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Five star Liguria

Five picturesque coastal towns directly above the shimmering Ligurian sea.

Five star Liguria

Declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1997, the area which comprises the towns of the Cinque Terre is a veritable oasis of nature characterised by vineyards and olive groves clinging to terraces carved into the steep hillside almost directly above the sea. One way to travel around this stunningly beautiful corner of Liguria is by train whilst, during the summer season, ferry boats provide regular connections between the towns (timetables are published on the Navigazione Golfo dei Poeti website). Visitors to the Cinque Terre; a superb, almost traffic-free paradise, are advised to leave their car behind. By far the best way to explore the area is to walk along the coastal footpaths which for centuries have provided the principal thoroughfares across the Cinque Terre. These magnificently scenic, twisting pathways which hug the coastline for some 12 kilometers, pass through each of the five towns; nestled in tiny bays or perched on dramatic spurs of rock directly above the sea.

Our journey commences with the easternmost of the five lands, that of Riomaggiore, which can be reached by car from La Spezia via the SS 370 highroad. It is believed that the little town was founded by a group of Greek refugees during the first half of the 13th century. Today the town appears like a colourful mosaic; its tiny painted houses facing out on to narrow alleyways and lanes linked by covered passageways and steep flights of steps. In the higher part of the town there is the house once home to the artist Telemaco Signorini who often reproduced this fairytale landscape in his paintings. On the hill of Cericò, lie the ruins of the Castle of Riomaggiore whilst, higher up still, one comes to the Sanctuary of Madonna of Montenero from where a panoramic pathway leads all the way to the medieval town of Volastra.

Those wishing to visit Manarola should take the "via dell'Amore", the most famous of the pathways through the Cinque Terre. The best time to walk along this path, cut into the rock directly above the sea in the 1920's and soon after described as "the most beautiful walk in the world", is at sunset. Thirty minutes and walkers find themselves in Manarola; its houses perched on the rocks above an intense azure blue sea, its small harbour protected by two rocky outcrops. In the highest part of the town there is the gothic Church of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary; well worthy of visit.

From Manarola the "Via delle Trasparenze Marine" leads to Coniglia. The pathway offers a magnificent display of sea, sky and Mediterranean vegetation which, as walkers near the town, transforms in a dense coastal wood of chestnut, holm oak and pine trees. The small center rests on a rocky promontory, some one hundred meters or so above the sea, from where all the other four towns of the Cinque Terra are clearly visible. As are the terraces created so as to accommodate the vines where grapes for the area's excellent wines are cultivated; wines such as the prestigious white Cinque Terre DOC and the Sciacchetrà passito. Not to be missed: the church of San Pietro - a fine example of Ligurian Gothic architecture, built on the site of an 1lth century chapel.

Yet another pathway winds its way past dry stone walls and olive groves to reach the town of Vernazza with its tower-houses, the Torrione and the imposing Doria Castle. In the heart of the town lies the small square, or "piazzetta" which opens out onto Vernazza's picturesque harbour. The square is known locally as the 'cantu de musse'; the gossip's corner. The Church of Santa Maria di Antiochia, complete with minaret-like octagonal shaped bell tower, dominates the square. From Vernazza, numerous paths afford walks through spectacular coastal scenery, one such walk leads to the Sanctuary of the Madonna di Reggio which houses the Black Madonna said to have been brought here during the crusades.

Finally, there is Monterosso, the western most town of the Cinque Terre. The bell tower of the church of San Giovanni, the tower of the castle, and the Aurora Tower, only these three of Monterosso's original thirteen towers have survived the passage of time since the 16th century when they were constructed to protect the town from attack. To visit: the 14th century parish church with exquisite gothic façade, and the Convent and the Church of San Francesco where works attributed to the great Van Dyck, Luca Cambiaso and Bernardo Strozzi are jealously guarded. For lovers of the sea, Monterosso is the ideal place where to pass a few hours or more; blessed with ample beaches lapped by a fabulous crystal clear sea.

Irresistible offers

Costa Morroni

Resort Levanto

Winter Break at the sea in the Cinque Terre! budget

Valid from 20 Oct 2016 to 7 Apr 2017

from € 98.00 (per night per room)

Itineraries

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Eremo di S. M. Maddalena

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Vis à Vis

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Useful links
Liguria (all hotels)
Cinque Terre Hotels
Sestri Levante Hotels
Levanto Hotels