Scattered along the dramatic emerald Ligurian coastline the five towns of the Cinque Terre sprawl down cliffs and splash bursts of colour into mountains that drop off abruptly to gently bobbing waves below. Set above the rich blue water this precious gathering of fishing villages is a wonder of the Italian coastline. Connected by rail hiking trail and sea cars have been largely eschewed and traditions kept alive on this romantic coastal stretch where each of the interlinked towns preserves its own distinct personality. Portovenere - itself a gorgeous colourful fishing village - is the gateway to the five towns which cling to the cliffs of this terraced landscape. Monterosso is the largest and you can sunbathe on its sandy beach or explore the town's gorgeous Medieval core. Vernazza is one of the smallest but perhaps the most pretty and elegant. Manarola is another of the smaller options perching higher up on the rocks and surrounded by fertile vineyards and olive groves. Joined by hiking paths and pretty little ports you can explore the chain of gravity-defying towns as you wish ticking them off at breakneck speed or settling into a café to soak in the sea view and sleepy way of life. Or head across the waters from Portovenere's gorgeous stacked waterfront to Palmaria Island's unspoiled hiking terrain - also part of the Cinque Terre and Portovenere's UNESCO World Heritage Site listing.