On the way south to Tuscany we have been dying to see a strap of water for some kind of summer refreshment as late May heat was exceeding 40 C. That's how we were driven to beach heaven of Ligurian coast.
Cinque Terre means literally five lands and is a chain of cute villages located above rugged, picturesque coast near the city La Spezia. Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore are all connected by road and walking paths - all this inscribed to UNESCO World Heritage Site List as a national park.
And although beaches and sea here are far from amazing Sicilian bays the place is definitely magic thanks to colorful houses built upon rocky terraces, cute little squares with cafes and bistros, fishing boats and climate of the cliff itself. To wander around freely you need to buy a ticket which enables you to take sandy footpaths above beaches and move from one village to another. All five have similar coastal character but each is pleasantly unique. For more lazy commuters there is train going through tunnel and stopping at each village and believe me, in noon heat, hiking up the steep routes can be pretty demanding though really beautiful as the trail winds around orchards, vineyards and offers dramatic views. To make it from first village to last you need 5 hours one way...
We managed only to Monterosso and Vernazza due to limited time. At the first one there are quite pleasant stone bays where you can rest and swim - being the biggest beach attraction of Cinque Terre (watch for gelly fish though!) and at second there is majestic castle remains and one of the most heart-breaking fishing harbor I've ever seen. Bad news is that you have to climb outrageous number of steep steps to get there and Vernazza is a no-car town! Dehydration and sunstroke highly probable.
Corniglia is supposed to be more agricultural and also requires some heavy stair climbing, Manarola is the calmest Riomaggiore the busiest with colored tower houses well visible from the road above.
From local specialties you might consider anchovies (eaten fresh!) and sweet wine wine which makes base for excellent dessert - Sciacchetra.