The morning sun rises from behind the mountains and casts its light on the seaside terrace where a delicious breakfast spread awaits you. A group of cyclists assemble around the espresso machine as it whirs to life. You begin your day once everyone is fed, caffeinated, and ready to go. Unlike yesterday, when you conquered the mighty Passo del Bracco in the mountains above Sestri Levante, today you leave your bike behind and going for a hike. The trail youíll be riding is unlike any other in the world. Its winding path connects the five coastal towns of Cinque Terre for locals and tourists alike.
Together with your guide, you visit each of the towns in this unforgettable UNESCO World Heritage site. The walking trail winds its way up hillsides that local farmers have terraced and cultivated for generations, growing grape vines and other regional produce. Reaching the top of these climbs you can enjoy the 360į panoramic view of the coastline before descending into the next town below. From quaint fishing villages to cliff top fortresses, Cinque Terre captivates your imagination, and the outrageously satisfying cuisine that this region boasts instantly wins you over.
For centuries these small towns lay isolated, unknown and undiscovered. Gradually the word spread, and by the 90s the towns of Cinque Terre no longer relied solely on agriculture to make their way in the world. Tourism had taken root there, and to this day it remains an integral part of daily life in Cinque Terre. Still, retaining the day-to-day simplicity that has always existed in Cinque Terre is important to the residents of the area. Roads connecting the towns to the outside world are limited, and for the most part run along the ridgeline above Cinque Terre, high above the towns. The people of these towns either use the train to come and go, or grab their walking stick and hoof it to a dinner party in the next town.
It is this voluntary isolationism that has preserved Cinque Terre in such a pristine state, despite the numbers of foreigners who visit each year. The lasting effect which Cinque Terre can have on people was made evident in 2011, when massive winter mudslides devastated the towns. An international outpouring of monetary support quickly followed, illustrating the desire of past travelers to preserve the lovely hillside towns that they had experienced.
Liguria, the coastal region where Cinque Terre lies, is home to both stunning beaches and beautiful mountain passes. It is a pleasure for all the senses. Visit the luxurious seaside towns of Portofino, San Fruttuoso, Sestri Levante, and of course the five towns of Cinque Terre. During the evenings, enjoy wonderful meals of fresh seafood or pasta with pesto (a local specialty), accompanied by the delicious local white wines.
Andy Levine is the President/Founder of†DuVine Cycling + Adventure Co.