Thursday, May 24, 2012

Italian Riviera ... Where Time Stood Still

Situated along 18km of serrated cliffs on the Italian Riviera is the Cinque Terre (the Five Lands), one of Italy’s treasures. It is composed of five villages: Monterosso al Mare, VernazzaCorniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore, and along with the breathtaking coastline and spectacular hillside filled with olive groves and vineyards, it is without doubt one of the most scenic areas in Northern Italy.

Over centuries, people have carefully built terraces on the rugged, steep landscape right up to the cliffs that overlook the sea, and unlike other popular tourist destinations, there has been little to no development in this area. Hence, the Cinque Terre has maintained its charm and it's as if time has stood still for a century. Each village has its own flavor, and to sample them all, you can hike through miles and miles of breathtaking trails or ride a ferry boat from one to the other … we opted for the ferry boat ride.

Monterosso al Mare
Portovenere is a picturesque maritime village at the edge of Cinque Terre. Opposite from the village are islands of Palmaria and Tino, with numerous caves, and the beautiful church of San Pietro, San Lorenzo and the castle are must see … also a great place to stop for gelatos.
Best known as the set of "The Talented Mr. Ripley", Portofino is a picture perfect town located about an hour North of Cinque Terre. The best thing about Portofino was the drive along the Italian Riviera with its breathtaking views.  Unfortunately, as with all lovely places in Italy, the town was overrun by tourists and the majority of the facilities, i.e. parking, restaurants, and shops were underwhelming and overpriced.

We would have preferred to stay in Santa Margherita (Ligure Genova), which is nearby town close enough to walk to Portofino with better selection and more reasonably priced  hotels and inns.
Even with the minor hassles, our trip to the Cinque Terre was a lovely travel experience, and it certainly lived up to its rave reviews. We especially enjoyed the boat ride to and from the five villages, which gave us an opportunity to ‘village hop’ but also a unique and spectacular views of the villages from the sea.

Hotel recommendation: Hotel Da Cecio (Corniglia), Albergo dei Gallo (Faggiona di Pignone Villaggio), Locanda Ca dei Duxi (Riomaggiore), Edi Apartments


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