GENOA FOR VISITORS: CINQUE TERRE

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One of the most spectacular stretches of Ligurian coastline is located less than one hour south of Genoa. Part of a National Park and recently declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO, the Cinque Terre (Five Lands) is a relatively unspoiled area: lush terraces of olive and lemon trees cover the steep slope almost to the turquoise sea.

The five villages (Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore) have been virtually cut off from the rest of Italy until the construction of the railway in the 1920s, and the roads that have replaced the mule tracks remain tortuous, discouraging the arrival of the masses.

A very good way to visit this area is to hike along the Sentiero Azzurro (the Blue Trail). It can be covered in 5 hours at a steady pace, even if parts of it can be quite challenging as it makes its way up steep hillsides, with seemingly endless flights of steps carved into the rock. If you want to take your time, stopping to admire the views and exploring the towns along the way, plan on spending a couple of days.

The restaurants and "trattorie" offer a selection of the local specialities, such as fish and seafood, stuffed vegetables and "pasta al pesto".

The last stretch of the trail from Manarola to Riomaggiore is the most famous, even if not the most scenic: the "Via dell'Amore" (Love Lane) is a paved walkway crowded with strolling lovers… and not just them. At the end, however, you're rewarded with a spectacular natural harbour surrounded by towering houses climbing up the rocky cliffs - an ideal place to watch a romantic sunset!

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