Liguria (Portofino and The Cinque Terre)

Monterosso: 8km (5 miles) E of Genoa, 10km (6 1/4 miles) W of La Spezia.

The Cinque Terre literally means “The five lands”, and these five are the communities of Corniglia, Manarola, Riomaggiore, and Vernazza along with their urban relative Monterosso. The northernmost of these five is Monterosso and it is the tourist hub of the region, with traffic, crowds, and the only notable example of contemporary urban life here. The other four are inaccessible by road, and are pure rural villages in an agricultural belt lush with gardens and vineyards.  All the five are situated among olive and chestnut groves on steep, rocky terrain overlooking the gulf of Genoa. 

These five tiny seafront villages are not easily accessible by car but very easy to get to by train. Our suggestion is not to do the full hike in one day. If you do, be prepared to take the train back to whereever you started from because your legs will be out by the time you finish. Here you will enjoy scenery unlike any other you have ever seen before.

This whole area is a gastronomist’s paradise. Its culinary delights are dishes based on the produce of from forest, field, and sea. The land here yields an incredible variety of mushrooms; and oregano, borage, rosemary, and sage grow in abundance. The pine nuts necessary to pesto are easilygathered from the forests, as are chestnuts for making flour and olives for the oil that is the foundation of all dishes. Garlic and leeks form the essence of saut?ed dishes, and beets turn up without warning in ravioli and other dishes. Fishing boats add their rich catches of anchovies, mussels, squid, octopus, and shellfish. To wash it all down, vineyards produce wonderful Sciacchetra, a sweet wine, rarer than many other Italian varieties. 

Portofino is the favourite tourist town of the jet set, and it has been so immortalized in movies and songs, that its name is recognizable all over the world as a romantic paradise. The resort is set in a pleasant location on a harbour, where the water reflects all the light coloured little houses running along it, yacht owners find this harbour the ideal refuge, while they tour the interior. In the past artists came here in droves and over the next few decades, the town became known as a celebrity hideaway. Many famous people could be seen arriving by yacht, lounging poolside at the luxury hotels, and vacationing in private villas in the hills, including Rex Harrison and Elizabeth Taylor. The Splendido Hotel alone has hosted such illustrious guests as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Ernest Hemingway, Greta Garbo, Ingrid Bergman, Aristotle Onassis, Clark Gable, and John Wayne. The number of stars and VIPs visiting Portofino has come down , but some rich and powerful people still occupy those private villas, and they stay right alongside the tourists who come by the busloads.

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