The Riviera di Levante and the Cinque Terre

Liguria can be found in north-west Italy. It is a long, narrow coastal region running from the tuscan border all the way to France. Its setting is stunning, it lies between the Ligurian Sea and the mountains (Maritime Alps and the Apennines). The whole region is like a huge green terrace with breathtaking sea view.

The Ligurian Riviera - also called Italian Riviera - is divided into two main parts by its capital city, Genova: the Riviera di Ponente - the coast of the setting sun - to the west, and the Riviera di Levante - the coast of the rising sun - to the east. The Riviera di Ponente is elegant, full of nice holiday resorts, sandy beaches and bigger towns. The Riviera di Levante is my kind of place. It is wilder, more rugged and rustic, full of promontories, hidden bays and colourful seaside villages: the Cinque Terre, Tellaro, Portovenere, Portofino, Camogli...just a few names to mention.

This website is mainly about the Cinque Terre, the most beautiful gem of this coastline. You will find here useful information about the five villages, what to see, what to do and what to eat, getting around, hiking trails, beaches, accommodation, tours and so much more. At the same time I show you what else is there to see in Eastern Liguria and give you some basic information about these coastal villages and towns. My recommendation is: book a room or apartment in one of the Cinque Terre villages, and do some day trips from here to visit the beautiful Riviera di Levante.

And now, some basic information about the Cinque Terre. The Cinque Terre can be found in the eastern part of the Riviera di Levante, close to the border between Liguria and Tuscany. The name Cinque Terre literally means "Five lands", but in this case stands for "Five small medieval villages". These unique villages hide between green, steep hills and the turquoise Ligurian sea, their pastel-coloured houses are built on top of rocks or in little bays. When you look at them, you feel like you are in a fairy tale.

With 1,000 years of extremely hard work local people have turned the natural forests and rough, rocky, steep slopes into lush cultivated terraces. They have built about 7,000 kilometers of dry stone walls, carrying millions of baskets of stones and soil on their heads and shoulders, up and down the hills, climbing more than mountaineers. Once a terrace was ready, they planted vine, vegetables and basil, as well as different types of trees: mainly olive, lemon and orange.

The future of this unique landscape is however in danger. Young people often choose the easier way, they find a job in nearby cities, move away or make a living of local tourism. In the meantime, abandoned terraces collapse or are overtaken by maquis and forests. But luckily, there seems to be a new generation of enthusiastic young people who return to their roots. They follow the traditions of their grandparents, cultivate the land, make wine, limoncino, olive oil and pesto, and sell their products in the small alleyways. They are fantastic, passionate people who hopefully ensure the future of the Cinque Terre.

The Cinque Terre National Park is a great choice for an active holiday. You can hike on 100 kms of trails, swim in the tiny bays of this 15-km coastline, sea-kayak, dive, ride a bicycle, rent a boat, go fishing or sailing. You can do wine and olive oil tasting, take a pesto making or cooking course or sit around in one of the many restaurants and try the delicious local specialties.

Or if you prefer, just do nothing. It is a perfect place for slow travel. Read a newspaper while enjoying your morning espresso, learn some Italian phrases, walk around and get lost in the tiny back alleys, sleep on the beach once the crowds are gone, enjoy the orange sunset, feel the salty breeze from the sea, listen to the sound of the waves and cicadas, watch the old men playing bocce, enjoy an aperitivo in a nice little bar.

My perfect day in the Cinque Terre: wake up in Manarola, have breakfast on my terrace with sea view, hike my favourite Manarola-Volastra-Corniglia path, for lunch eat Alberto's focaccia in "La Gata Flora", in the afternoon swim and sunbathe in the hidden bay of Corniglia, admiring the colourful fish under the water, then return to Manarola by train. After a siesta go for dinner to the Trattoria dal Billy and ask for the recommended fresh fish of the day, accompanied by a bottle of Cinque Terre white wine. Later go for a night walk to the harbour and stop by to listen to some live music in La Cantina dello Zio Bramante. And of course, always take my camera with me.