Boasting some of the most dramatic coastal scenery anywhere in the world, the five fishing villages that make up the Cinque Terre, namely Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore, achieved World Heritage status back in 1997.
Not only is this magnificent part of the world noted for its magnificent beauty, but it is a National Park and Protected Marine Area. The stunning azure seas, multi-coloured houses and rugged bays provide an idyllic setting for painters to indulge their creativity, while the coastal walkways, woodland and vineyard-strewn landscapes are perfect for the rambler.
The flora and fauna of this Italian region are stunning, the regional cuisine is enhanced by the amazing herbs that grow in its mineral rich soils and the dessert wine that the Cinque Terre is known for – Sciacchetrà – is simply delicious.
Our hotel, located at Monterosso al Mare, is just a short trip from Pisa airport. There will be ample time to enjoy the view, take a dip in the sea or just relax and do some sketching.
While Monterosso is famous for its gorgeous beach, perhaps its most eye-catching feature is the Monterosso Giant. This 14-metre high sculpture of King Neptune was built in 1910 by a sculptor named Arrigo Minerbi and it juts out dramatically from the cliff face, although today it is missing its arms. Walkers will take a short train ride across vineyards and fields that sit between rugged mountains and the sea to the famous Via dell’Amore. This stunning coastal path links Riomaggiore to Manarola and local legend says that this trail was once a meeting place for lovers from these two towns.
Painters will be in their element today as we drive to Vernazza, a little picture postcard fishing port that is perfectly painted from on high. Colourful houses punctuate its marina and it makes for a very picturesque scene indeed. Here, we look down on its small harbour that boasts a tiny beach, which is tightly hugged by its church and surrounding town. The walkers will take another train ride, this time to Levanto. Passing a castle, we follow a picturesque ancient path cut into the edge of a cliff and enjoy breathtaking panoramic views along the way. We will stop for lunch at a local restaurant before continuing with our day.
Situated on top of a promontory, Corniglia is the most rural of the Cinque Terre villages. Surrounded by vineyards and terraces, this glorious location will undoubtedly broaden both our artistic horizons and our palette. It is so striking that Giovanni Boccaccio mentioned it by name in ‘The Decameron’. If you prefer to take in the views on foot, walkers will sail to Porto Venere for a tour, taking in its old churches and Genovese castle. Later, we will continue on to Riomaggiore where we take the train back to meet the rest of our group.
Walk around the historic heart of Kirkwall this morning. Following free time to explore the impressive St. Magnus Cathedral, we head to the Peedie Sea and its busy harbour. After lunch, we depart for Orkney’s south end, stopping at the Italian chapel along the way. In the evening, we take the ferry back to Aberdeen.
A glorious day awaits and we begin by travelling high into the mountains above Monterosso to the Sanctuary of Soviore. The very first written record of this historic building dates back to 1225. For the walkers among us, there will be a short train ride before we climb to the Madonna di Reggio Sanctuary, which is located on the hills behind Vernazza. A lovely woodland walk brings us to a second sanctuary before descending to Monterosso along an ancient pilgrims’ path. This area, strewn with magnificent vineyards, is revered for its sweet Sciacchetrà wine.
This morning we will transfer back to Pisa, where we will catch our flight home.
The Cinque Terre is an artist’s delight, awash with colour and brimming with charm. The accommodation we will enjoy in this area is set in a quiet corner with great facilities, close to the region’s renowned walking areas. It is also close to local cafés where you can sit and watch the world go by when not walking or painting.
Please note: all transfers here are by train so bear this in mind when packing!