While the villages of the Cinque Terre are well known, the fact that the entire area is a national park is less publicized. The steep cliffs and the accompanying terraces, trails, and towns are all part of a national park instituted to protect the delicate balance of man nature in a unique landscape.

It is the smallest in the national park system, taking in a narrow swath from Levanto to La Spezia with the five famed towns of the Cinque Terre in between - Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. This is also the most specialized national park, not dedicated to unspoiled nature but to maintaining the cliff-side trails and towns, along with their unique topography, ecosystem and accompanying tourism.

The park puts a heavy emphasis on trail maintenance, as the pathways connect all the towns and hilltops, providing breathtaking scenery and picturesque villages. They try to minimize erosion, sustain local flora and fauna and keep the stone walls and steps in good condition. They also maintain the intricate system of terraced agriculture that has been practiced here for more than 1000 years.

The Cinque Terre National Park also include a Marine Protected Area for the sea and its coves, bays and caves. There are areas set aside where boating is prohibited, and other areas where there are restrictions on fishing. Scuba and non-motor craft are encouraged in the reserve. It also includes the Pelagos Sanctuary, a park shared with France, to protect marine animals along the Riviera Coast.

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