Eighteen kilometers of sheer rocky coastline in northern Italy, terraced hills and vineyards sloping steeply down to the sea. Five little villages are built into the rocks between the beach and the hills. You can hike, swim, drink red wine, and watch blazing Mediterranean sunsets away from the tourist throngs in the Italian cities and the French Riviera. Centuries old footpaths and mule tracks wind about 500 to 1,000 feet above the sea, leading through olive groves and vineyards,orchards and chestnut woods. Each village has its own character, they are a few minutes apart by train.
There are almost no cars as the villages are not easily accessible by road, but the main railway between Rome and Paris runs along the coast, mainly in tunnels.
As described by UltimateItaly.com:
Cinque Terre represent one of the best preserved natural and semi-natural areas of the Mediterranean; this is mainly due to historical and geomorphologic reasons which have forbidden excessive housing development and the creation of major roadways. Human activity and especially viticulture, have contributed to create a unique landscape in which development of the typical stone walls is so extensive as to equal that of the famous Great Wall of China.
All this, combined with the characteristics of a crystal clear sea, of architecturally interesting locations, of a varied and extensive network of paths (one of the most enviable in the whole Mediterranean), makes the Cinque Terre an increasingly sought after location among Italian and foreign tourists. This is not so much the result of a successful promotional campaign but rather the spontaneous recognition of the uniqueness of the place, of its beauty, of the enjoyment one gets from staying in or visiting it.
Because of the uniqueness of the Cinque Terre, it has been named by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The area has also been designated a National Park to protect the characteristic landscape. The Cinque Terre National Park is actively involved in recuperating and maintaining abandoned terraces.
In 1997 the waters of the Cinque Terre were made a Marine Protected Area to safeguard the diverse range of animals and vegetation that are present, including several rare types of coral.
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