The low-key Italian Riviera: simply enchanting.

If you’re looking for sophistication, fast cars and celebrity spotting on the Italian Riviera, head for Portofino. But if you’re looking for pretty villages that, despite tourism, have changed little over the years, then you’ll love ‘Le Cinque Terre’ or the ‘Five Lands’, in the Liguria region of northern Italy. The coast is rugged, the beaches fabulous and you can bask in the Mediterranean sun. Oh yes, and the area boasts some fine white wines too with which to wash down pasta with authentic pesto, a Ligurian speciality, or local seafood.

The Cinque Terre are the five villages of Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore on Italy’s north-west coast and the area and National Park have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Get yourself a hiking map and walk the villages from Monterosso in the north to Riomaggiore in the south, on the Sentiero Azzuro. It’s a walk that takes five hours, but the less active can take the train. You’ll be travelling through olive groves, citrus fruit trees and vineyards, with spectacular views of the sea.

The villages are not just ‘more of the same’. Close to Monterosso sweeps the region’s longest beach, Fegina, while Vernazza is a fishing village; Corniglia a hill village. The villages offer interesting churches and typical colourful houses that give each its own character, not to mention some decent bars and restaurants.

The easiest way to get to the Cinque Terre is by train from Genoa, with a journey time of one hour. Ryanair (www.ryanair.com) flies to Genoa from London Stansted. And don’t forget to pack your sun tan lotion!

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