great choice . Both areas are stupendous. Cinque Terre of course is an historical magnificent town . Here walking is an experience in itself and enjoy its' perfect beauty. The Lake region , I assume you mean Lake Como, Lake Garda etc.. are fantastic at that time of the year. Hiking around the Como town is ideal for the "hiker at heart". What month are you looking to travel there?
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Tom: I admit I have not hiked in the Lake Como area but certainly highly recommend the Cinque Terre, especially in the fall...October would be perfect...take a look at our website www.invitationtotuscany.com to see some lovely properties for weekly rentals in the Cinque Terre region. Then email me and we'll help you plan a great time.....
On your way, take at least a day in Genova. Most people ignore this city, but it is actually the largest preserved swath of architecture from the Middle Ages in Europe. I was there last June and loved wandering in the maze of pedestrian streets. Also, don't forget to try the trofie--typical pasta with pesto. You can easily take a train to Cinque Terre from there and the ride is beautiful.
Hello -- about crowds being gone....I don't think you will find that so unless you go in late October or after. Crowds will be less than in July or August, yes, but September and October are now 'prime time' for many travelers to Italy.
Valpolicella is the place. Quiet, looks and feels like Tuscany 20 years ago. Amarone wines, opera in Verona, beautiful walks through the valleys and mountains. La Foresteria.. an outstanding B&B in the country side. Did I mention Amarone wine?