The mediterranean sea in Cinque Terre is spectacular from almost every viewpoint. But as inviting as it may seem, it is not always easy to access for swimming, because the cliffs are steep and accesible beaches are few. The current most popular way of getting ON the Cinque Terre sea is by battegli, or boats, that travel between the cities on a regular schedule.

This lack of access is frustrating to the swimmer, snorkeler, and diver because that jewel-colored water beckons, especially in the heat of the summer. The only other way to really experience the amazingly clear water and the watery depths below the cliffs is by private tour boat. Monterosso offers several private tours, one of the most recent offerings has arrived from the village's oldest fishing family, whose name is found on a good percentage of the headstones in the cemetery high on the hilltop. Angelo Benvenuto has converted his fishing boat and now offers smaller group tours of the Cinque Terre coastline, with personal knowledge of just about every nook and cranny from Monterosso to Riomaggiore. There are no public address systems or speakers on board, only his own enthusiastic voice and fisherman's knowledge of the coastline, the best haunts for fish, and the secret caves and waterfalls.

As with any private tour the question of the budget comes first. Most private tours charge by the hour. The best way to book a tour is not to walk down to the waterfront in each village and look for signs. This traveler prefers to find out of the way shops where locals buy everyday goods, such as the fresh pasta maker or the bread baker, and ask the proprietor who they recommend. Compare the answer to who the concierge or proprietor of your hotel suggests, and if you get the same answer you probably have a winner!

Angelo's Boat Tours can be booked by calling +339 314 0582 or emailing angelosboattours@yahoo.com. Be prepared to adjust to weather conditions; the best snorkeling and swimming happens on calmer days.