Five and a half / by Mario Mirabile

The Cinque Terre (Five Lands) are a World Heritage listed series of small fishing and farming villages.  At least they were fishing and farming villages till the world discovered their charms, but it couldn't have been an easy discovery. They can be found perched in improbable locations along the steep shores of the Ligurian coast south of Genoa. The only way to reach them for a long time was by boat or foot, with the more recent addition of rail - there is no road access. The local terrain is incredibly difficult, with the mountains plunging straight into the sea.  While boat access to the villages is relatively straightforward, the location of the farms which dot the coast makes you wonder how people get in and out of them, let alone work the earth.

 The Cinqe Terre have become a major tourist draw-card, with people swarming to marvel at their colorful and steeply terraced houses. Naturally, this means that the hordes need to be catered for {and where possible, fleeced...), so every second house along the main streets has become a trattoria, gelatoria or souvenir stall. Sadly, this has dramatically affected the character of the villages, which of course also detracts from their photographic appeal. It also doesn't  help that the ferry schedules don't lend themselves to being there either very early or very late when the light is best. I kept wishing I could return at sunset, 30 years ago.

I think what made these gems so popular is that they are so close together. There is at most a few kilometers between each of them, making it possible to walk between all five in a single day (at least when the walking track is open). However, similar villages can be found all along the coast. The hamlet of Tellaro is not quite on the same scale, but is similarly attractive, can be reached by bus from Lerici, has a single cafe, and hardly any tourists. Five and a half lands?