the setting sun”), extending westwards from Genoa to the French border; and the Riviera di Levante (“the coast of the rising sun”) between Genoa and Capo Corvo.

It is famous for its particularly mild climate which, together with the charm of its old fishing ports and the beauty of its landscape, has made it a popular destination for travellers and tourists since the time of Byron and Shelley.

Many villages and towns in the area are internationally known, such as Portofino, Bordighera, Lerici, and the Cinque Terre.

The part of the Riviera di Ponente centred on Savona, is called the “Riviera delle Palme” (the Riviera of palms); the part centered on Sanremo, is the “Riviera dei Fiori”, after the long-established flower growing industry.

 

6 thoughts on “Italian Riviera Info

  1. Rapallo

    Rapallo is a municipality in the province of Genoa, in Liguria, northern Italy. As of 2007 it counts approximately 34,000 inhabitants, it is part of the Tigullio Gulf and is located in between Portofino and Chiavari.

    The climate is moderate and the main part of town is on fairly level land. Many of the villas are built in the hills that rise immediately behind the city to protect them from strong northern winds.

    Rapallo area is included in the Parco Naturale Regionale di Portofino, encompassing the territory of six communes.

    The first settlement dates probably from the 8th century BC, although the findings have not clarified if it was Etruscan or Greek.

    Conquered by the Lombards in 643, the village of Rapallo was included in the county of Genoa under Charlemagne. The name of the city appears for the first time in a document from 964. In 1203 the Podestà of Rapallo was created, which in 1229 it became a Genoese dominion, remaining under that aegis until the Napoleonic Wars. Galleys from Rapallo took part to the famous Battle of Meloria of 1284. On September 5, 1494 it was captured by the Aragonese, but three days later 2,500 Swiss troops ousted them.
    The castle on the seafront of Rapallo.

    During the 16th century it was attacked and sacked by the Ottomans and Barbary pirates; to help defending the village against such attacks a castle was built on the seafront. In 1608 Rapallo was made into a Capitaneato (captainship) of its own, as part of the Republic of Genoa. In the late 18th century it was captured by the French who, after several clashes against Austro-Russian troops, in 1805 annexed it to the Apennins département. In 1814 the English freed it, and the following year the city was given to the Kingdom of Sardinia-Piedmont as part of the Duchy of Genoa.

    In late 1917, an Anglo-Franco-Italian conference met at Rapallo following the disastrous Italian defeat at Caporetto. It was decided to create a supreme war council at Versailles and to shift some French and British troops to the Italian front. On November 12, 1920, Italy and the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (later renamed Yugoslavia) signed the Treaty of Rapallo, 1920, which resolved the frontier issues between them without reference to the other Allies. Italy acquired the strategically important crest of the Julian Alps as her boundary in the northeast. Also concluded at Rapallo was the Russian-German Treaty of Rapallo of April 1922, in which both countries renounced claims to war reparations and renewed diplomatic relations. This agreement marked the emergence of Russia and Germany from the diplomatic isolation caused by World War I (1914-1918).

    During World War II numerous partisans from Rapallo were shot by German occupation troops.

    Rapallo has been known for its climate that made it over the years the winter residence of preference for most of the affluent Italians living in the North West of Italy. Its proximity to the coast makes for mild winters where people can enjoy easy strolls on the sunny promenade and the golfers can enjoy one of the oldest courses in Italy, opened in 1930.

    Friedrich Nietzsche wrote that the ideas for Zarathustra first came to him while walking on two roads surrounding Rapallo, according to Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche in the introduction of Thomas Common’s translation of Thus Spake Zarathustra. The writer Ezra Pound spent much of the late 1920s and 1930s living in the town. The author, caricaturist and parodist Max Beerbohm lived in Rapallo from 1910 until his death in 1956, returning to Britain during World War I and World War II. The influential theatre designer and artist Gordon Craig lived in the Villa Raggio, next door to Beerbohm, from 1917 to 1928.

  2. CAMOGLI
    Camogli is a small town in the province of Genua on the Riviera Levante (East riviera) protected by the headland of Portofino and it is easy access from the north along the motorway A12 in the direction of Livorno, exit at Recco.

    The historic centre grows up around the harbour with the parish church Basilica Minore, the Dragon Castle and the beatiful houses decorated.

    The 11th century church and castle are found on the island , which today is a part of the old town centre, in the past this island was separated fronm the rochy coast by a wooden bridge.

    The church is dedicated to the Virgin Santa Maria Assunta inside can be seen a richness of marble, frescoes and gilded cornices, fruits of the labour at sea of her faithful. The Castle reminds us of the time of the raids of the Saracen pirates, when it was connected to lookout posts on Monte of Portofino by an ingenious system of signals using smoke and fire. The port is full of boats of all kinds, many tourist ferry boats and fishing boats. You can see the traditional gozzi made of wood and the larger pescherecci used every day for commercial fishing.

    The second Sunday of May is the famous Sagra del Pesce when for one day the fish are caught and fried in an enormous four-metre frying pan, in the square and then distributed free of charge.

    All around the harbour in the carruggi can be seen many images of the Virgin Santa Mary.

    They are a symbol of the deep religious sentiment this population of seafarers has always had in its soul, their continued desire for protection for the family at home and for the head of the family, far away at the mercy of the seas. You must visit the high buildings, the Oratorio di San Prospero and Caterina built in 1420, restored and decorated in baroque style.

    There is also the Museo Marinaro (Maritime Museum), where are housed the historical documents and memorabilia relating to the important role this town has played in the development of the art of sailing, all of which have been donated by the great ship building families.

    The symbol of the wealth of this town during the 1800′s is the Teatro Sociale, inaugurated in 1876, the theatre still belongs to the families of the ship owners who helped in the growth of this Citta’ dei Mille Bianchi Velieri.

  3. Santa Margherita Ligure

    Santa Margherita Ligure is a comune (municipality) in the province of Genoa in the Italian region Liguria, located about 35 km southeast of Genoa, in the Tigullio traditional area.
    16th century castle.

    Santa Margherita Ligure borders the following municipalities: Camogli, Portofino, Rapallo.

    It has a port, used for both touristic and fishing activities. Part of comune territory is included in the Regional Natural Park of Portofino.

    The presence of a Roman settlement has been not definitely proven. The burgh, known as Pescino, was devastated by Rothari in 641 and by the Saracens in the 10th century. Later it was a fief of the Fieschi family until 1229, when it was acquired by the Republic of Genoa.

    In 1432 it was attacked by the fleet of Venice and in 1549, together by Rapallo, by that of Turgut.

    In 1813, under the Napoleonic domination, the two burghs of Pescino and Corte were unified as Porto Napoleone. Two years later it was annexed to the Kingdom of Sardinia as the commune of Santa Margherita Ligure. In 1861 it became part of the newly unified Kingdom of Italy.

    Connected by rail in the 20th century, Santa Margherita had become a renowned tourist resort after World War II.

    At Santa Margherita, both maritime scenery and sensational hillside views can be enjoyed. Santa Margherita Ligure is situated on the Levante Riviera of Liguria, in the eastern part of the Portofino peninsula and it is the furthest inland area of the Golf of Tigullio. This province, which is located about 35 km (22 miles) from Genoa, is surrounded by hills, covered with Mediterranean foliage, on which villages and gardens can be found that allow stunning views of the Costa dei Delfini which surrounds the town of Portofino.

    The harbour is used for mooring luxurious motor boats next to traditional fishing boats. It is also the location for important maritime sports activities, such as sailing, rowing and scuba diving, and of social events such as the hosting of great international regattas.

    The landscape – preserved as much as possible from major alterations through building expansion – tells the complete story of the city and of a hard-working and strong community. This facet shows itself in the cyclopean work of using big, irregular stone blocks for the terracing of bordered terrains to make the most of olive cultivations, and in the cobbled paving of the streets that climb up and across the hills, as well as in the last surviving, traditional olive presses and in small, isolated country houses.

    A walk through the centre, amongst the numerous shops that give Santa its highly esteemed commercial value, should certainly not be missed: historical boutiques and big, international brands, prestigious jewelleries and watchmakers’ shops, modern and elegant sports clothing shops and plentiful shoe shops.

    Yet not only the commercial elite are here, but also many shops that suit the needs of both locals and tourists, such as alluring patisseries, traditional and tempting focaccerie (bakeries), enticing perfumeries, historical grocers and new supermarkets, phone and technology specialist.

    Fish markets
    Most important however are the many, magnificent, legendary and colourful fish markets, where the best and freshest fish of the Golf of Tigullio can be bought, as well as the extraordinary shrimps of Santa.

  4. Portofino

    Portofino is a town in the Liguria region of Italy, situated on the Ligurian Sea. It is a popular yachting destination.

    The closest major airport to Portofino is the Christopher Columbus airport in Genoa (Aeroporto Cristoforo Colombo di Genova – GOA). From there one could rent a car, as it is a relatively short (22 1/4 miles, 35.8 km) ride. Overall the drive takes a little over an hour, due partly to some light traffic leaving Genoa and mostly to the roads once you leave the major highway (the A12). A warning to nervous drivers, the streets are quite narrow and windy, as you might expect in a European/Riviera town. Proceed with caution, especially around corners and be alert!

    Two other options if you are unable to get to Genoa are Nice, France (Aeroport Nice Cote D’Azur – NCE) and Milan, Italy (Milan Malpensa – MXP). They are a bit farther away but within driving distance and the drive(s) could be beautiful.

    For a less harrowing experience, you could take a pleasant ferry ride. There is a well-developed ferry service in the region and there are frequent departures from Genoa to places where you can connect to Portofino, Santa Margherita Ligure for one. Expect the ride to take a little longer, but it will certainly be far less nervewracking!

    One final option should you happen to have the resources, just sidle into the harbor or a cove in your personal yacht. Portofino is a popular destination for the world’s wealthy, and the luxurious yachts constantly dot the horizon in this lovely Mediterranean port.

    The most simple way to find any info for your stay in Portofino is the Official Tourist Site: Portofino World .

    Once in Portofino walking might be your best option. The town is not large and most hotels and beaches are a short walk from the harbor. Alternatively, mopeds seem to be a popular choice for getting about, especially for those people visiting several of the small regional towns like Paraggi or San Fruttuoso on their own schedule.

    Once again, should you be fortunate enough to have a boat at your disposal, that would be another convenient way to move around the area. There are rentals available in the harbor.

    Taxi’s are available, but very expensive. Minimum charge is €20, but since the town is very small, you should be able to walk just about everywhere.

    Everything! Truly, the most impressive thing about Portofino is the lifestyle, so running off and “seeing the sights” probably won’t be your number one priority when you plan your trip. There are some notable attractions that might be able to lure you from the beaches, but the view from the harbor or any of the surrounding beaches is unforgettable and one could spend the entire day marveling at it.

    Castello Brown is a 16th century castle/fort, once used for the area’s defense, but now primarily a museum with a fantastic view of the harbor and the Mediterranean Sea.

    The church of St. Martin (Divo Martino) is around the corner from the harbor and is a quaint, stylish little chiesa from the 11th century. It’s definitely worth taking a casual stroll around it.

    One of the best things you can do in Portofino is relax. Walk around the small city, hear the sea, take a rest at the end of the left Marconi quay. There is a small wine bar where you have an occasion to drink something seated less than one meter from the sea.

    Usually all the boutiques are open from the end of February until the end of October. Don’t forget to bring something for your shoulders even if you came in the summer time. After 6/6.30pm the sun goes behind the Portofino promontory and cools off considerably.

    Also, you can visit San Fruttuoso Bay and try to see the sculpture of Christ of the Abyss. You can reach San Fruttuso only by sea. You can choose a public boat at reasonable price. If the money is not a problem, try to rent a small taxi boat. It’s a very unforgettable experience.

    If you have some days off, you can also visit the Acquarium on Genoa (30 km. from Portofino) – the biggest one in europe – and walk around the port streets. There are a lot of museum and historical buldings. Please do not on the night.

    You can find any shopping info and suggestions for your stay on the Official Tourist Site of Portofino linked above. If someone remove the link, you just search on GG: Portofino World Site.

    From the home page there is a index link for a short find. I suggest to see the graphic version and you will be able to find video, 3D panoramas, postcards, the Fred Buscaglione’s “Love in Portofino song”, to feel yourself immediately there.

    Visiting Portofino is a sensual experience, and this being the case you should bring some of those sensual items back with you. There are a couple of small shops in the harbor area offering regional foods and wines for reasonable prices, and so providing a perfect way to extend your time there even after you’ve left.

    If you’re more into high fashion, there are several posh boutiques from some of the world’s most famous designers, not surprisingly with some Italian luminaries on prominent display. If shopping is on your agenda you’ll happily be able to peruse the latest designs from Armani, Gucci, Pucci, Ferragamo and Zegna. If you aren’t looking for runway attire, there are also several boutiques with unique items, including one with lovely Murano glass jewelry.

    Of course there are a few tourist shops and kiosks as well, with the usual assortment of beads, magnets and t-shirts for your browsing pleasure.

    The Portofino harbor is surrounded by restaurants, each serving their own unique versions of the regional specialties. From Italian “comfort food” to fine dining, there will be an option for any dining preference.

    One eatery of note is Pizzeria El Portico. Located just around the corner from the central harbor, within range of its sights and sounds, this energetic family-run spot provides great food and gracious service.

    Two things to remember about dining in Portofino. First, you’re on Italian time, especially in the summer, so breakfast is whenever you can get it after you awake, lunch is some time between 2 and 4 PM and dinner won’t begin until 8 PM. Second, as a popular destination for weekend travelers and yacht or line cruisers, the weekends can get busy. If you have your heart set on a particular restaurant for a weekend meal, be sure to make reservations if you’ll be dining during a busier time.

    As with most things Italian, the gelati (ice cream) is spectacular so make sure to treat yourself to some from the stalls along the harbour, particularly the “nocciola”, a hazelnut and chocolate delight.

    Wine. Surprised? The region is known for some unique and specatular white varietals, including some notable Pinot Grigios. The available reds are also quite flavorful however, so don’t avoid them completely. Several of these wines may not be available outside of Italy, so sample liberally while you can.

    Some shops offer locally produced Limoncino (Limoncello), so if you’d prefer a cordial you will have some options

    Of course you’ll have plenty of non-alcoholic options if you’re driving (really, you shouldn’t be) or boating (better idea) that day. Soft drinks and water are readily available and the afternoon coffees and cappuccinos are very good.

  5. Portofino Park

    With its successful fusion of nature and human influences, Portofino Park is a perfect example of landscape development with equally continuous and harmonically alternating natural ecosystems and cultivations, which offers extraordinarily diverse environments to be discovered! The presence of people merely manifests itself through kilometres of dry stone walls, built to maintain the terraces, which are essential for the cultivation of olive trees and through numerous little vegetable gardens that can be found near small, scattered villages marvellously situated in the natural landscape.

    PortofinoFurthermore, for the last few years, thanks to a group of youths and their organization, which decided to contribute to the improvement of the area through their work of the land, the presence of people in the park has returned to its original traditions. The agricultural organization “il Giardino del Borgo” (the village’s garden) has retrieved one part of the historical olive grove that surrounds the abbey of Benedettina of San Fruttuoso, in cooperation with the authorities of Portofino Park and the FAI (Foundation for the Italian Environment) and has thereby turned a dream into reality: by the end of the renovations, this old rural house, which has been abandoned for years, will be brought back to life.

    Since 1939 the peninsula has been protected like a national park. The vast, continuing public support, which creates a close relationship between man and nature, is returning a unique environment that one can fall in love with and explore with consciousness, as long as the dream of respecting and improving nature will always continue.

    How is the beauty of the park best discovered? There are many possible tours by foot and by ferry or simply through taking a fascinating walk through a landscape of utmost environmental and panoramic quality.

    The Sea Reserve

    “A safe area to be admired”: using this slogan in 2000 the promotion and protection for one of the nicest and most famous in the world action started. It is visited by millions of tourists wanting to live the emotion of boat excursions admiring the beauties of the coast and the video clips of the seabed, or enjoy the diving experiences in the fantastic seabed of the “Promontorio di Portofino”.

    “Natural like the water”: What do you want to see? On the coast you can admire the (fantastic) towns of Paraggi, Portofino and San Fruttuoso di Camogli, the very high cliffs, the Flora with thousands of biological diversities. On the seabed, the under water cliff, with its very high naturalistic value, where you can find different kinds of gorgonia, the famous Portofino red Coral, several types of fishes … without forgetting the wide meadows of posidonia, very important naturalistic wealth and shelter for so many animal lives.

  6. Cinque Terre

    Cinque Terre which means Five Lands, is part of the UNESCO World Heritage List. The Cinque comprise the five small coastal villages of Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, Monterosso located in the region of Liguria in the province of La Spezia.

    Villages

    * Riomaggiore
    * Manarola
    * Corniglia
    * Vernazza
    * Monterosso

    Summary of the Towns

    All the towns slope down to sea-level except for Corniglia, which is perched on top of a tall cliff. Four of the towns possess an old-world charm (from North-to-South: Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, Riomaggiore). The northern-most town, Monterosso, is completely different. It is very beachy-resorty, with not much to see beyond the boardwalk apart from modern apartment blocks and hotels—nothing like the narrow, crooked streets of the other towns, lined with colorful old houses stacked haphazardly on top of each other.

    * Riomaggiore

    Riomaggiore is the southern-most of the 5 Terre. During the day you can hear bell towers chiming and at night the frogs are in frenetic chatter as small boats go night fishing for anchovies and other fish using lights to attract the fish. Riomaggiore also has an ancient stone castello, about which little has been written. An information sign outside explains that first mention of the castello appeared in a document from the mid-500s, which already described it as “ancient”. Its quadrangular walls with two circular towers were built to protect the citizens in case of an attack from the sea. In 800, the castello became a cemetery, and parts were destroyed to adapt it to its new function. Nowadays it is one of the monuments of the Parco Nazionale delle Cinque Terre. Most of the action in Riomaggiore is on the main street, Via Colombo, where there is an assortment of cafes, bars, restaurants, and of course, gelaterie. There are also alimentari shops selling the typical yummy Italian fare: fresh fruit (strawberries, cherries, and nespole), an assortment of salumi (salami, mortadella and the like), cheeses, olives, etc. These are good places to stock up for the hikes into the hills, although all of them are not very far from a town. Bar & Vini, perched on the side of the mountain above the sea, is excellent place for a summer night. The place had the usual mix of tourists and local families with their kids, even well into the night.

    * Manarola

    Manarola is a town filled with boats, at least on the lower part of it. Covered boats of all kinds line the main street, but it is hard to say when they had last been out. There are many lovely places to eat and drink in Manarola. La Cantina Dello Zio Bramante serves acciughe (anchovies) fresh from the sea, with lemon, olive oil, and fresh, crusty bread. Aristide Café had the cheapest espressi macchiatti (70 cents), the first bar encountered if walking from Riomaggiore (a paved, easy, path that goes by the sea, and takes about 15 minutes or so). It turns out that Manarola also has the best gelateria of all the towns: 5 Terre Gelateria e Creperia, on Antonio Discovolo next to the Farmacia which is next to the COOP 5 Terre. Manarola also has a nice little swimming area. It’s a little cement pier next to some big rocks that you can wade out from, into the blue blue waters. It gets deep fast, so it’s possible to dive off the end of the pier. Plenty of caves and coastline to explore, and underwater rocks. There are also a few more swimming holes farther on, accessible from the Blue Trail, not far from the gate beyond which the trail pass is required. There are stairs going all the way down to sea level, and a small little terrace about half-way down with picnic tables where you can see locals enjoying a simple lunch. There are lots of sharp mussels and barnacles down by the rocks, but otherwise the swimming is fantastic here too, without many people.

    * Corniglia

    Farther along the Blue Trail there is a stone beach that offers much easier access to the water, and also more people. At the Corniglia train station, the path gains height to reach the town, the only one not near sea-level. The road passes lemon trees, vines, lilies and vegetation of all kinds, and in May the air is full of the perfume of flowers.

    Corniglia feels smaller and quieter, but just as quaint as the other towns. Bar Nunzio serves 2e glasses of local wine—with a complementary bowl of local olives— under some yellow umbrellas near the statue of Corniglia himself. There is a little piazza with a communal olive press where you can sit and pass the time. There is also a tower, but it is not very high.

    * Vernazza

    The Blue Trail from Corniglia to Vernazza, the next town to the north, is a dirt path that starts off in an olive grove above the town. It keeps climbing and things get a bit sweaty and steep in some places, with many stone steps and a few switchbacks. Nothing too strenuous though. The trail along the sea affords great backwards views of both Corniglia and Manarola. Vernazza is approached from above and its two ancient towers are in prominent view (they close at 7PM). The town itself has a maze of tiny streets that eventually lead down to the main street. At first sight, Vernazza seems a little rundown. The paint on the buildings around the beach area is peeling off in large sections, but don’t let that put you off. Vernazza is lively and boisterous and has a great night scene, two clock towers, a beach, boats, and a large public space with umbrellas and tables. The beach area is a small sandy strip that is not the best swim spot (there is only a small section of water roped off for swimming, beyond which are boats and then the open sea), but it is safe for kids and free of sharp bivalves.

    Pizzeria Fratelli Basso on via Roma is one of only two places in town where you can eat farinata—like a focaccia but made with chickpea flour. The wood-fired pizzeria down the road will make it if they don’t have any left.

    You can spend the evening having wine along the main street below the train station, lounging on a quiet bench above the town beside hotel Gianni overlooking the sea, or by the sea, watching the mountainous coastline zigzag in and out, hiding Monterosso.

    * Monterosso

    Monterosso is built to accommodate many tourists in large, modern apartments and hotels. It doesn’t have quite the same charm as the other towns, but it does have a quite a large sandy beach with lots of colourful umbrellas, and of course, beach-side restaurants and cafes. The backstreets of Monterosso are not as interesting as in the other towns.

    Get in
    By plane

    The closest airports are at Pisa and Genova. Firenze is also a reasonable choice. The city of Milan is about a 2 hour train ride to Genoa where one is able to change to the local train line. Milan’s Malpensa International Airport serves as a major intercontinental hub for the Italian airline Alitalia, but you will have to take a bus to the train station from the Malpensa Airport (~1 hour). There are also good connections from North America via large hubs such as New York City, Atlanta, and Philadelphia. Delta Airlines also operates a flight from Atlanta via New York’s JFK International Airport to Pisa’s Galileo Galilei International Airport.
    By train

    The Cinque Terre villages are well connected by rail and each of the villages has a train station. Regular local trains from Genova and La Spezia run with high frequency. All trains are operated by the state carrier, Trenitalia[1]. When traveling from La Spezia, you can buy your passes for Cinque Terre in a tourism office in a hallway off of platform 1 at the La Spezia station.
    By car

    Take the ‘litoranea’ road from La Spezia. It takes approximately 20-30 minutes from La Spezia to drive to Riomaggiore or Manarola. There is a good parking garage in Riomaggiore, up the hill from the train station. The roads to and between the five towns are not for the faint of heart, and why most travelers are encouraged to leave their vehicle in La Spezia and take the train to the Cinque Terre.

    Get around

    Frequent trains link all five villages with each other (Trenitalia-run trains as well as a train service run by the park authority), La Spezia and other places towards Genova (only Trenitalia-run).

    A more expensive, but very scenic option, are the boats that run up and down this part of the coast.

    Walking is very popular, especially on the main coastal paths, which are subject to park entrance fees. It’s worth exploring some of the higher paths to Volastra (above Manarola), Monte Negro (above Riomaggiore) or paths that begin outside of the park such as the trail between Levanto and Monterosso.

    Traveling by car is by far the worst way to explore the Cinque Terre, there is little parking and what there is lies well outside the villages. To get from one village to the next involves driving all the way up to the high road and back down again. Better to leave the car and use the train.

    In order to walk along the trails between the villages, one must purchase a pass (5 euros), which is available at the information offices near the train stations at any of the five villages, as well as the stations at Levanto and La Spezia. You can pay a small supplement (an extra €3) for the pass and get unlimited travel between the villages, Levanto, and La Spezia on regional trains for the duration of the pass.

    The main attraction of the Cinque Terre is the landscape. Mediterranean herbs and trees grow spontaneously from the top of the hills down to the water level. Well embedded in this magnificent natural scenery, one can admire the intense human activity of the ancestors, when the wine terraces were built. An enormous (and somehow crazy) work of transportation, carrying all the heavy stones on men’s shoulders and women’s heads. A work through the centuries, in fact it’s estimated to have taken about 200 years to build the entire stone-wall network. Its total length has been calculated to be at least equal to the Great Wall of China.

    Tourists can enjoy the scenery described above, walk through the towns (or between them) or hiking on the paths and enjoying the local atmosphere.

    Depending on the time of the year there are some specific things to see:

    * The lighted Nativity in Manarola (Dec. 8th till late Jan.). The world biggest Lighted nativity.
    * The patron festivity of the 5 towns (all between late May and Aug.), a mix of religious ceremony and popular parties.
    * The pirates attack in Vernazza (mid summer), a celebration of the succesful defence of the town from a Saracen attack occurred during the middle age.
    * The harvest(early/mid Sept.) and wine making, when men’s shoulders and women’s heads are still used as they were hundreds of years ago.
    * The sea storms (frequent in winter), a great show of nature’s power.

    The Cinque Terre boasts some of the best coastline hiking trails in the world. The path from Riomaggiore to Manarola is called the Via Dell’Amore (or roughly “Lovers Walk”). The beautiful trail along the shore is very easy to hike.

    Along the way, lovers have the opportunity to write their names on the rocks and trees surrounding the walk. In the middle of Riomaggiore and Manarola you will come across ‘The Lover’s Lock’ which is a place to seal your eternal love. At this point there is a concrete throne in the shape of a male and female locked in a kiss, where many people duplicate this creating a loving photographic opportunity. Remember to bring a small lock to attach to one of the many gates or rails to seal your eternal love in Cinque Terre.

    The next hike from Manarola to Corniglia is also easy. However, there is an up hill hike and a large zig zag shaped staircase with 385 steps which can be quite a mission in the midday sun. The trail from Corniglia to Vernazza offers incredible views of shore and is only steep at certain places.

    The trail from Vernazza to Monterosso is the steepest (you need a reasonably good level of fitness – there is over 250m of climbing over very uneven rocks, totalling approx. 750 ‘steps’ – not easy for most people), winding through Olive orchards and vineyards and offering dramatic ocean views. The paths are narrow, with a very real danger of falling 12 to 15 feet if you lose your footing. If you attempt this hike, take some water, and be prepared to build up a very decent sweat.

    The walk between all the villages takes the better part of a day. For those that would rather not walk (or not walk the entire trail), a pedestrian ferry service runs seasonally to all five villages, plus Lerici. The price is reasonable, and gives a nice view of the villages from the water. The milk train that connect all the villages is also a quick way to hop among towns.

    It is advised that you attempt the walk as early as possible to avoid the hottest part of the day during the summer period. Sneakers or suitable walking shoes are essential.

    You must purchase a pass for the hike. It is also possible to purchase a hiking and train pass in one if you wish to catch a train to the next town. Trains are frequent but it is advisable to check local time tables especially on Sunday and Public holidays as you could be waiting up to an hour for the correct train.

    Hiking Times

    Monterosso – Vernazza: 90 minutes.

    * Narrow trail, steep at times. Beautiful views of Vernazza.

    Vernazza – Corniglia: 90 minutes.

    * Amazing views of Vernazza; greenest trail.

    Corniglia – Manarola: 45 minutes.

    * Scenic low trail past a beach.

    Manarola – also has its own beautiful vineyard walk.

    Manarola – Riomaggiore: 20 minutes.

    * The famous Via dell’Amore, paved flat trail cut into the cliff.

    Swimming

    It is possible to swim in the sea at each of the villages except Corniglia. Almost every year the Cinque Terre Marine Reserve vies for the top of the Blue Flag Beach list of Italy. There are two large sandy beaches at Monterosso, a small sandy beach at the harbor of Vernazza, and pebble beaches near Riomaggiore and Corniglia. Off the beaten path there are pebble beaches in Framura and Bonasola just 20 minutes away on the train. You can swim off rocks at the small harbors at Manarola (which has a very nice and deep swimming hole) and Riomaggiore.

    Eat

    When grapevines and olive trees cover the hillsides, wine and oil are a must on our tables. They prove excellent companions for the salted anchovies of Monterosso served in olive oil as well as the many specialty fish dishes, authentic gastronomic delights.

    The cuisine of the Cinque Terre almost perfectly conserves the characteristics of yesteryear; the respect for the flavors and fragrances of the primary ingredients. Trofie is a kind of pasta made from chestnut or wheat flour and is one of the forefathers of modern and more sophisticated pasta. Its condiment is still pesto sauce; an original Ligurian sauce made from basil leaves, extra virgin olive oil, grated cheese, pine nuts, and marjoram. Tagliatelle, a broad handmade pasta, is used with sauces that contain mushrooms, cabbage and potatoes, beans, chickpeas or sometimes with pesto.

    Vegetable pies, ‘torte di verdura’ are prepared with a stuffing containing borage (borago officinalis), parsley, marjoram, other local herbs that grow wild, artichokes, swiss chard, zucchini, potatoes, and leeks are combined with egg and ricotta cheese or with stale bread soaked in milk or béchamel sauce (depending on each family’s traditions), parmesan cheese. The pie crust is very thin, because flour was a very precious commodity.

    Rice pie, or ‘torta di riso’ is a specialty of every grandma in the region. In Monterosso this rice pie was made even more delectable by adding a bit of dried mushrooms to the filling. In Manarola, the tradition is to make this dish for the feast of the patron saint Saint Lawrence on August 10th.

    Egg ‘frittate’, or flat omelettes, are popular today as the ‘frittata’ has been rediscovered as a tasty antipasto. Another important dish on the tables of the Cinque Terre population was the ‘cotoletta di acciuga’, anchovies stuffed with a breadcrumb based filling and then fried. The ‘fritelle di bianchetti’, fritters made from tiny newborn anchovies or sardines were also highly appreciated. Following the seamen’s gastronomic traditions, other dishes included stewed cuttlefish, stuffed calamari and spiced octopus.

    Mussels, another protected designation of origin product from the Gulf of La Spezia are prepared in a variety of ways: stuffed, stewed, baked.

    Farinata, like a focaccia but made with chickpea flour. A regional speciality.

    Drink

    The fame of the Cinque Terre is largely due to its products, the dry white wine, simply called ‘Cinque Terre’ and the ‘Sciacchetrà’, a prized dessert wine made from prime grapes dried to the point of holding only a few drops of sweet juice. A colorful addition to the Cinque Terre products is ‘limoncino’; a dessert wine made from steeping lemon peels in pure alcohol and then adding sugar and water to make a fragrant and fresh liquor. The lemons, another famous product of the Cinque Terre are prominently on display in the many ‘limoneti’ (lemon groves) and at the annual Lemon Festival held each year in Monterosso during the season of Pentacost.

    The Sentieri dell’Uva (Grape Routes) are still as they once were with fig trees planted in strategic positions to give shade during breaks from work, agaves planted to mark boundaries, to line the footpaths along steep, stony steps and to indicate the rail terminals of the recently installed monorails which are the only vertical structures emerging from this seemingly completely, horizontal landscape. Many dry stone walls support this terraced landscape.

    The large wicker baskets of grapes (corbe) are arranged along the “pose” (little walls, as wide as tables, built solely for this purpose). These include Albarola (Trebbiana), Biancorotto, Bruciapagliaio, Piccabon (Pizzamosca). To make white table wines the following are used: Fiore di Bosco, Rappolungo, Fogiaccia, Ruspara, and Sesagra. Baskets full of Magnagra (Albarola), from which the famous Black Sciacchetrà is made, are handled with extreme care and set to one side.

    The Cinque Terre grape tracks reach down to the sea. In the past, people used to anchor small fishing boats called “gozzi” immediately below the terraced vineyards. Baskets laden with grapes were then lowered from above into these small boats which then sailed round to the otherwise inaccessible village.

    Nowadays this method is nothing but a distant memory but by visiting the Cinque Terre you are still able to sample some of the most prized wines of the world that have been created by centuries of backbreaking experience.

    The town of Lerici, a couple of kilometers to the south, has several hotels.
    You can also easily find private rooms for rent. If you can’t see signs, ask in a cafe.

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