Cinque Terre are located in the eastern part of the Ligurian Riviera, in the province of La Spezia. There are four municipalities but five villages, from north to south: Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola (Riomaggiore’s hamlet) and Riomaggiore. The territory is hilly and apennine, therefore the coasts are rocky and rugged, the houses lean against one another, separated by narrow lanes.
The land is crossed by historical routes and shaped so that people could conquer important space for the agricoltural development: there are many terraces were olives and vineyards grow.
The land is so unique, rugged and mountainous that Dante compared the Purgatory mountain to it. The routes that cross Cinque Terre made them an important tourist destination already many years ago.
UNESCO recognised the uniqueness of Cinque Terre and included them in the world heritage in 1997.
Cinque Terre climate is warm, because the mountains behind protect them from the northern winds.
The Ligurian sea makes the winters less severe: the temperature range is limited. Temperatures in winters are warmer here than in the rest of Liguria, around 9° C (48° F) on average, whereas temperatures in summers go up to 30° C (86° F) on average. For this reasons many tourists visit the district in winter.
Southern winds bring humid hot air masses towards the Apennine chain, thus creating condensations which can cause sudden showers. In general however, showers are quick and more frequent in falls and springs.
Mankind was first witnessed in the Cinque Terre in the Paleolitic era: in the Cave of the Pigeons on the island of Palmaria, which was still linked to the mainland at that time, finds of human burials, bones and animal fossils were found.
However, the five villages were first mentioned in the Roman times. Roman chronicles tell how fiercely Ligurian tribes tried to resist the romanization, however the latin origin of some local name – like Manarola (Manium arula, small altar of the Manes), Corniglia (Cornelius fund), Riomaggiore (rivus maior) and Monterosso (Mons ruber, red mountain) suggests that Romans were actually the founders of these villages, which were used to stop and feed the horses.
It seems that modern-day structure of the villages dates back to the 11th century, when people coming from Vara Valley went past the mountains to reach the coast, where the climate was warmer and the lands more suitable for agriculture.
Cinque Terre became an agricultural land and terraces were built to deal with the steep slopes.
Of course the people coming from Vara Valley learnt how to sail almost immediately. From the 1100 on ships and conflicts in the sea were witnessed.
Genovese dominated the district for more that five centuries. However, this caused a positive outcome: Cinque Terre were included in an intese trading network. On the other hand, Genovsa imposed its monopolies, as wheat and salt. Taxes were high and the population was suffering.
From 1797 and 1814 Napoleon’s battles and austrian-english sieges took place in the Cinque Terre area.
After the annexation to the Kingdom of Italy, the conditions of the population improoved: wine making was developped, La Spezia became industrially and military important, thus creating more jobs and the salt mines in Monterosso were opened.
Thanks to their warm climate, Cinque Terre are the perfect destination both for the gastronaut who loves spending summer holidays at the seaside and for those who want to spend a winter without scarfs and coats.
Every village deserves a stop: Monterosso al Mare has wider beaches compared to the ones of the other villages; Manarola and Vernazza are considered two of Italy’s most beautiful villages; Corniglia boasts a spectacular scenary – it is the only village built on a promontory and surrounded by terraces where vineyards grow.
Sport and nature
Trekking is the main activity of Cinque Terre.
You can walk from one village to another through suggested routes, in touch with nature.
The unique scenary is at hand for everyone, and if you get tired, public transportation will bring you back.
There are two routes: route number 1, also called Alta Via delle Cinque Terre, is a 40 km (24 mi) inland route from Levanto to Portovenere, thus crossing the entire district. Route number 2 links the five villages running along the sea and includes the famous Love Walk in between Manarola and Riomaggiore.
For the gastronaut
In such a “wild” district it is almost natural to look for oil mills and small wine and typical products sellers on your own.
Those who want to visit a historical and very well-stocked wine shop should book a tasting in the Enoteca Internazionale di Monterosso al Mare.