La Spezia for Cinque Terre

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Named after its five tiny villages (Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso), the Unesco-listed Parco Nazionale delle Cinque Terre encompasses some of Italy’s most picturesque and environmentally sensitive coastline. The villages are linked by the 12km Blue Trail (Sentiero Azzurro), a magnificent, mildly challenging 9km (five-hour) trail. To walk it, you’ll need to buy a Cinque Terre Card (per day/two days €5/8), available in all of the park offices. If you prefer, you can buy a Cinque Terre Treno Card (per day/two days €8.50/14.70), which covers the walk and unlimited train travel between Levanto, just north of the villages, and La Spezia to the south, including all five villages.

The Blue Trail is just one of a network of footpaths and cycle trails that crisscross the park. If water sports are more your thing, you can hire snorkelling gear (€10 per day) and kayaks (€7 per hour) at the Diving Center 5 Terre (Tel 0187 92 00 11;; Via San Giacomo) in Riomaggiore. It also offers a snorkelling boat tour for €14.

Focacceria Enoteca Antonia (Tel 0187 82 90 39; Via Fegina 124, Monterosso; foccacia per slice around €2.50; h9am-8pm Fri-Wed Mar-Oct) A great place to pick up picnic provisions of foccacia and the local DOC wine.

Marina Piccola (Tel 0187 92 01 03;; Via Birolli 120, Manarola; meals €27) In Manarola, this welcoming place has an outdoor terrace with a lovely water view. Specialities include zuppa di pesce (fish soup) and antipasto di mare (seafood antipasto).

Regional train services from Genoa to Riomaggiore stop at each of the Cinque Terre villages (€4.40, two to 2½ hours). These services run every one to two hours between 4.53am and 10.20pm; the last train back to Genoa is at 11.19pm.

Trains run between La Spezia and Levanto every 30 to 60 minutes between 4.30am and 11.10pm, stopping at all of the villages en route.

Consorzio Marittimo Turistico 5 Terre (Tel 0187 81 84 40) runs ferries between four of the villages (not Corniglia) every day in summer (single/return €8/12.50). In summer Golfo Paradiso (Tel 0185 77 20 91; runs ferries between Genoa’s Porto Antico and Vernazza (single/return €20/29). Check schedules at the Porto Antica information booth in Genoa.