The area of Cinque Terre along the coast of Italy includes five ancient villages that have been cut off from the rest of the world for centuries by mountains. As a result of their seclusion, the villages have developed unique cultures and farming practices, and the entire area has now been recognized as a Unesco World Heritage site. The villages, farms and stone walled olive groves of the Cinque Terre, including some remarkable terraced vineyards perched on cliffs above sea, have also been designated as a National Park.
Restaurants and stores in the villages are open during most of the year, but there are no cars allowed here, so most transportation occurs by foot or by electric buses.
Here are a few of the best ways to experience Cinque Terre:
- Hike the trails: Some of the most popular hiking and walking trails in Cinque Terre include the Via dell'Amore and the Blue Trekking Trail. These paths will lead you along the rocky coastline and up to breathtaking elevations with views of the vineyards, ocean and terraced hills.
- Visit Our Lady of the Salvation: If possible, see this baroque parish church around Christmas when it is ablaze with warm, dazzling lights. The structure was built in 1338 and is now a preserved historic site.
- Take a boat tour: Take an eco-tour, history tour or scenic relaxing glide along the Levante Riviera. This is the best way to explore the natural marine beauty of Cinque Terre and see some of the area's important sites from a new perspective.
- Visit the Church of San Francesco: An art museum as much as an architectural site, the church was built in 1632 on the site of an older structure and now houses some masterpiece paintings and triptychs by Van Dyck, Flasella, and Domenico Gare.
- Visit the Dawn Tower: The Dawn Tower, or Aurora Tower, separates the old and new areas of Monterosso. Climb to the top for beautiful views of Monterosso and Fegina.
- Take an Italian cooking class: After sampling the culinary treasures of the restaurants in Cinque Terre, you may want to find a way to bring these flavors and traditions home with you.
It is usually easy to find a vacation rental available in Cinque Terre, especially during the summer months. You're likely to find a perfect villa, small apartment or condo for rent along the winding streets of Vernazza or Riomaggiore.
As featured in USA TODAY and recommended by Travel + Leisure in its annual Villa Guide:
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