Want to escape the crowds during a visit to Italy? Like the outdoors?

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Last month, the Italian Concierge featured an article on the Cinque Terre proposing new restrictions to limit its number visitors. While the new measures have not yet been put into place (as with all things in Italy, this will take some time), it’s always a good time to talk about the great hikes in the area!

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Image by Flickr user TorreBarolo

When I think of Piedmont, this is what I see. Rolling hills, covered with vineyards. Perfect for a stroll between wine tastings.

Many travelers love Piedmont for its food (and wine) due to the rich culture that gave rise to and has grown around the Slow Food movement, which is based in Bra, Piedmont. But Piedmont is also home rich Renaissance architectural landmarks, several of which have been inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage list.

Sacri Monti


Shared with Lombardia, the Sacri Monti UNESCO World Heritage Site consists of nine historic sites throughout the two provinces that range in origin from 1486 to 1712.

When the expansion of Muslim territories made it more difficult for pilgrims to visit Jerusalem and Palestine in person to pray at the Catholic holy sights, the guardians of Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre sanctioned the creation of sacri monti (sacred mountains) to mirror the layout and shrines of the main holy places and offer alternative prayer and pilgrimage sites.

UNESCO included these sites as much for their beauty as their historical significance, as you can clearly see when visiting them. Located outside major cities, built into the side of mountains, and incorporating forests, streams, and lakes whenever possible, the sacri monti represent a type of architecture that unites natural and made made elements that spawnded many offshoots throughout Europe.

Residences of the Royal House of Savoy


Walking the streets of Torino, it’s easy to imagine that the stately, elegant town was developed with a cohesive town plan in mind. Interestingly, that plan revolved around connected the various regular, working, hunting, and leisure homes of the Savoy family more so than any main Renaissance or Baroque city-planning scheme.

When the Savoys first moved their capital to Torino, it was a relatively plain provincial village, so they had a clean urban slate to start from. Using the “command center,” which is what we think of today as the palace, as a nucleus, radiating roads were built outward, to connect to the river Po, where the Villa della Regina was built in the foothills and the Royal Theater and State Secretariat soon followed.

From command center to the nearby banks of the Po and to lodges further afield in wood areas, the palaces, villas, and lodges of the Savoys—naturally in the most scenic locations around the city—straight, tree-lined royal roads created a framework for the city to grow around.

As the Savoy kings were consistent and constant in their growth and reorganization of the city, UNESCO chose to include the site in its World Heritage list because it provides a comprehensive overview of European monarchical and monumental architecture from the 16th to 18th centuries.

walking in barolo piedmont

Image © Italian Concierge

If you’ve seen the flyer for our upcoming Puglia and Basilicata tour in May 2014, you know that in addition to custom travel planning, the Italian Concierge also runs luxury walking tours.

With fall and la vendemmia (the harvest), nearly upon us, I’ve been reminiscing about visiting my favorite wineries in Italy.

One of the best ways to do that is to walk through Piedmont, stopping in castles for lunch, visiting the wine archives, and tasting the other rich bounties of Piedmont’s famous soil, like truffles.

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REGION: LIGURIA

THE CINQUE TERRE

Pronunciation: Chinkway Tear ray

GENERAL NOTES:

To hike the entire way from Riomaggiore to Monterossa al Mare ( south to north) takes 5 hours no stopping. To hike this way you are begining at the easiest path to the most difficult ( into and out of Vernazza). You must purchase a ticket to enter the park. There is NO Camping here and the trail  is NOT good for mountain Bicycling or heels.  Wear a good supportive shoe.  There is no need to bring food, it is never far out of reach.  There is even a bar or two along the way.

HOW TO ARRIVE: Best not to take the car.  The roads into the park are narrow and steep, and once you arrive at one of the villages then parking is a problem.  Easiest to take the train.   Some of you think you can train from Florence and hike and return to Florence that same day.  I do not recommend this.  Take your time to enjoy this beautiful place.

If you do have a car, and insist on using it,  then an option is to drive to Lerici located below la Spezia on the  coast. Lerici has lots of parking.  There are boats that depart frequently in summer months June 1- Sept 15 for Palmaira island, Portovenere and Cinque Terre.  After that better check the schedule.  Keep in mind, boat do not run when the seas are rough.

RIOMAGGIORE

Take the train to Riomaggiore. When you arrive, before you walk through the tunnel to see the town, there is an elevator on the left, Pay the 1EU a person and take it up to the top, and see the town easily walking downhill!!  Don’t miss the fortress.  Then walk down though the town, and back through the tunnel to begin the Via Del Amore which  is the easiest trail which is really a sidewalk.  There is also another wonderful hike from here  up to Colle Telegrafo then down to Portovenere.  Outstanding and less traveled.

MANAROLA

Walking from Riomaggiore to Manarola will take you 30 minutes and everyone can do it.  It is flat and paved. Arrive in Manarola and wander the town. From here you can walk down to the port to take a boat to see the other villages. The next town Cornilia is on the crest of a hill and there is not a port to take a boat.  If you do want to walk to Cornilia, it takes 45 minutes. And is a single track trail which hugs a cliff. It is a tad difficult for youngsters.

CORNIGLIA

When you arrive in Corniglia there are 245 steps to walk up to the town which sits on a pinnacle. Alternately, they do provide electric busses from the train station for those who do not want to walk up hill. There are few places to eat in Corniglia and there is only a view if you walk to the point. It is the simplest of all the villages.

VERNAZZA

Said to be the prettiest of the towns, the walk into and out of Vernazza are the most difficult. From Corngila to Vernazza takes one hour 15 minutes. The hike from Vernazza to Monterossa takes one hour and a half.  The trail is not easy as you hike uphill until you reach grade, then the trail levels off. there are lots of big stones and uneven footing.  The views are dramatic as you wind between olive groves and terraced vineyards. There are numerous stores and shops to purchase picnic items here, Don’t miss the foccaccia a regional specialty.

MONTEROSSO AL MARE

Is considered,  the commercial center of the Cinque Terre Villages, and the largest of all five of the towns. There are two parts to the town the old and new (train station area). Most of the hotels are located here.  The regional trains stop here whereas only the local trains stop at all the other villages. Make sure you visit both sides of town, the historic center is furthest away from the train station.

NOTE: Don’t miss the “Farinata”- chick pea pizza at Il Frantoio in Monterosso on Via Gioberti.  It is a classic Ligurian dish. ( open mornings and late afternoons.)

OTHER HIKES IN LIGURIA LEVANTE:

LEVANTO to MONTEROSSO

You can hike form Levanto to Monterosso- 3 hours and it is best done form Levanto TO Monterosso as the giant steps to enter into Monterosso would be a killer if you had to hike UP them instead of DOWN them. Less traveled, it is a beautiful hike with less vineyards and dramatic drops to Punto Mesco.

TREKKING : SANTA MARGHARITA TO PORTOFINO TO SAN FRUTTUOSO TO CAMOGLI

SANTA MARGHARITA TO PORTOFINO

This trail takes about 2 and half hours. And is extremely beautiful, a single track and at times paved, it is well marked. Medium difficulty. The trail is marked with three red dots. And begins in Santa Margharita behind the gas station and near the Arab looking structure.

You can also take the boat from Santa Margharita to Portofino.

SAN FRUTTUOSO

Not to be missed is a trip to see the FAI –Italian National Trust abby of San Fruttuoso. Located in a cove only reachable by boat or foot.  The trail from Portofino is not easy and extremely steep. Do not take it on a wet day.  The boat from Portofino is convenient.  It will let you off at the abby and there is a tiny beach and two Trattoria  Dine at the one under the arches with the fish nets.!  http://www.fondoambiente.it/beni/abbazia-s-fruttuoso-beni-del-fai.asp

CAMOGLI

A second boat company can take you from San Fruttuoso  over to Camogli with a stop at Punto Chiappa. You can also hike to Camogli from San Fruttuoso ( 2.5 hours). Or you can hop off the boat at Punto Chiappa and go and eat at the trattoria there and then walk to Camogli.  Either way Camogli is not to be missed.   You can catch a train back to your town from Camogli. 

PORTOVENERE

Beautiful seaside town at the mouth of La Spezia harbour once know as Venus's Port since there was a temple dedicated to Venus perched at the pinnacle of the harbor entry.  ( Now a church)  You can take a Cinque Terre boat from here in season to access all the five villages.

DINING ALONG THE COAST:  Joyce's Picks

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