Cinque Terre, Italy

by | Oct 28, 2018

DANI CIUCA
Hello, Hello! Time for a new blog post. This time I will show you the colorful Cinque Terre. The Cinque Terre (Five lands) is a string of five fishing villages perched high on the Italian Riviera (region Liguria): Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. I hope that by reading this post I will inspire you to visit this amazing area. The Cinque Terre is noted for its beauty. Over centuries, people have carefully built terraces to cultivate grapes and olives on the rugged, steep landscape right up to the cliffs that overlook the Mediterranean Sea. The breathtaking views of harbours far below the wild but hospitable coastline along with the medieval fortresses and plentiful vines and vibrant colours make this a memorable holiday. The Cinque Terre, recognized in 1997 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 and natural environment. To visit Cinque Terre, you take the train from La Spezia. The Cinque Terre Express train, which goes back and forth between La Spezia and Levanto, has departures every 30 minutes. From La Spezia to Riomaggiore is 10 minutes. And between the actual Cinque Terre towns, it’s less than 5 minutes. If you are planning to take the train several times a day, it’s better to purchase the Cinque Terre Train Card.
Riomaggiore is the most southern village of the Cinque Terre. It was first mentioned in the 13th century. The founders of the village moved from the hills to the sea, and built 3-4-storey houses on the rocky, steep territory. The houses have two entrances, one at the front, and one at the back, usually higher up. The buildings were constructed this way not only because of the steep hills, but also for safety reasons, so that the inhabitants could escape in case of Saracen attacks.
Most of the village of Riomaggiore is squeezed into a narrow and steep valley, with tall colourful houses on either side of the main road and a small harbour below. Although it is perhaps not quite as beautiful as Vernazza or Manarola, Riomaggiore is an exceptional village with a great deal of charm and character, principally because of its lovely main street, bustling with shops and cafes.
Manarola, the second village of the Cinque Terre on the side of La Spezia, is built on a high rock 70 metres above sea level. Is one of the most charming and romantic of the Cinque Terre villages. The tiny harbor features a boat ramp, picturesque multicoloured houses facing the sea, and a tiny piazza with seafood restaurants.

Manarola may be the oldest of the towns in the Cinque Terre, with the cornerstone of the church, San Lorenzo, dating from 1338. The village is surrounded by vines and is situated along a stream. The wine of Manarola is very famous. The “Via dell’Amore” – “Love’s Trail” a hiking trail in the hills and vineyards above the town start from there: an easy to walk, paved path a distance of two kilometres, connecting Manarola to Riomaggiore. It is also a great spot for photographers.

Manarola is lively, with a small but bustling piazza and an active fishing trade. It’s not uncommon to see boats pulled up into the narrow streets or even in the piazza for safety during inclement weather. The pyramid peak of the church’s bell tower, at the high point of Manarola, serves as a navigational reference point for seafarers. There is no beach in Manarola, but there are natural pool formed among the rocks of its coastline, ideal for swimming.
Vernazza is the 4th village and the most beautiful one in my opinion. With Cinque Terre’s only proper harbor, it has a long history as a fishing village. While there is a small beach, sightseeing is more common in this astoundingly beautiful cliffside town. A great point of view over Vernazza is from the foot path that leads to Monterosso (the last of the 5 villages). The 3.5km takes about 1.5 hours. The vegetation is very various, you will find evergreen oaks, lemontrees, arboreal heather, broom, junipers. I didn’t got the chance to complete that trail because the weather was cloudy and rainy, but if the weather is fine, I red that is a great experience. The ancient castle that is perched on the hilltop overlooking the village is the Doria Castle. Tourists can enjoy a splendid view of the Cinque Terre coast from this historic castle. Vernazza was already a fortified village in 1080, with the Obertenghi family, who immediately see Vernazza’s strategic importance. It dominates the village in the southern part, with an imponent bastion and a cylindrical tower of quadrangular base, the Belforte
Vernazza is my favorite village from all ‘Cinque Terre’ because it has the best photography opportunities. Besides the top views, another way to see Vernazza is from the sea level, from a small concrete path built near the rocky shore, very close to the harbor.
One of the two days I visited Cinque Terre was all day cloudy and rainy. But I enjoyed every minute. The best part was that I got to see the little square in front of the harbor without tourists. This way I could see all the beauty of this place.
The smallest village from the 5 Cinque Terre villages is Corniglia. Unlike the other four villages, Corniglia sits on a mountaintop reigning over the sea. When you reach the Corniglia train station you’ll find that you still have to climb 382 stairs to reach the village center, or take a small bus, like I did (the ride is included in the Cinque Terre 2 days train pass).
Monterosso is the last one and the largest of the five coastal villages. It is the only one with a proper, sandy beach. When I visited Cinque Terre the weather was cloudy and didn’t spent time at the beach but I am sure that if you visit it in the summer, you would love to enjoy a few hours on the beach of Monterosso al Mare.

Not to miss.

All of the five villages are not to be missed. To fully enjoy everyone of the villages, I recommend you to stay in the area at least 2 days.

How to get there.

By plane: Cinque Terre is not serviced by any airport. The nearest airports that are located in the big cities in the vicinity of Cinque Terre are the Cristoforo Colombo Airport of Genoa (north of Cinque Terre) and the Galileo Galilei Aiport in Pisa (south of Cinque Terre). Each of these airports are located around 100 kilometers from Cinque Terre.
By train: By train is the easiest way to get to the Cinque Terre. From Genoa, Florence or Pisa, take the local train towards La Spezia. From La Spezia, take the local train towards Levanto. The train is the ideal means of transport in the Cinque Terre. The runs are very frequent, especially during the summer. The Cinque Terre Train Card includes unlimited train runs on the line La Spezia – Levanto, free use of the eco buses and free access to all walking paths and free entry to different museums.
By car: Private car access is discouraged in the Cinque Terre, so if you are driving, park in La Spezia or Levanto, and then take the Cinque Terre Express train into the park area.
So, that was my short experience with Cinque Terre. Have you ever been there? Would you like to go?
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