Five lands in a charming corner of Italy, where the sea and the earth merge harmonically together, shape an evocative and unique place. It’s here, in Cinque Terre that my summer trip begins. An 18 kilometer long cliff-like seacoast delineated by rocky beaches, bays, caves and deep blue sea, and framed by mountains and hills running parallel to the coast. Five small and picturesque villages, Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso face the sea and give the name Cinque Terre, near La Spezia in Liguria.
Due to the hard work of past generations, an inaccessable area has been transformed into a livable and self-sustained environment. Stone terraces built in the hills make the growth of vineyards, olive and citrus trees possible. Some of them are cultivated at such impracticable peaks that the irrigation happens only via helicopters. Walking paths and mule trails give access to breathtaking views and landscapes of extraordinary beauty. The coastline, the five villages, and the surrounding hillsides are all part of the Cinque Terre National Park and are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Typical colorful tower houses in Genovese style enrich the five villages from the harbor, where they are grouped together, to the top of the hills where they gradually spread apart and isolate in nearly unreacheable nooks. In fact, walking paths, trains and ferries connect the villages, and cars are barely seen. According to old tales, the varied house colors made it easy for offshore fisherman to easily spot their houses. And keep an eye on their wives!
Cinque Terre will keep you fit and in constant contact with nature. Forget about heels and fancy clothes. Flat shoes and sneakers will become your best friend. Getting around is all about steps and climbing up and climbing down. Even if you take a break from hiking expect to have a bit of a climb in order to sip wine from a cliffside terrace. But reaching certain heights will be worth the effort. You will be rewarded with panoramas that rival any postcard or picture.
The best kind of entertainment in Cinque Terre was in front of a glass of wine while enjoying local cuisine. Cinque Terre is known for some of the most appreciated Italian specialties such as anchovies, pesto, focaccia, wine made with Vermentino grapes and limoncello. If hiking is not your thing, you can find well equipped private beaches near Monterosso where you can swim in beautiful waters. The nights are best spent in the many friendly and easy going bars, that are open till late and have a nice crowd. Cinque Terre is a very touristy area, especially loved by Americans. In a few restaurants and bars I almost felt like I was in NYC as American accents were all around me.
It comes as no surprise that a place like Cinque Terre with its quaint landscapes, natural marvels, unmistakable colors and scents is home to some interesting artisan realities that highlight the uniqueness of the area. During my trip I discovered Gocce di Byron, a collection of perfumes, body creams, and home fragrances that manage to capture the quintessential essence of the hills, sea and nature of Cinque Terre. Among my favorites: Salandero, which interprets the essence of Salandero’s beach in Porto Venere, it is a fresh and strong fragrance with notes of tobacco and melon; and Tramonti, born from the bond of citrus tree notes, cyclamen and jasmin. You can find Gocce di Byron boutiques locally in Porto Venere, Vernazza and Sarzana.
Another happy discovery from my trip is Lanapo Cinque Terre, a local sandal brand. Minimal, comfortable, high-quality and versatile Lanapo Sandals are everything you are looking for in flat sandals. Created according to the best traditions of Italian craftmanship, the designs are inspired from and a tribute to the beautiful surroundings of Cinque Terre. All the pieces are 100% leather, handmade in Italy and come in different colors. My favorite pair is the Monterosso piece in gold leather. The collection is available online and also in the local boutique in Monterosso.