Cinque Terre Riviera

Vernazza - Photo © Enrico Pocopagni

Vernazza – Photo © Enrico Pocopagni

A MAN MADE LANDSCAPE

Over the centuries, through constant collective work, man has managed to create this landscape, the only one of its kind in the world, safely kept inside a treasure chest between Punta Mesco and Punta Manara.

A little corner of Liguria where generations have worked to create this monument in landscape architecture represented by the steep terraces sloping down to the sea.

Held up by over 7000 km of dry stone walling, cleverly built without any kind of cement, they are cultivated as vineyards that reach down to almost touch the lapping sea waves.

The Cinque Terre, recognized by the Unesco “Mankind’s World Heritage”, are today a National Park and Protected Marine Area with the aim of protecting this great cultural heritage.

Quotes about the Cinque Terre

And along the coastline there are five castles, at nearly the same distance one from the other: ‘Rubra, Vulnetia, Cornelia, Manium Arula, Rivus Maiorche which now are commonly called Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, Riomaggiore not only known in Italy but also the Welsh and British praise them for their wine’s nobility. Note worthy to see like a spectacle, the mountains not only in sweet incline but also quick so that even the birds flying over tire. Covered with stones that don’t hold back water, vineyards cover the land, so meagre and delicate that seem more like ivy than vines. From here comes wine for the table from a King”.
G. Bracelli, “De bello hispaniensi orae ligusticae descriptio”, 1448

“A little piece of heaven, Cinque Terre”, by Mary Paige Timberlake

“The view was like a vision described in novels; a tiny town that hovered on jagged cliffs and sparkling blue water, and by no means did the “visions” stop through out the day…”

“Destination: Cinque Terre”, story by Sergio Ortiz

“.. just south of Portofino, five towns on the Ligurian Sea maintain the charm and character of Italian villages of the past. Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore are the pastel towns that make up Cinque Terre (five lands). They are vintage settlements where life moves in the key of easy — each town clinging to the rocky coast, defying gravity and, most of all, defying time…..”

“Hidden Gems on the Italian Riviera”, Los Angeles Times

“Few Americans have heard of these tiny villages, set like jewels into the Ligurian Coast and known as the Cinque Terre. The Cinque Terre is one of those places people tend to read about once and then dream about forever. An isolated part of the northwestern Italian region of Liguria, the Cinque Terre is ruggedly beautiful stretch of coastline inset with five tiny villages perched between the Mediterranean and a range of steep coastal hills. The aura of romance about the place is enhanced by the very names of the five villages: Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. The doorway is Levanto a beautiful town which is the right place from where is possible to start to visit the Cinque Terre.”

The sea coast Corniglia - Manarola

The sea coast Corniglia – Manarola Photo © Richard Fritzson

THE ROCKY SEA OF THE CINQUE TERRE

The inhabitants of these places had agricultural origins and lived on the hills. They came down to the coast, once the Saracens had finished invading, when the sea became safe and populated the villages at the mouths of the rivers along the shore.

Cinque Terre landscape is harsh and wild and even the coast reflects this nature. High cliffs reaching down into the cobalt blue depths of the sea hide minute shingle beaches at Riomaggiore and Vernazza or tiny “ports” like at Manarola, for pulling up the boats when the sea is rough. Here, in summer, sunbathers mix with fishermen.

Between Vernazza and Corniglia there is the romantic beach of Guvano, to be reached on foot. A larger sandy beach, with facilities, can be found only at Monterosso al Mare.

The Cinque Terre seen from Monterosso al Mare

The Cinque Terre seen from Monterosso al Mare
Photo © Luca Baldassarre

ALONG THE PATHS OF THE MEDITERRANEAN BUSH

Without doubt, the best way to discover, to try and understand and enjoy the Cinque Terre is to visit it on foot. Along the paths and the centuries old flights of steps, which up to a short while ago were the only communication routes between the five villages, you come under the magic of this landscape and its panoramas suspended between sky and sea.

The terraced vineyards alternate with strips of olive trees and where man has abandoned the soil, the Mediterranean bush has taken over again, with round euphorbia bushes, broom, white and pink cystus and the agaves that dot the landscape and heady, spicy perfume of the eternal flower.

The most famous path of the Cinque Terre is the “Via dell’Amore”, connecting Manarola to Riomaggiore and partially cut out of the steep cliffs overlooking the sea.

Portovenere

Portovenere Photo © navigazionegolfodeipoeti.eu

The Cinque Terre, moving by boat.

A regularly scheduled boat trip makes it possible to admire the whole Cinque Terre coastline along with other nearby places and allows you to move from one village to the next. The service is not provided in wintertime, for further information on timetables and connections you may visit the Navigazione Golfo dei Poeti web site. In winter you can rent private boats.

Originally, the villages were only accessible by sea or by mule paths that connected the villages of the Cinque Terre as well as to Via Roma, the main road that connected all of Italy to Rome. These mule paths have been maintained and used over the centuries and now provide hikers with a more intimate view of the sea-swept Cinque Terre.

Today the main communication is with the train, that runs in tunnels along the coast, and stops in every one of the five villages.

The area was recently designated as part of the national park system and is considered a protected area, to the effect of limited development and resource usage.

You are now are required to pay to walk the trails in the Cinque Terre. Manned booths are set up on the trail outside of each Cinque Terre town. You have two options.

  • The Cinque Terre Card: If you plan to use the trains and the trails, buy the Cinque Terre Card at the train station. This is a one day card that covers unlimited train rides between Levanto and La Spezia (including all the Cinque Terre towns) as well as use of the walking trails. Show your Cinque Terre Card at the booths on the trail. Don’t forget to validate the card in one of the stamping machines at the train station before using it.
  • Trails Card: If you are not going to use the trains, you only need buy the trail pass. You can buy this on the trail at the first booth you see. In 2003, the cost was 3 euro. There is no charge to use the trail between Levanto and Monterosso, only between the five Cinque Terre towns.

The proceeds of the tickets are used to maintain the trails and to save the Cinque Terre from decline.

MORE TRAILS ON THE CINQUE TERRE… >>>
MORE DIFFICULT TRAILS IN CINQUE TERRE… >>>

ACCOMMODATIONS
Do not expect to find fancy resorts in the Cinque Terre, but a few small hotels, and many rooms for rent will put you more in touch with the villages themselves, and with their residents.

Recommended  restaurants (we visited them…):
- Ristorante Hotel Gianni Franzi Piazza Marconi 1, tel +39 0187-821-003 Vernazza

36 Hours in the Cinque Terre, Italy, an article by the New York Times