The conclusion of our wine and food tour of Tuscany takes us beyond Tuscany as we head into Liguria for a finale of seafood and scenery along Italy’s Riviera—the five fishing villages of Cinque Terre. Today there is lot more tourism than fishing in these colorful towns perched on the side of steep cliffs surrounded by rugged landscapes that are now a national park. There are about 4000 inhabitants that receive 2.5 million tourists each year.
Consisting of five small coastal villages– Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso—Cinque Terre today is accessible by car if you don’t mind a bit of white knuckle driving, but the villages are ZTL zones meaning no cars allowed and parking on the outskirts is expensive. We were bused into Riomaggiore and traveled by train, boat, and hiking trail to get between villages.
The landscape is gorgeous, the seafood excellent and the shopping apparently productive given the hordes crowding the shops. But the main attraction is the hiking along trails linking the villages. These ancient trails used to be the only way to get from village to village and although landslides have closed some of the trails, the ones that are still passable give you stunning vistas and plenty of calorie-burning slopes to work off a week of indulgence.
We took the boat from Riomaggiore to Monterosso, hopped a train to Vernazza, and after a fortifying screwdriver (introduced to the locals by our tour guide Chris) at this hilltop bar, embarked on the two hour hike back to Monterosso. The trail was well worn but steep with handholds where necessary, but the constant elevation changes had me longing for the flatlands by the time we descended into Monterosso.
We weren’t here for the wine, but they do plant wine grapes on terraces painstakingly carved into the cliffsides. This rail contraption is used to navigate the hillsides in order to do their vineyard work. The indigenous wine is a refreshing blend of Bosco, Albarola and Vermentino which was especially crave-worthy after a rigorous two hour hike. This lobster lunch made the effort worthwhile.
Tomorrow morning we head out on our own. After a couple days of downtime in La Spezia we take the train to Turin, rent a car and head to the village of Monteforte, near Barolo, to taste Italy’s most prestigious beverage, the King of Wines.
The Tour of Tuscany was researched and executed by Chris Gluck owner of the Wine Vault and Bistro in San Diego