Trekking through Italy’s romantic Cinque Terre

If you’re going to fake it as a paid-up member of the jet set, then Monterosso, at the northern end of the Cinque Terre, is the perfect place.

Pinned to the cliffs above the Gulf of Genoa on the shin of the Italian boot, the Cinque Terre – the five lands – is the sort of landscape that causes hearts to beat a little faster. This is one of the scenic miracles of the Mediterranean: five small villages hewn from solid rock, huddled facades and pantiled roofs overlooked by churches and fortifications that date back to the Middle Ages.

The sites for these villages were dictated by the freshwater streams that tumble down from the mountain heights. Tiny, dense enclaves arose, crowded around a scoop of harbour, and so the villagers existed, scratching a living from fishing and the olives, grapes, tomatoes and basil they cultivated on tiny terraces hacked from the cliffs.

There are several ways to explore the Cinque Terre. A boat is perfect, but available only to yachtsmen and fishermen. The train is a practical proposition if you’re pressed for time, but this is no place to rush. The best option is a hike from one village to the next along the sentieri, the narrow footpaths used by the villagers since time immemorial.

While you could trek the steep 12-kilometre sentieri from Monterosso to Riomaggiore, the most southerly of the towns, in a day, that would be like jogging through the Louvre.

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