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Cinque Terre, Italy's Other Riviera

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Cinque Terre (five lands for the five villages encompassed) is a totally unique area in Italy’s Liguria region. Five fishing villages, their harbors full of colorful fishing boats, hug the mountain sides overlooking the Mediterranean Sea in a rugged part of the Italian Riviera. Mule paths, trains, and boats connect the picturesque villages: cars are almost taboo.

The five villages of Cinque Terre are Vernazza, Corniglia, Monterosso al Mare, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. I took the train from where I was staying in Livorno to La Spezia, and changed for the stop to Riomaggiore. The walking paths that connect the pastel-hued villages wind through olive groves and vineyards that cling, literally, to the sides of cliffs that plummet into the aquamarine sea.

The views are beyond breath-taking, and walking the trails trodden for centuries by villagers and mules is an experience that feeds the soul. Just take lots of bottled water for the hike, and stop in the distinctive towns for an honest feast from one of the little shops that sells sausages, cheeses, a hard roll, and piece of fruit, or stop in a trattoria for some of the freshest seafood available.

Check before you go to see that hiking paths are open, since the area is pre-disposed to trail mudslides. And please, leave the pristine paradise like you found it: it’s just that special!

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