Our journey through Italy went beyond just Lucca. We also explored the coastal towns nestled along the Apennine Peninsula. We wandered through narrow streets, admired the colorful houses seemingly climbing the coastal cliffs, inhaled the aroma of fresh pastries, and watched the joyous atmosphere of Italian life.

 

Cinque Terre: Five Picture-Perfect Villages

 

Cinque Terre was one of the stops on our journey through sun-kissed Italian towns. It is a national park carefully preserved by UNESCO.

Cinque Terre is free from noisy highways and grandiose architectural masterpieces. Instead, it attracts tourists with its azure sea, picturesque panoramas, steep cliffs, and refreshing air.

 

Cinque Terre translates to “five lands”, as the park encompasses five villages: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso al Mare.

There are two ways to reach this place: by car or by train. We opted for the first way, and even this seemingly simple journey was another adventure for us. We drove past the five villages, gazing at the postcard-like landscapes that unfolded before us.

The most popular tourist activity in Cinque Terre is the Azure Trail. This 12-kilometer hiking route winds its way through all villages. It weaves through cliffs, dives into tunnels, skirts numerous vineyards on the slopes, offering breathtaking views of the sea and surrounding mountains.

In addition to the main path, numerous smaller trails lead up the hills. They reveal secluded nooks where one can hide from the noisy crowds of tourists and enjoy the peace and quiet.

But the secret of the Azure Trail is not in the walk itself. The secret is in dolce far niente. This is the art of sweet doing nothing, the ability to appreciate the simple joys of life.

Another uniqueness of Cinque Terre is its vineyards. Resembling patchwork quilts, terraces of grapevines cascade down the steep slopes to the very sea. Grapes have been cultivated here since the Middle Ages. Since then, it has remained unchanged — the grapes are still harvested and processed manually. And it is these grapes that are used to produce the renowned wines of Liguria.

The rugged terrain poses a challenge for transporting the harvest: you need to lift the baskets of the precious berries from the foot of the steep terraces to the wineries. To overcome this, the locals came up with an ingenious method that utilizes a monorail. This is how the system works: workers put the harvested grape clusters in woven baskets, load the baskets onto small motorized carriages, and the carriages then glide along the rail, gently swaying as they ascend.

Each village of Cinque Terre has its own port as they all lay along the Ligurian Sea. The most memorable for us was the port of Vernazza with its miniature beach.