Photograph by David Noton Photography, Alamy
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Colorful Vernazza is one of five seaside villages in Cinque Terre National Park.

Photograph by David Noton Photography, Alamy

Cinque Terre National Park, Italy

Name: Cinque Terre National Park
Location: Italy
Date Established: 1999
Size: 15 square miles (39 square kilometers)

Did You Know?

• Seaside Charm Even in Italy, a land of many wonders, Cinque Terre National Park is unique. The park includes a group of five picturesque seaside villages perched high atop the rocky Mediterranean coastline. Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore, the towering hills behind them, and the breathtaking Ligurian coastline itself are all included in this special national park.

• Timeless Attractions History is alive in the villages, which are replete with ancient churches, castles, and homes that line narrow streets and squares. Roman villas, Benedictine monasteries, and Romanesque architecture bear witness to the steady march of time here.

• Pedestrian Paradise The rocky, rugged coastal cliffs keep Cinque Terre in scenic isolation. Most visitors arrive by train or boat, or even on foot, because it’s extremely difficult to reach the villages by road. That makes the park, villages and all, a pedestrian paradise linked by footpaths that traverse seaside promontories, terraced vineyards, and olive groves.

• Water Park While most visitors focus on the charming villages and breathtaking views found on terra firma, Cinque Terre is a seaside park and its bays, coves, and offshore waters are part of a protected marine area.

• Local Tastes Like most places in Italy, Cinque Terre boasts local specialties of fine food and drink. A crisp white wine called Sciacchetrà is the prized product of local vineyards and good for washing down pesto made with locally grown basil. Freshly caught fish, garnished with local lemons, is another must-have.

How to Get There

The park is designed as a pedestrian space and the best ways to arrive are by rail or by boat. Trains arrive from La Spezia, which is serviced by all long-distance routes on the Pisa-Genoa line. Ferries embark from La Spezia, Lerici, and Porto Venere; connecting boats serve each of the five villages with the exception of Corniglia.

When to Visit

During the summer season, villages are packed to the point that some are suggesting a daily limit on the number of visitors from June to August. Off season is far more relaxed, though many restaurants and most of the few hotels may close from November until March or April.

How to Visit

Consider the purchase of a Cinque Terre tourist card, for one to seven days, which allows an unlimited number of rides along the La Spezia-Levanto rail line, access to all trails (some charge fees) and centers managed by the park, and use of available public transport, such as ecologically friendly minibuses.