Cinque Terre ‒ more than just a rugged stretch of coast located along the Italian Riviera, it comprises the villages of Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore in the province of La Spezia.
This magical place in Italy, which runs from Punta Mesco to Punta di Montenero, has geographical features typical of the Ligurian Riviera. The hilly landscape with vertigo-provoking terraces tumbling steeply down to the seais a place that is increasingly fashionable for tourists who decide to make their European travels in Italy.
And this area of fishing villages with brightly coloured houses, which allowed the fishermen to see their homes from afar, has definitely got that certain something. Not only was it created a National Park in Italy but also these five Italian towns are, along with a few other places in the area, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which was designatedin 1997.
But, let’s see what can be offered by these five villages of Cinque Terre that will really motivate us to travel there.
First we visit Monterosso, watched over by an ancient tower, on the shores of the Ligurian Sea. As the starting point, it has a greater number of services.
Restaurants, shops and hotels populate this little place; at the same time, paradoxically, it is the most modest of the five. Located at the northern end of the route of Cinque Terre, this town is tiny and easily walkable.
Even with just half a day we will still have enough time to visit. Here we can see attractions such as the sixteenth-century Aurora Tower, which divides Monterosso into the old and new town. There are lovely views from this site, which was originally built to prevent barbarian attacks.
Here we will also find the house of the 1975 Nobel Prize for Literature winner Eugenio Montale, and although you cannot go inside, it is worthwhile to see at least from the outside.
The church of St John the Baptist with its fourteenth-century chapel is in very good condition, and also worth visiting. And finally, before taking a break on the beach by the crystal clear waters, we should visit the statue of ‘Il Gigante’ (the giant), undoubtedly the most emblematic symbol of this place. This is a giant sculpture depicting Neptune, god of the sea, and was built and erected in 1910 by Levacher and Minerbi.
Then we visit the second of the five wonders that make up the Cinque Terre route.
We arrive in Vernazza, a place that is accessible from Monterosso in only five minutes by train. Here you can visit the main square,a small beach skirting the village and the church of Santa Margherita.
With its colourful houses and many bars and cafés this place is typically Italian with all the magic that entails. Indeed, the St Margaret of Antioch church, built in 1318 on the waterfront, and its Gothic style, has a pure sense of Liguria. It has an octagonal belfry and a door that is, curiously just where the altar is, only separated by a railing and stairs.
But besides visiting the Tower and the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Reggio, we can also visit the stronghold ‒ the Doria Castle with its Belforte (tower), a castle built to serve as protection from barbarian attacks, which were common at the time. From the tower you will see people enjoying a most pleasant lifestyle, especially if you are around in the early morning or the evening.
The third village of Cinque Terre going from north to south is Corniglia.
Corniglia, built on the top of a promontory, has no direct access to the sea apart from a vertical cliff. Olive groves and vineyards abound around this lovely town, which is preferably reached by bus or train in just ten minutes from the previous town.
As the smallest of these five Italian jewels, here we find the wonder that is the peaceful atmosphere gifting us the silence of the streets of this bustle-free village. A village with old customs and where there is not much to see but which nevertheless invites us to soak up the traditional Italian life.
When we are at this point of Liguria, where we have visited all of the above, is time to turn to Manarola, reached by train from the previous village. Here we discover an endless mosaic of beautiful streets.
The colourful, steep, narrow streets make even something like walkingtiring. Here in the Middle Way (Via di Mezzo) all kinds of crafts businesses have flourished, where you will find typical objects of this little place.
Try the local speciality, focaccia, a fluffy and rich bread made from olive oil;a typical Italian bread as you will see. Also, here in its pool of natural stones you can takea dip before discovering the last village, Riomaggiore.
Riomaggiore, being the last of the five villages we visit, will make you nostalgic for Cinque Terre and gives a leaving pang to all that visit. Maybe it’s the icing on the cake of all the villages we have visited so far, and it’s certainly the most picturesque.
It is a traditional fishing village, as mentioned at the beginning, with a castle, Castellazzo di Cerrico, located above. In the church of St John the Baptist, dating to 1340.
Purely Italian, this is a place where you will enjoy walking through the narrow streets and come to know its soul.
Also, the surprise of this town is the beauty of a hidden pebble beach, which is very picturesque. It is right here, in the south of this town, and is a place to see a beautiful sunset or simply breathe in the sea salt carried on the air of this place.
You must visit Cinque Terre, certainly! Here in these villages, as we said, fish dominates, as well as the most colourful Mediterranean food, olive oil, cheese and bread, made in addition to their typical pastas. All these comprise the cuisine of this magnificent setting in which, of course, you can also taste wine made here in this same place.
That’s our view of this place near Genoa and not too far from Pisa in Italy. A place to enjoy the Italian life by the seashore.
Editing by: Catherine Parker
As seen on www.heatherontravels.com