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Liguria, The Enchanting Coastal Crescent


The Enchanting Coastal Crescent

Anchored to a sliver of shoreline where the Mediterranean meets the mountains, Liguria’s sinuous, sun-kissed contour is known as the Italian Riviera. Its villages gracefully extend along the hilly coast, appearing to echo the forms of the waves rolling in to greet it. Once a mercantile superpower and rival to the great medieval maritime republics, the “Superba” empire fiercely protected its seaside citadels until it fell under Napoleon’s shadow. With a distinct culture and fragrant cuisine, the region is defined by its elegance and ardor. The ennobling streets of Genoa are known for raising the man who discovered the New World. The color drenched Portofino Peninsula stretches into the sea, picturesque. The Cinque Terre, five transformed fishing towns clinging to the coast, offer all the delights, luxuries and fine wines visitors seek on its terraced terrain. A hike on the gorgeous Gulf of Poets affords spectacular views over the bay, its beaches and the Portovenere promontory – a place so breath-taking writers like Petrarch, Byron and Shelley used it as a muse.  Liguria pulls newcomers near; its emerald harbors wrapping around them in a welcoming embrace.

Cultural & Historic Sights Liguria

LAVAGNA | The Casa Carbone Residence

Liguria, Cultural & Historic Sights: LAVAGNA | The Casa Carbone Residence

The Casa Carbone residence in Lavagna is known as the home “where time stopped.” In 1992 the Siria and Emanuele Carbone donated their house, in tact, to the FAI organization. The turn-of-the-century aesthetic was left untouched, allowing for visitors to explore the atmosphere of what turn-of-the-century domestic life would have felt like. The home is centered around the sitting room, with the other rooms and living spaces fanning out from there. The dining room has a remarkable collection of period ceramics, the bedrooms have the siblings’ personal artefacts on display, including  jewelry, scientific instruments, wooden dolls and books. The glimpse into fin-de-siècle bourgeois life also shows elegant ceilings decorated with Ligurian themes, art nouveau floor mosaics and Genoese paintings from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century. 

GENOA | Attractions at the Genoa Harbor

Genoa’s harbor offers many fun activities for families to explore. The aquarium is the main draw, but the nearby Biosphere Botanical Gards and Bigo Panoramic Lift also offer further unforgettable experiences. The glass ball-like structure of the biosphere seems to float like a buoy on the sea. A haven for over 150 tropical species, a visit to see the plants, orchids and animals gives insight into the situation currently threatening the animals in their native homes. The Bigo Lift affords amazing 360 degree views of the city and the sea as visitors ascend 40 meters into the sky. Continuing along the seafront, visitors can stop at the Galata Museo del Mare. The museum takes its name from the Genoese quarter in Istanbul offers families the opportunity to take a journey through the history of navigation, right in the heart of the old naval republic’s dockyards. The interactive route leads first through the living quarters of a fifteenth century galley, then through an area depicting the experience of Italian emigration in the 1900s and on to a sensorial adventure inside the S518 Nazario Sauro submarine.

GENOA | Monumental Cemetery of Staglieno

Liguria, Cultural & Historic Sights: GENOA | Monumental Cemetery of Staglieno

Ein Museum unter freiem Himmel

Cemeteries are rarely appreciated for their artistic quality; in Genoa it is different. With regal-like chapels, the Boschetto Irregolare gardens and a pantheon called the “Cappella dei Suffragi”, the Monumental Cemetary of Staglieno has served as the final resting place for many residents and as an open-air museum for those visiting lost loved ones. The impressive cemetery was established in 1851. Wealthy Genoese families built mausoleums on the hills, the middle class graves are on the slopes below.  Life-like sculptures adorn the graves positioned along the tree-lined paths. Mark Twain reflected on his visit to Staglieno and the effect it had on him: “…I will still remember this place, even after I have forgotten the palaces.”

GENOA | Aquarium

Liguria, Cultural & Historic Sights: GENOA | Aquarium

The aquarium was built for the International Exhibition of Genoa in 1992, which celebrated the five hundredth anniversary since the city’s most famous son discovered the Americas. In fitting with the maritime theme, the building was designed to look like a ship headed to sea. The concept for the expo was to show the seas from two perspectives: that of the “New World” and the impact of modernity on its waters and the “Old World” of 1492, which Christopher Columbus sailed from. Genoa Aquarium is the largest in Europe, with more than 600 species and offering an array of experiences. 

Religious Sights Liguria

San Fruttuoso Abbey

Liguria, Religious Sights: San Fruttuoso Abbey

Located in a tiny village reachable only by sea or on foot, the San Fruttuoso Abbey di Capodimonte is tucked into the fold of an emerald green harbour. In the eighth century the Bishop of Tarragon chose it as the place to lay the ashes of martyr, Saint Fruttuoso, who had died for what he believed five hundred years before. The structure was damaged by the Saracens and was rebuilt by the Benedictines in the tenth century. The Genoese Doria family added a watchtower for their admiral who was tasked with defending the property and its fresh water supply from the Barbary pirates. A ninety minute boat ride from Portofino brings visitors to the abbey with its submerged bronze statue, the “Christ of the Abyss”. The monument to fishermen is in front of the monastery, the glass bottom boats enable passengers to glimpse the figure fifteen meters below. Divers can explore the area, which also includes a British ship that sunk nearby during the Crimean War. On the last Saturday of July a local ceremony takes place at San Fruttuoso. During the event participants light candles along the bay as a way to pay homage to the sea.

Art Cities & Historic Villages Liguria


The urban patchwork of the coastal city of Genoa ascends from its harbor up densely packed hills. The area is crisscrossed by slender “caruggi” streets that lead to soaring footpaths called “crêuze”; lifts and funiculars assist weary city dwellers going up, down and about their daily business. The Ascensore Montegalletto elevator is particularly brilliant: it is essentially an elevator that inserts itself inside another elevator when it changes its orientation midway, shifting from horizontal to vertical. The view from the top captures how the urban sea meets the Mediterranean. Churches, shops, houses, alleys, shipyards and docks seem to be envelopes in a net and kept on land. Highlights along the harbor include: the Porto Antico (the old port); a miscellany of historic sea captains’ and merchants’ residences, some built on steep terrain necessitating double entrances that can accessed from either the roads above or below them; a 1543 lighthouse known as “La Lanterna” (“The Lantern”); the seafront AcquarioVillage; Christopher Columbus’ native home; and the Palazzo San Giorgio building, which served as a council building, bank, palace, public space and jail. It once held Venetian explorer, Marco Polo, who hailed from the rival Republic of Venice. The globetrotter was trapped there during the war between the two cities and now houses the Genovese Port Authority. Another “must see” sight is Genova’s striped Saint Lawrence Cathedral.  The church is a marvel and testament to God’s goodwill, as it survived a serious British attack in 1941.  A bomb was dropped on its roof but failed to explode, sparing the eight hundred year old structure.  The shell is now on display, reminding worshippers of their gratitude.  The locals’ approach to the city and its history is manifested in the decision to keep the weapon, in tact, where is lays. Genoans leave things where they fall. Architecture in the various phases of the burgeoning city demonstrates how unbroken elements are rarely removed, but integrated into the whole.  The resulting aesthetic mash-up is as unique as it is authentic. What endures in the narrow swath of land is an unparalleled poetic otherworldliness well worth a visit.


English tourism to Alassio transformed the humble fishing village in Victorian times into an elegant seaside resort, fit for a queen. The French and Italian Rivieras drew the Queen, nobles, civil servants and the affluent who relished the Mediterranean climate.  As they came, they brought sophistication and culture. The enclave in Alassio flourished after the coastal railway was opened in 1872. Trains facilitated the journey from the Isles, as roads were treacherous at the time. Sir Thomas Hanbury was the first to buy Alassino land, with others quickly following suit. The boom completely altered the area; where sheep and chickens used to forage for food along the seafront, stately British homes stood in their stead. Tennis courts, galleries, gardens, casinos and clubs were added. Reverend John Hayes, impatient in waiting for the bookshop to be completed, installed a bookcase outside the church so the Anglo Alassini could take and leave books. The tiny lending library later grew into the Memorial Gallery Richard West, which is the second largest collection of English language books in the country.

The Bewitching Village of TRIORA

Triora is perched on a winding road leading through the Ligurian mountains. The “Village of Witches” reveals one of the blackest moments of the Dark Ages; when famine struck, its women were blamed. For three years, from 1585-1587, the Council of Elders prosecuted covens of witches in trials similar to those in Salem, Massachussetts and Loudun in France. Starting with thirteen women locked in makeshift prisons, the tragic situation exploded when they were forced to confess and name the names of their conspirators. The town’s Ethnographic and Witchcraft Museum recounts the gory tale and is great starting point for a tour of the area. A stroll through the tangle of streets takes visitors past dark alleys, medieval houses and under stone arches. Slate portals are adorned with symbols. The coat of arms depicts the Cerberus three-headed dog, which symbolizes the three rivers of the Argentina Valley and the three foods on which the local economy was based: wheat, wine and chestnuts. The walk continues on to the churches, ancient castle ruins that now serve as the cemetery and the Cabotina cottage where legend holds that witches gathered. Visitors can stop at one of the stores to pick up some of the local products, herbal liqueur (known as the “witch filter”), snail kisses (sweets), honey, wine and “love potions.” The Triora bread is a “must.” It is made with flour and bran and is recognized by the Association of the 37 Breads of Italy. When smeared with high mountain pasture cheeses like bruss or bruzzo (variations of slightly fermented ricotta mixed with herbs and spices), the effect is magical. The three hundred inhabitants welcome visitors, as does the sculpture of a witch at the entrance to the town. She greets visitors when the come, beckoning them to draw near and try her potion, and watches them as they go. Autumn is the best time to visit for its intense colors, afternoon shadows and cackling wind. 

Diano Marina

Situated on the Gulf between Capo Berta and Capo Cervo in Western Liguria, Diano Marina was already a popular tourist resort back the late nineteenth century. Today it is a town of illustrious hotels, Art Nouveau buildings hidden along tree-lined boulevards, and beautiful houses lit up by the sun on the green slopes of Capo Berta. Its golden beach is over three kilometres long, starting close to the harbour and ending at the foot of the cliffs of Capo Berta. On a sunny day the sea takes on true Caribbean colours. 

Natural Wonders Liguria

Grottoes of Toirano

Liguria, Natural Wonders: Grottoes of Toirano

Natural history is

humbling. The man-made mountains of history are dwarfed by what Mother Earth

created so long before. Visitors to the foothills of the Varatella Valley will

feel awe when they enter its dolomite grottoes. Over fifty natural caves were carved during periods longer than the

history of man; the limestone massif preserves the story. Known since the medieval ages, the area was

not reopened to the public until around 1953. The Santa Lucia Cave features a sanctuary

carved into the rock. The Bàsura (Witch) cave has the “bear cemetery” with

remains of the cave

bear (Ursus spelaeus) that hibernated there. The deepest layers reveal,

however, that the first inhabitants of the cave were the Homo heidelbergensis. This

early version of man lived between 200,000 – 250,000 years ago.Foot and hand

prints of the pre-Neanderthals leave clues as to how they used the caverns. In

the “mysteries amphitheater” small clay balls are stuck to the wall, perhaps a

part of a prehistoric ritual. The museum, Museo

Preistorico della Val Varatella, provides more information reguarding what can

be found in the mountain.

Palmaria Island

Liguria, Natural Wonders: Palmaria Island

Heart-shaped Palmaria Island lays just off the coast of Porto Venere. Covered in Mediterranean macchia, a biome consisting of a dense community of evergreen shrubland, the verdant island is no longer home to the dwarf palms that gave it its name. The northern shore of Palmaria, which faces the Ligurian coast, has a port where private boats can dock. Its southwestern side is less inviting, as the hill breaks into steep precipice that drops into the sea. The rather primitive island has a small center for locals, but no tourist structures. The remoteness is used by the Italian marines for training and by adventure-seeking hikers.

Culinary Experiences Liguria

Pesto Making Class in Sestri Levante

Liguria, Culinary Experiences: Pesto Making Class in Sestri Levante

The most classic Ligurian dish is undeniably pasta al pesto genovese. The fragrant yet simple sauce is a divine combination of basil, pine nuts, olive oil, cheese and garlic. Have the opportunity to put pestle to mortar, concocting your own lunch right in the place where the recipe was born.The cooking class in Sestri Levante is quick, as it lasts only about an hour; this makes it a perfect stop for those hiking the nearby Punta Manara promontory or for groups passing through and looking to stretch their legs and participate in an interactive – and delicious! – experience. For those with time, a walk around the historic fishing village is definitely worthwhile. Located on a peninsula, its two bays were named in honor of Hans Christian Andersen, the Danish author who briefly lived there. The Baia del Silenzio (Bay of Silence) has sandy beaches while the Baia delle Favole (Bay of Fairytales) is a bit rockier and surrounded with Mediterranean vegetation.

Activities Liguria

The Genoa-Cassella Train

Liguria, Activities: The Genoa-Cassella Train

Since 1929 a narrow-gauge railway has taken visitors along a scenic 25 kilometer route from the city of Genoa inland. As the historic train chugs along for about one hour it passes through quaint villages, forested areas, uphill over the Appennines and through the countryside. The first six kilometers offer spectacular views of the coast. Visitors particularly enjoy seeing the fortresses, the ancient aqueduct and stopping to buy some Sant’Olcese salami, a pork and beef based meat made following a centuries old recipe.

Festivals & Events Liguria

VENTIMIGLIA | La Battaglia di Fiori Flower Parade & “Battle”

Liguria, Festivals & Events: VENTIMIGLIA | La Battaglia di Fiori Flower Parade & “Battle”



The Battaglia dei Fiori (the Battle of Flowers) takes place in Ventimiglia in June. The weekend sees floats bedecked with flowers roll through the city. When the floats circle back through a second time, a battle of flowers begins – which essentially includes the young women on the floats throwing flowers at the other floats and the viewers on the street, with the audience reciprocating the gesture. Each year the festival theme changes and the floats adapt their styling to suit.  

MONTEROSSO | Walnut Tournament


During the walnut harvest each September Monterosso hosts a unique event, a nut tournament. With rules similar to that of the famous Italian pastime, Boccia, the traditional balls are substituted for nuts. As the participants roll the nuts through the streets in an attempt to win the competition, residents cheer them on. Live music and dancing follow the main event and a traditional dish, Rondelli di Polenta con Salsa di Noce (polenta with a walnut sauce) is served.

RECCO | La Sagra del Fuoco Festival of Fire

Anfang September

Beginning of September

Every year at the beginning of September the Sagra del Fuoco Festival of Fire is celebrated in Recco. The event is organized to honor the Madonna del Suffragio who is believed to protect souls during their passage through purgatory. Each of the seven districts of the town come together to celebrate the event. Food stands are set up and live music entertains the crowd. In remembrance of those lost in World War II and the destruction the town endured as it was bombed multiple times, events and a photographic exhibition is organized throughout the weekend. On Saturday and Sunday evening multiple fireworks shows taking place in succession and from different points along the coast is a marvelous way to conclude the event. Special boat tours are organized to allow for spectators to see the show from the sea.

IMPERIA | Olioliva Festival


The city of Imperia celebrates extra virgin olive oil each year during a November weekend. With over 200 stands set up for tastings from 9:00 to sunset each day, visitors can enjoy various local specialities featuring the star ingredient. Many activities are organized throughout the weekend, including:  discussions, shows, cooking demonstrations and running races of varying difficulty for the families. The “Capital of Olive Oil” awaits to share its “green gold” and enthusiasm for the role in plays in its local economy and culture.

LAVAGNA | Torta dei Fieschi Giant Cake Festival

Liguria, Festivals & Events: LAVAGNA | Torta dei Fieschi Giant Cake Festival

Evening of August 14th

The Torta dei Fieschi Festival is one of Liguria’s sweetest. Taking its name from the giant cake – weighing 1,000 kilos and about 6 meters high – the village of Lavagna cuts up and hands out delicious pieces to share with its residents during the evening of August 14th. The festival has been celebrated since 1949, in remembrance of Opizzo Fiescho and Bianca de Bianchi’s epic wedding in Siena in 1230.

FRANCE - NICE | Carnival

The Carnival in Nice is amongst the biggest Marti Gras celebrations in the world. The total amount of visitors over the two week festival nearly triple the number of the small, coastal city‘s inhabitants: 500,000 residents welcome 1.2 million guests coming to partake in the festivities each year. Most come for the highlight: a parade of sixteen floats that enact a “battle“ as they throw over 100,000 flowers to the spectators. In the evenings the floats are illuminated in captivating colored lights and are wheeled around the main square. Both the day and evening parades are repeated a number of times during the weeks the city celebrates, enabling the locals and visitors to enjoy the confetti, color and fun offered in the mild winter climate.

FRANCE – MENTON | The Lemon Festival

Liguria, Festivals & Events: FRANCE – MENTON | The Lemon Festival

Ende Februar/Anfang März

Since 1936 the "Fête du Citron" in Menton adorns the Biovès Gardens in decorations and sculptures created with over 145 tons of citrus fruits. Even parade floats are made using the zesty yellow and bright orange Mediterranean fruits, designed using the sun as inspiration. Organized over three weekends between mid February and the first days of March, the one-of-a-kind event exalts the warm colors of the winter fruits. The gardens are open during the day and are transformed into the “Gardens of Light” at night. An artisanal products fair and the Festival of Orchids accompany the main event. The colorful parade of the citrus floats takes place on each Sunday of the festival, giving an opportunity to the 200,000 total visitors to enjoy its splendor.

MONACO | The International Circus Festival Montecarlo

Liguria, Festivals & Events: MONACO | The International Circus Festival Montecarlo

End of January

The second smallest country on the map hosts the world’s greatest circus. The Monte-Carlo International Circus Festival takes place every January at the Chapiteau de Fontvielle. Prince Rainier III created the event in 1974 to recognize performers at the pinnacle of their profession. Princess Stéphanie is now the honorary president and plays a key role in organizing the festival. With crowd-pleasing clowns, animals and acrobats, the art form is elevated and awe-inspiring. The acts are judged by a jury of specialists and journalists who award the coveted statuettes to the winners during the prestigious closing gala event.  

Suggested Excursion Combinations Liguria

Lerici and Portovenere by Boat

Liguria, Suggested Excursion Combinations: Lerici and Portovenere by Boat

The horseshoe-shaped Gulf of Poets is best explored by an easy-breezy boat trip. Start in Lerici, the splendid town south of La Spezia Established during the Middle Ages by the Republic of Pisa, the fishing village served to guard the entrance to the Gulf of La Spezia. The gulf is referred to by both names, the “Gulf of La Spezia” and the “Gulf of Poets.” The latter is due to the fact that many poets were inspired by the breath-taking area as they passed through there, one even passed away there in a tragic sailing accident. Following the death of poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, his wife and literary collaborator, Mary Shelley, left her home on the coast and returned to England. Shortly thereafter she released her book, Frankenstein.  As you take the boat across the bay it is readily understood how the heavenly atmosphere was the perfect the political paradise for English Romantics like the Shelleys and their friend Lord Byron.  Escaping from rigid Regency Era censorship, literati found liberty in Italy, as the area influenced and embraced the expression of emotion. When visitors arrive at the quay of Portovenere their first stop is at its small, striped church on the bluff. The Chiesa di San Pietro was built on the ruins of a pagan temple for Venus (from which the town drew its name). After a walk around the charming town, return the way you came. This time you will be heading in the direction Byron once famously swam when he traversed the waters from the Grotto Arpaia (now called “the Byron Grotto”, despite its collapse) to visit the Shelley couple in Lerici.  Alternatively, the group can also have their private bus pick them up at Portovenere.

Rapallo, Santa Margherita and Portofino by Boat

Liguria, Suggested Excursion Combinations: Rapallo, Santa Margherita and Portofino by Boat

The glamorous Italian Riviera has long been the playground for the affluent. Colorful villas and cobalt waters studded with yachts, a stroll along its dreamy promenades allows visitors to feel a part of the luxury scene. One of the best ways to see the area is from the sea. Take a ferry from Rapallo to Portofino and return by boat to Santa Margherita. As you sail along view the jaw-dropping area and soak up the sunshine and sea breeze. When you dock you can begin to experience the highlife, smelling fragrant Mediterranean flowers as you sip espressos and Proseccos at charming cafés at the harbor.  

Sanremo and Dolceacqua

Liguria, Suggested Excursion Combinations: Sanremo and Dolceacqua

See how to live in true celebrity style. Sanremo is the Italian Rivieria’s response to the French Riviera’s Cannes. The galas and events held there regularly host the biggest names in Italian and European entertainment. The hottest spot on the “Riviera of Flowers” blooms and buzzes with shoppers searching for high-end fashions on its palm-lined streets. After some time marveling at the exclusive area, move inland to medieval Dolceacqua, passing olive groves and vineyards as you do. The town is noted for its unique bridge over the Nervia River and the Doria castle complex on the hill above the town center. The old part of the village is called “Terra”, which has a jumble of narrow streets and shops.  Artists and artisans sell their work in the tiny shops. Arguably the best souvenir is a bottle of Rossese, one of Liguria’s best, grown on the vines just outside the town’s gates.

FRANCE | Nice and Cannes

Liguria, Suggested Excursion Combinations: FRANCE | Nice and Cannes

Nice is nice. A one-of-a-kind amalgam of elegance, sunshine, art and sea. The special light mesmerized artists like Matisse, Picasso, Chagall and Renoir.  Its long history of development as a touristic resort area can be seen in its equally long promenade dedicated to its English patrons, the Promenade des Anglais. The quirky blue chairs stationed along the path were originally white and manufactured, repaired, installed and rented out by Charles Tordo post-war. The iconic seat with elevated armrests was designed to be easily stackable and transportable, even more so now that the Tordo family created a version that can be dissembled and stored in a flat box – making for an excellent, automatic souvenir! One of France’s first five star hotels can be found here, the Negresco, as well as a number of world-class art museums and restaurants. An hour southwest of the city lays another luxury seaside resort town, Cannes. Best known for the glitz and glamour of its world-famous film festival, the chic area rolls out the red carpet to welcome couture-clad celebrities each May. During the rest of the year the area offers an array of other opportunities to visitors, such as: boat trips to its Île Sainte-Marguerite where the mysterious Man in the Iron Mask was once held prisoner during the seventeenth century; relaxation on its sandy beaches or in its excellent seafront hotels and restaurants; weekly markets for browsing antiques; and strolls on its La Croisette boardwalk, where the stars leave their handprints on the Walk of Fame.

FRANCE | The Principality of Monaco and Menton

Liguria, Suggested Excursion Combinations: FRANCE | The Principality of Monaco and Menton

At just under two square kilometers the Principality of Monaco is the second smallest country in the world. What it lacks in size it makes up for in style.  The great concentration of wealth and celebrity renders the tiny area one of the leading resort towns where stars and nobility can revel in first-class services. Visitors can see the Prince’s Palace, the Montecarlo Casino, the Oceanographic Museum, the cathedral and the Exotic Gardens. Neighboring Menton, the last city on the Côte d’Azur before the Italian Rivieria begins, is regarded by the French as one of the brightest gems on its coast. Multi-colored mansions and lemon trees create a refreshing atmosphere, perfect to spend time in. 

Inland Liguria

Liguria, Suggested Excursion Combinations: Inland Liguria

Liguria is famous for its expanse of cobalt blue waters that kiss its colorful coastline, but its incredible inland cities merit more attention. The excursion begins in Bordighera. Over a century of predominately English tourism has made the town a welcoming vacation spot with high-end services to please all guests. Just twenty kilometers from the border, the location offers great views of the French and Italian coasts. The area’s most notable plant is the date palm; Bordighera was the first place in Europe to grow the tree and has the exclusive privilege to provide Easter Sunday fronds to the Vatican. From Bordighera move away from the sea, towards the hills. The next stop is Dolceacqua. Its unique, arched bridge, its medieval old town and the Doria castle complex make for some great opportunities for a stroll and some shopping. The artisanal shops and wine shops offer some of the area’s best creations, including Rossese, one of Liguria’s best wines, which is grown there. After some time in Dolceacqua the group will continue further inland, along the Nervia River to Pigna. The atmosphere feels different here, at an hour from the sea. The palm trees give way to more alpine vegetation. The coniferous forests surrounding the town have lent their name to it (“pigna” means pine cone in Italian). Ruins of prehistoric settlements were found nearby, attesting to the fact that this has always been a strategic location between the coast and the lower Piedmont valleys – even before the trade routes were established for exchanging dried fish and salt for the agricultural products from the north. The town grew haphazardly during the Dark Ages. The construction technique of building overlapping houses was for defensive purposes, as the homes solidified into an interwoven fortress. The tiny streets expand out in concentric circles from the main square, Piazza Colla. A castle used to occupy the area, but now it is an open public place with a series of shops, cafés and restaurants.  

The Cinque Terre

Liguria, Suggested Excursion Combinations: The Cinque Terre

The UNESCO world heritage recognized hamlets – Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore – are reached by boat, rail or trail.  The topography of the area did not allow for the development of roads for vehicles.  The five fishing villages dot the coast, tucked into the habitable terrain between the swaths of lush vertical land and cobalt coves. Each village is unique.  Ancient churches, castles and homes are centered on squares that often use the sea as their fourth side. Monterosso is the largest and the only one with a sandy beach. Vernazza is considered to be the most photogenic, as its natural pier surrounded by colorful houses is truly charming. Corniglia is the only one not built on the sea, but one hundred meters above it, on a cliff. As it is the most difficult to reach, it is also the least touched by tourists. Manarola has a small harbor and is where the Via dell’Amore (the Lover’s Lane), once started (due to landslides, the path is now closed). Riomaggiore is a peaceful place, with its colorful cluster of houses hugging the hills behind it. The villages lay in what is now a national park, with the water in front of a protected marine area.  Most visitors choose to arrive by train: from the north they catch the local train from Levanto to Monterosso or from the south they ride from La Spezia to Riomaggiore. Once in the park the obligatory purchase of the park card also enables for the free usage of the train that connects each town. Others choose to do either the trip in or out by boat so they can see the Cinque Terre from the sea. From that perspective it is easier to understand how the complex system of terraced fields, gardens and vineyards were shaped and layered over millennia to give the people the possibility to grow olives, grapes, citrus and other staples on narrow strips of arable land.  Muretti, low, dry stone walls, supported the vertical plots and kept the slopes from sliding into the sea. Given the arduous task of maintaining the argricultural practices there, mostly only the crisp white wine, Sciacchetrà, is still made there.  It suits the traditional seafood dishes perfectly.

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