Rick Steves: The Latest From the Cinque Terre (PHOTOS)

The Cinque Terre is my favorite stretch of Mediterranean coastline. On this two-month research and TV production trip, I gave myself one day off, and I slotted it in right here.

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Unfortunately, cruise lines are now stopping in La Spezia (the gateway to the Cinque Terre), and their thousands of passengers are congesting these otherwise-peaceful towns. When the cruise ships are in, midday can be miserable, both in the towns -- like Vernazza, pictured here -- and on the trails. But if you're out early (before 10:00) or late (after 17:00), there are no crowd problems at all.

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Enjoying a sunset from the castle in Vernazza at Ristorante Belforte is one of the most romantic experiences you may ever enjoy.

The restaurants of the Cinque Terre make delightful seafood antipasti plates. When in the Cinque Terre, your best restaurant tip: Order seafood.

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