The Cinque Terre – on the Ligurian Riviera of Levante, in the province of La Spezia – are five villages, which rise between Punta Mesco and Munta Montenero: Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. These villages and the surrounding area entered the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1997.
Set between the sea and the hills, the Lands are “clinging” to the hills, typically arranged in “bands”, i.e. terracing wisely built over the centuries to reduce slopes and create spaces for crops. The sea that laps it has been protected, since 1998, thanks to the establishment of a Marine area, while the following year the whole area was included in the Cinque Terre National Park, to protect the natural landscape and ecological balance, but also of the cultural and anthropological heritage of the territory. Famous, among other things, for its eno-gastronomic excellences.
Image source: Enoria Viaggi
It is the largest and most ancient of the Cinque Terre. Monterosso, in fact, is mentioned in a document dating back to 1056, and is composed of two settlements: the Borgo Vecchio and Fegina. In the historic center there is the church of San Giovanni Battista and the medieval remains of the Palazzo del Podestà. At the top, however, stands the Castello dei Fieschi. The Monastery of San Francesco houses some masterpieces by the hand of painters such as Van Dyck and Guido Reni.
This village was particularly flourishing in the Middle Ages, and its architectural and urban configuration confirm it in full. Vernazza, in fact, is full of churches, house-towers and loggias, which bear witness to a rich and flourishing history, and is dominated by the remains of the “Castrum”, the castle with two towers that defended it from external attacks. Among the public buildings stands the ancient Santa Margherita of Antiochia, built in Romanesque-Genoese style. Built on a hilly slope, the village is characterized by the “arpaie”, stairways that separate the houses from each other.
Of the Cinque, this is the only land which is not bathed by the sea. Corniglia, in fact, stands on a rocky promontory and is distinguished by its traditional houses. The Church of San Pietro dates back to 1350 and is distinguished by a bas-relief of the façade depicting a deer, symbolic animal of the village. The beautiful Oratorio dei Disciplinati, built in the 18th century, overlooks the sea and offers a breathtaking view.
Also in Manarola the characteristic house-towers stand out, built in Genoese style. The original settlement dates back to the Middle Ages, and perhaps owes its name to the presence in the area of a large mill wheel. It was victim of Saracen pirate raids for a long period. The church of San Lorenzo, built in 1338, has a bell tower separated from the main building, demonstrating the fact that – most likely – it was also used with a defensive function.
The village was founded in the ‘300 by inhabitants of Carpena. The church of San Giovanni Battista dates back to 1340, while the Oratory of Santa Maria Assunta, which preserves precious works of art, was built later. Without forgetting, even in this case, the Castle that dominates the whole historic center from above.
The Cinque Terre are naturally protected by the chain of hills that runs along the coast, and are literally surrounded by Mediterranean vegetation, rich in maritime pines and Aleppo, holm oaks, euphorbias and brooms, while the fauna is rich in foxes, wild boar, badgers and buzzards. The beaches are narrow and extremely varied. That of Fegina, in Monterosso, was considered one of the 25 sexiest beaches in the world by Forbes magazine. Finally, the local cuisine, the result of a thousand-year tradition, is dominated by fish, aromatic plants, olive oil and excellent white wines.