Holiday on a high
From a full-day hike linking five medieval villages to a stroll through one of Italy's largest botanical gardens, walking is the best way to experience the beauty of coastal Liguria. Here are three walks, going west to east along this arc-shaped slice of Italy, from the border with France to Tuscany's coast.
Giardini Hanbury (garden)
In the late 19th century, northern Europeans flocked to get health treatments at seaside resorts on the westernmost stretch of Liguria. One visitor, Thomas Hanbury, an Englishman who made a fortune in silk and tea trade from China, devoted a promontory to a collection of exotic plants, now managed by the University of Genoa.
The botanical garden on a terraced hillside is now home to 6,000 plant species and also offers wide views of the sea and horizon. A series of trails cascade from Hanbury's stately villa down to the sea, passing by a papyrus-fringed fountain, through a cypress-lined path and in between a wild assembly of plants ranging from azaleas to eucalyptus, from aloe to olive trees. www.giardinihanbury.com
Punta Chiappa (trailhead and swimming spot)
Punta Chiappa, the rocky point where the forest-covered Monte di Portofino meets the sea, is one of the best swimming spots on the Italian Riviera. It's also a pool-size harbour if you want to cheat and come by boat; a long sliver of gray rocks jutting into deep water; and the end of a breathtaking 45-minute downhill trail.
From the church of San Rocco, high above the fishing town of Camogli and the departure point of many trails on the mountain, there is a view encompassing the sprawling city of Genoa and the curving Riviera di Ponente. On the way down, you'll pass fig orchards and terraces crawling with jasmine vines.
Sentiero Azzurro (trail)
This 14km "azure trail" links the five villages of Cinque Terre and provides a way to experience them as something other than a series of postcard views and touristy offerings.
The hardest and most rewarding stretch is from Monterosso to Vernazza and on to Corniglia. Climbing nearly 500 vertiginous metres up the dark-green hills, the unpaved, rocks-strewn trail meanders among olive trees, fragrant shrubs, and gnarled pines. www.parconazionale5terre.it AP
Lifted from TODAY, Travel - Thursday, 06-May-2010
Holiday on a high