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Cinque Terre: ‘The Five Lands’

Monterosso al Mare is one of the five villages of Cinque Terre and hosts one of the more prominent sand beaches of the area, popular with summer tourists. The town also features a castle, the parish church of St. John the Baptist and a Capuchin Monastery. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Michael Battles)

Monterosso al Mare is one of the five villages of Cinque Terre and hosts one of the more prominent sand beaches of the area, popular with summer tourists. The town also features a castle, the parish church of St. John the Baptist and a Capuchin Monastery. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Michael Battles)

The bright colorful homes tucked into the hillside of Manarola, the second smallest coastline village of the Cinque Terre region in northern Italy. As one of the oldest towns in the area, Manarola depends on a steady stream of tourism, fishing and wine making as primary revenue. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Michael Battles)

The bright colorful homes tucked into the hillside of Manarola, the second smallest coastline village of the Cinque Terre region in northern Italy. As one of the oldest towns in the area, Manarola depends on a steady stream of tourism, fishing and wine making as primary revenue. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Michael Battles)

Portofino, Italy, sits just north of the Cinque Terre National Park in the Italian Riviera. One of the more popular resort towns, Portofino offers shopping, art galleries, cafes, restaurants, hiking, sightseeing and more to visitors. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jessica Hines)

Portofino, Italy, sits just north of the Cinque Terre National Park in the Italian Riviera. One of the more popular resort towns, Portofino offers shopping, art galleries, cafes, restaurants, hiking, sightseeing and more to visitors. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jessica Hines)

The Church of St. Peter in Porto Venere, Italy, sits on top of a rocky coastline and dates back to the 12th Century. Just south of Cinque Terre, Porto Venere can only be reached by boat and is part of the Gulf of La Spezia, also known as the Gulf of Poets, for the many historic poets who passed through the town. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jessica Hines)

The Church of St. Peter in Porto Venere, Italy, sits on top of a rocky coastline and dates back to the 12th Century. Just south of Cinque Terre, Porto Venere can only be reached by boat and is part of the Gulf of La Spezia, also known as the Gulf of Poets, for the many historic poets who passed through the town. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jessica Hines)

Portofino, Italy, sits just north of the Cinque Terre National Park in the Italian Riviera, as another popular tourist’s destination boasting rich history, resorts, beaches and picturesque views. Visitors can find many recreational boats and ships parked in the harbor from all over Europe and even spot a celebrity or two. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jessica Hines)

Portofino, Italy, sits just north of the Cinque Terre National Park in the Italian Riviera, as another popular tourist’s destination boasting rich history, resorts, beaches and picturesque views. Visitors can find many recreational boats and ships parked in the harbor from all over Europe and even spot a celebrity or two. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jessica Hines)

AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy -- Living overseas gives service and family members a unique opportunity to travel around the world. For those stationed at Aviano, one of Europe's most picturesque destinations is just hours away.

Known as "The Five Lands," Cinque Terre, consists of five small villages: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. The city is located in the Liguria region of Italy, west of La Spezia on the Italian Riviera.

After driving six hours from to Aviano, my friend and I arrived in the city of La Spezia where we boarded a ferry towards the Cinque Terre coastline. The only way to enter the villages is by walking path, train or boat. Boat is typically the preferred method of transportation since it offers the best views of each village.

With only a couple of days to explore the area, I concentrated on a couple of the villages. My personal favorite is Monterosso al Mare, which is divided into two districts, old and new town and has the only sand beach in Cinque Terre.

Normally a quiet village, Monterosso al Mare is one of the most visited by tourists during the summer months. Due to its location on the Mediterranean Sea, seafood is one of the main dishes served here. Tourist and locals can be seen throughout the day sitting in one of the many seaside restaurants eating the fresh catch or the day or enjoying other local cuisine such as olives, grapes, pesto, focaccia or white wine.

Monterosso al Mare's local village castle and the parish church of St. John the Baptist are two popular tourist destinations.

With so much to do in Cinque Terre it's best to experience each area one by one. They might be small, but each village has its unique personality and charm. For more information about trips like this or others throughout Europe, visit 31st Force Support Squadron Information Tickets and Travel office website at www.31fss.com/itt.shtml.