Daytripping in the Cinque Terre, but is a day enough??
The Cinque Terre, the Five Lands is composed of five picturesque villages: Monterosso, Vernazza, Manarola, Corniglia, and Riomaggiore.
This was written after my visit in 2012 but I’m excited to be revisiting Cinque Terre in 2016! It’s on the LetZ Fall Under the Spell of the Italian Riviera experience in September 2016.
Part of the Italian Riviera, Cinque Terre is in the region of Liguria between La Spezia and Levanto and covers approximately nine miles of extremely rugged and jagged Mediterranean coastline. In 1997, Cinque Terre was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the Cinque Terre National Park was established in 1999.
In recent years Cinque Terre has become an extremely popular tourist destination famous for its quaint and photogenic villages nestled along the scenic coastline. However, Cinque Terre didn’t evolve from a desire to be a tourist-destination. It was pure tenacity and arduous hard work begun in the middle ages, that over the millennia, transformed this seemingly inhospitable terrain into small plots that were cultivated for hundreds of years.
Inhabited by peasants and fishermen, the fields were carved in the rocks. Over 1200 miles of stone were flattened with a pick axe. The soil was then carried in by hand. After storms, partially destroyed fields had to be rebuilt. Even as we admire the steep terraced hillsides and the photographs of those who toiled here, it is still impossible to imagine the backbreaking and difficult existence they endured.
Until the 1870’s the villages were virtually isolated from each other and inaccessible except by the sea. When the Genoa-La Spezia railway built, passing through all the villages and Portovenere, and the Arsenal at La Spezia were built a gradual change began.
Although the area had long been famous for the high quality of its wines, by the 20th century they found themselves unable to compete with the other wineries in Europe who were able to produce more and less expensive wines.
By the 21st century, as more vineyards and fields were abandoned, the shrinking population and dramatic decrease in agricultural use of the land resulted in a deterioration and collapsing of the terraces. Neglect resulted in subsequent erosion and putting the villages dangerously at risk of flooding and landslides.
In 2000 and 2002 the World Monuments Fund placed Cinque Terre on the Watch “in order to draw attention to the impending loss of a vibrant and valuable cultural landscape.” Today this attention has been focused on a renewed interest in eco-tourism and preservation.
Despite this renewed interest, sadly, in October, 2011, devastating floods and mudslides swept through Vernazza and Monterosso. Their recovery has been reported to be a feat nothing short of spectacular. Having been in Monterosso there was virtually no sign of the disaster, a testimony to the enduring resilience and tenacity of its residents!
Our Day in Cinque Terre:
Since there are so few access roads, for the most part visitors must rely on the train, ferry, and their feet to visit the villages. We are no different and so we begin our visit in Manarola. From Manarola we will take the easiest walk along the Via Dell’Amore to Riomaggiore. From there we will take the train to Monterosso. After a stroll through town and a bite to eat, we catch the ferry and enjoy the view of the entire Cinque Terre coastline all the way to Portovenere.
If only for the day and as have many in the past, including Bryon, Shelley, George Sand and Richard Wagner, we will delight in the beauty of the Five Lands.
Our day begins in Manarola…
From Manarola we can take the famous Via Dell’Amore to Riomaggiore, the only path that isn’t just a hiking path. Fine by me…
Our walk takes us to Riomaggiore with its popular and crowded stretch of beach.
It’s the train for us now, from Riomaggiore to Monterosso where we will enjoy a snack and stroll before boarding the ferry…
Boarding the ferry at Monterosso, with calm seas we enjoy our ride along the entire length of the Cinque Terre coastline. I have to say that seeing it from the water is truly magical!
Our last stop is Portovenere, an important cultural center with a Roman foundation. Portus Veneris was occupied by the Genoese in 1113. Today it’s occupied by tourists!
So, was a day enough to enjoy Cinque Terre and Portovenere? Well, let me say it was a day well spent and certainly worthwhile. If you count, you will notice that we did not visit Vernazza (in mudslide recovery) or Corniglia. However, we got a wonderful taste and something to come back for…perfect!