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By Dave Sumner

Tips for planning a trip to Italy's Cinque Terre National Park

Cinque Terre, on the Italian Riviera, is a tourist's dream on the west coast of Italy in the Tyrrhenian Sea (part of the Mediterranean). In Italian, "Cinque Terre" (pronounced chink-weh-tay-reh) means "five lands." The stunning beauty of this area makes a visit an absolute must for the "bucket list" of any serious international traveler.

The five villages of Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre is the name for five beautiful seaside villages joined together by walking paths. This place is so culturally and visually important that the government has made all five villages a collective national park. This explains why a potential traveler who is researching a trip to Italy may see this unique destination described as "the Cinque Terre." The Cinque Terre refers to the five villages of Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore.

Hiking between villages

The walking paths of Cinque Terre rise above ancient terraced hillsides to wind across the cliff tops. Those who make the journey to these high trails are rewarded with incredible views. It is common for sections of the trail to wash out during annual heavy rains, so the potential visitor should check with the national park for current trail conditions. Additionally, at certain times, a fee-based entry card may be required to access the trails.

Double check travel plans

Due to the heavy impact of tourism on this protected area, the government has discussed limiting the number of tourists allowed to visit Cinque Terre each year. Therefore, when planning travel it is important to check an official source for current information on tourist limits. Unofficial sources carry a wide-variety of conflicting information on this topic.

Navigating the Cinque Terre

The villages of Cinque Terre are linked by train. However, because of the cliff-side location, the train often runs through tunnels that limit the view. For a more picturesque option there is a ferry from village to village (with the exception of Corniglia). Riding the ferry is a wonderful way to see the villages and terraced hills from the sea.

Tips for ferry travel in the Cinque Terre

  • Arrive early

The ferry boarding lines grow quite long during periods of high tourist traffic. Arriving at the boarding area early will help prevent the disappointment of being left behind (and help ensure a good seat).

  • Linger between ferries

As the ferries hop from village to village, tourists swarm off and into the small villages. To better deal with this "crush" of people, it is a good idea to build in some extra time for lingering in each village. A great way to do this is to allow enough time for a glass of wine in each village before going on to the next.

  • Be prepared for the Italian sun

Ferry rides from village to village are relatively short. However, a late arrival can find themselves stuck at the back of the boarding line, which may result in having to sit on the top (outside) deck. There is little to no shade on the top deck, and it is possible for travelers with sun sensitivity to get "baked" despite the short trip. Again, it is best to arrive early for each boat to ensure the best seats.

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