Cinque Terre is a string of centuries-old seaside villages on the rugged Italian Riviera coastline. In each of the 5 towns, colorful houses and vineyards cling to steep terraces, harbors are filled with fishing boats and trattorias turn out seafood specialties along with the Liguria region’s famous sauce, pesto. The Sentiero Azzurro cliffside hiking trail links the villages and offers sweeping sea vistas.
A walking trail, known as Sentiero Azzurro ("Azure Trail"), used to connect the five villages but the section from Riomaggiore to Manarola called the Via dell'Amore ("Love Walk") is closed. It is still possible to walk between these villages, although the trail is both steeper and longer than the (closed) path along the waterfront.
Given its location on the Mediterranean, seafood is plentiful in the local cuisine. Anchovies of Monterosso are a local specialty designated with a Protected Designation of Origin status from the European Union. The mountainsides of the Cinque Terre are heavily terraced and are used to cultivate grapes and olives. This area, and the region of Liguria, as a whole, is known for pesto, a sauce made from basil leaves, garlic, salt, olive oil, pine nuts and pecorino cheese. Focaccia is a particularly common locally baked bread product. Farinata, a typical snack found in bakeries and pizzerias, is a savoury and crunchy pancake made from a base of chick pea flour. The town of Corniglia is particularly popular for a gelato made from local honey (miele di Corniglia).
The historical activities of Cinque Terre were agriculture, which drew the famous terraced landscape, and fishing. There was no cellar in Cinque Terre without jars containing anchovies, and the smell of wine and fish merged in a historic symbiosis.
An ancient Roman hamlet with a long and rich agricultural tradition. Perched on a cliff which is about 100 meters high, Corniglia is the only village being almost inaccessible from the sea. To reach it one needs to climb the "Lardarina", a long brick staircase (33 flights with 377 steps), or to cover the road open to vehicles going up from the railway.
Access to Cinque Terre by car is limited. A road to Vernazza is very narrow and ends a kilometre before the town. Trains run from La Spezia to all five towns within Cinque Terre, as well as to major regional and national destinations. My advice: find a hotel in La Spezia and take the train to visit the villages. It is the ideal means of transport to go to Cinque Terre. The runs are very frequent, especially during the summer, and the trains stop in all the stations of Cinque Terre: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare.
Funny thing to know : On the trails it is compulsory to wear closed, waterproof and ankle covering shoes, with an anti-slip sole. Open footwear and/or smooth soles are forbidden. The transgressors will be punished.
For centuries, the Cinque Terre paths have been the only way to connect towns to each other and to the outback. Nowadays, the network stretching for more than 120 kilometers allows to discover and appreciate all the territory through different paths. The paths of Cinque Terre National Park have always to be covered under good weather conditions, with suitable shoes and by fitted people.