The breathtaking folded coastline of the Cinque Terre (Five Lands) stretches between the beach resort of Levanto and the port of La Spezia. It’s named for five tiny villages – Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore – wedged into a series of coves between sheer cliffs, and their comparative remoteness, and the dramatic nature of their positions, makes the region the principal scenic highlight of the whole Riviera. The scenery, certainly, is lovely, but bear in mind that it’s also the convenience which makes the Cinque Terre so popular: the main clifftop route is not particularly arduous – it’s pretty flat most of the way, the villages are not that far apart and all of them have plenty of amenities and places to stay; and if you get fed up with walking you can always jump on a train (or a boat). No surprise, then, that the area is teeming with travellers during summer, and the villages have lost some of their character to the tide of kitschy souvenir shops and overpriced, under-quality restaurants. But outside of August you should try to take in at least part of the area – it’s worth it, especially if you use quieter and more authentic Levanto or even La Spezia as a base.
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