Five miles of rocky coast in east Liguria, two promontaries at each extreme, thousands of kilometers of dry stone walls to cultivate vines, five small villages grasping spurs of rock or hidden in tiny inlets; this is how we have known the Cinque Terre, since they were named as such in 1448.
National Park and World Heritage Site
The zone became a National Park in 1997 and is recognized by UNESCO along with Porto Venere, the islands of Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto, as World Heritage patrimony. The Cinque Terre borders upstream the Val di Vara, so much so that a portion of the territory of Pignone, one of the municipalities where the Paganini Music Festival of Carro is held, belongs to the National Park. The coast overhangs the sea with vertical cliffs which alternate with bays, gorges and enchanting small beaches off which the deep water is home to a variety of fish. All this make this land an authentic natural ‘work of art’.
Monterosso is the most exposed and developed of the Cinque Terre with its beaches, numerous hotels and restaurants, craft shops and several wineries. Here Eugenio Montale (Nobel Prize for Literature) used to stay. The hamlet is divided into two parts (the Old Town and Fegina) from the hill of San Cristoforo and the historical center, protected by a rocky outcrop. It still preserves a structure characteristic of a fishing village. Do visit the Church of the Capuchin Fathers from where you can enjoy a splendid view of Monterosso and the promontories which frame the Cinque Terre.
With a small natural harbor in the shape of an amphitheater, it is perhaps the most picturesque village of the Cinque Terre. Vernazza was already frequented by the Romans and enjoyed great strategic importance at the time of the Maritime Republics in Genoa, as well as for the skills of its shipwrights. It is worth a walk around the village which is dominated by the round watch tower and the remains of the “Castle”. On a small facing the sea there is the Church of St. Margaret of Antioch.
Perched on a steep romontory flanked by two popular beaches, Corniglia is accessible by train via a long staircase leading to the village. A visit the church of Saint Peter (1334) is recommended and is considered one of the most important monuments of Gothic-Ligurian style in the Cinque Terre. The Belvedere is a lovely terrace overlooking the sea.
Manarola is completely surrounded by vines and the village stretches along a stream. In the upper part , do visit the Church of San Lorenzo (1338) with its beautiful rose window century. Wine, of course, is king here and the famous Path of Love or Via dell’Amore departs here: 2 kilometers and twenty minutes to Riomaggiore along one of the most special corners of the world.
Riomaggiore is the most eastern of the five villages and closest to La Spezia connected by a scenic road. It is named after the river which flows through it. Do see the marina and the topmost part of the village with the church of St John the Baptist (1340) stands. It boasts two beautiful marble twin doors on its southern facing side which are older than the actual church. Above the village stands the Shrine of Our Lady of Montenero, built on the promontory of the same name which closes the Gulf of Cinque Terre.