Monterosso al Mare will host us for the next three nights. The largest of the "Cinque Terre" (literally "five lands"), it is a delightful mix of old and new, offering fine cuisine, good shopping, and even a sandy beach! From Monterosso we walk through the other Cinque Terre villages, which are all connected by ancient walking paths. If you are tired of walking, you can hop on any of the trains or ferries that link the towns. Our last day of walking takes us to the beautiful town of Portovenere. Spread out beneath a massive Genovese fortress built in the 15th century to ward off raiding Turkish corsairs, Portovenere was originally a Roman outpost, dramatically situated between the cliffs and the blue waters of the Mediterranean. The trip ends in Monterosso, so you have the choice to stay on and enjoy a relaxing beach holiday or carry on to your next destination in Italy.
Day 1: Sunday
Arrive in Santa Margherita and transfer to our hotel on your own. Santa Margherita, known for its orange blossoms and beachfront promenade, is a lovely coastal town on the Ligurian Sea approximately twenty miles southeast of Genoa. Please plan to arrive early in the day, as you will be meeting your trip leader and traveling companions at 2:30 p.m. for a warm-up hike to Portofino. A formal group orientation will be held this evening before dinner. Overnight in Santa Margherita for the next two nights. Our pick-up time of 14:30 means that you can depart Rome or Milan this morning and arrive in Santa Margherita in time for the hike. If you wish to arrive a day early please let us know and we can book and extra night for you in Santa Margherita. Hotel and Dinner included.
Day 2: Monday
After breakfast we begin our first full day of hiking along the dramatic seaside cliffs of the Ligurian coast, from Camogli to Portofino. Sights include the 13th-century Abbey of San Fruttuoso, nestled below us in a glittering bay, and the pastel-colored houses ringing the harbour in Portofino. Our route serves as the perfect scenic introduction to this marvelous region. Tonight is a "free night" dinner, so you can choose where you wish to dine. You may want to head into Portofino to dine at one of the many chic waterfront restaurants frequented by the owners of the yachts moored in the harbour, or maybe you prefer to enjoy a pizza in a neighbourhood restaurant in Santa Margherita. The choice is yours. Hotel and breakfast included.
Day 3: Tuesday
We transfer by train this morning to the village of Framura. From here we hike through the woods and along terraces to Levanto, where we stop for lunch. We then continue on to Monterosso al Mare, one of the five villages that make up the famed "Cinque Terre." It also has the best beach in the area (with sand!) so you can enjoy a refreshing swim after your hike. Monterosso's brightly painted houses and bustling village life create a charming base for our explorations. We stay at a lovely, family-run three-star hotel. Hotel, breakfast and dinner included.
Day 4: Wednesday
Today's hike takes us along the ancient footpath joining the villages of the Cinque Terre: Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. The whole area has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site as well as a protected natural park, in an effort to preserve the ancient traditions that have been carried on here for centuries. We will walk among the dry-stone walls and steep terraces that allowed for the cultivation of grapes, olives, chestnuts, and even mulberry trees for silk! The path is well marked, so you can go at your own pace today and stop to explore the towns as they go. Indeed, if you are tired of walking you can relax in town and then simply take the train or ferry to the next town or back to Monterosso. Tonight is a "free night" dinner so you can indulge in something special or just have a night off. Hotel and breakfast included.
Day 5: Thursday
Today we have a glorious walk out of the Cinque Terre park over to the former Roman outpost of Portovenere. Our walk takes us past a medieval church, through majestic pine forests, past some of the last remaining cork trees, before a final descent on cliffside trails that lead us past the Genovese fortress into Portovenere. You will have time to explore the cobbled streets and narrow alleys of this picturesque seaside town before catching the late afternoon ferry back to Monterosso, a scenic trip that allows you to see all of the villages from the sea. Final night dinner at one of Liguria's finest restaurants -- a casual place with superb food and an awesome wine list. Overnight Monterosso al Mare. Hotel, breakfast and dinner included.
Day 6: Friday
Today you can enjoy a leisurely breakfast as the trip has officially ended. Make your way independently to the Monterosso train station to catch trains to your next destination. However, many of our travelers ask us to book them extra nights in Monterosso to extend their holiday by a few days. This we gladly do, but please let us know well in advance. Breakfast included.
Trip cost: Euro 1,500 (£1,075) per person based on double occupancy. Single supplement Euro 180 (£130).
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