If you need to breathe romance back into an ailing relationship, there is nowhere more romantic than Italy’s Cinque Terre, a cluster of five villages on the Ligurian coast. Think picture postcard terraces in muted pastels built into rock facing out onto the deep blues of the Italian Mediterranean.
Yet beauty comes with a price. The cost is the climb up the steep hill to your accommodation if you stay in four out of the five villages. Monterosso, the most populated of the five is for those who don’t wish to do the climb but do so at the peril of missing out on one the world’s most spectacular views.
Cinque terre is home to Italy’s most famous walking trail with the trek taking you high up into each village overlooking coves of treasures, terraced vineyards of grapes and the traditional pastel Italian apartments. However if you’re not one for walking, gliding from village to village on an elegant yacht may be more your style.
Monterosso – A village decorated with lemons during the Lemon Festival
Enter La Dolce Vita in the largest of the five villages and the only one with a sandy beach. Pay your money (16 Euro) and be chaperoned to your sunbed shaded by a striped umbrella. This is the life where people bring you drinks, offer you massages and other trinkets and you don’t have to move from your secured spot. The ocean is virtually yours as most are there for a sun tan not exercise.
Monterosso is divided into two – the old town dominated by the ruins of its castle and the narrow medieval streets whilst the new part known as Fegina is bubbling with restaurants, bars, shops and gelato sellers.
Visit when the village is decorated with lemons during the Lemon Festival, the third Saturday in May and taste limoncino, lemon cream, lemon marmalade and torta al limone.
For luxurious accommodation you will love Eremo di S M Maddalena, once inhabited by the Benedictine monks. It comprises a church and a monastery linked by a cloister. It is available for exclusive rent only with a one week minimum stay.
Manarola – Specialty wines
This is the most charming of the five villages, with its tiny piazza surrounded by seafood restaurants. Order one of Manarola’s specialty wines: Cinque Terre white, a dry delicious blend of three grapes or Sciacchetrà a late harvest sweet dessert wine. Sip and watch dare devil locals jump from the rocky outcrop into the rock pools, take a dip yourself in the refreshing waters, best done before imbibing the local alcohol. Climb midway to visit the 1338 parish church di San Lorenzo built in the Gothic style. In ancient times, the bell tower was used to look out for pirates who came to raid the villages along the coast.
Vernazza – Santa Margherita d’Antiocha
This stunning town is being rebuilt after the landslides of 2011. Stroll along the pedestrian streets to Santa Margherita d’Antiocha, a church built in 1318 on sea rock with panoramic vistas of the entire region. Stop off at La Cantina del Molo for a local delicacy with wine from the owner’s vineyard.
Like all five villages, the essential appeal is the hiking trails between each town. The trail between Vernazza and Corniglia is particularly breathtaking with its soaring cliffs and deep blue sea views. From Vernazza do a cruise to San Fruttuoso to visit the 13th Century Benedictine Abbey and sup at trattorias such as Da Laura.
Corniglia – Sensational coastal views
Vineyards, pastel buildings, lanes and stairways all mould together on top of Corniglia’s cliffs to offer more sensational coastal views. This is the most remote of the villages and is the only one that lacks a harbour. Another stunning church in another stunning plaza, San Pietor boasts a rose window of marble from Carrara.
Swimmers who don’t mind getting their gear off should venture to the clothes optional beach of Guvano. It’s situated between the Vernazza and Corniglia trail and is the least crowded beach in the area. Look for the sign Spiaggia Libera. There’s also a long pebbly beach just by Corniglia railway station.
Riomaggiore – Easy walking coastal path
If you’re not one for adventurous hikes try the Path of Love between Riomaggiore and Manarola. This easy walking coastal path was carved into the mountain around one hundred years ago and offers plenty of views and romantic nooks which have given this path its name.
The most southern of the five villages, this village which dates back to the 8th century climbs over ridges overlooking the sea and is twenty minutes’ walk from Manarola. It offers more beautiful views, and a 13th century castle looking out to sea. There’s a beach surrounded by smooth rocks where you can lay out your towel and sunbake or go for a dip.
For further information contact Italian State Tourist Board – Australia & New Zealand