The Beautifully Preserved Cinque Terre Italy
By let’s see what you know about California, Charles L Harmon
Left: A view of the National Park of the Cinque Terre with Riomaggiore, one of the five coastal villages, directly below. Photo by Mike.albrecht / CC BY-SA 3.0
The Cinque Terre is a gorgeous coastal area in the Italian region of Liguria. The area, which means “five lands” in English, dramatically overlooks the Mediterranean Sea, and is even made more beautiful by the surrounding mountainous landscape.
Cinque Terre connects five charming villages that welcome visitors to experience their culture, to taste their local cuisine, and drink wine from their terrace vineyards.
Together with a protected marine area, the region is classified as the Cinque Terre National Park, a fitting UNESCO World Heritage Site, which possesses an environment and cultural characteristics worth preserving. The Cinque Terre area is a very popular tourist destination so you can expect to see plenty of tourists.
Getting Around Cinque Terre
Getting the national park status has helped Cinque Terre protect its cultural heritage and surroundings from the influx of commercialism. Motorbikes and cars are not permitted in the villages. Instead, electric buses populate the street and transport residents. The train, which runs through old tunnels, is the main transportation mode that links the villages.
Walking is very popular in the area. This is especially true on the main coastal paths, which are subject to park entrance fees. It’s worth exploring some of the higher paths to Volastra (above Manarola), Monte Negro (above Riomaggiore) or paths that begin outside of the park such as the trail between Levanto and Monterosso.
If you plan to walk around the villages, it is advisable to do it in the early morning when the temperature is cooler and there are less people. Authorities tend to close walking paths if there are too many people walking around. Unlike some other places, in order to walk along the trails between villages, you must purchase a pass. They can be gotten from information offices near the train stations at any of the five villages, as well as the stations at Levanto and La Spezia.
A walking trail, known as Sentiero Azzurro (“Azure Trail”), connects the five villages. The trail from Riomaggiore to Manarola is called the Via Dell’Amore (“Love Walk”) and is wheelchair-friendly. The stretch from Manarola to Corniglia (check to see if it has reopened) is the easiest to hike, although the main trail into Corniglia finishes with a climb of 368 steps.
If you expect to travel by car to enjoy the beautiful scenery, know it is definitely not advisable. Traveling by car is by far the worst way to explore the Cinque Terre, there is little parking and what there is lies well outside the villages. It’s far better to leave the car and use the train.
Do you like to Hike?
If you like to hike the Cinque Terre boasts some of the best coastline hiking trails in the world. Cinque Terre is an area prone to landslides. It is always better to check if the hiking paths are open or closed, before leaving. You must purchase a pass if you hike the trail number 2 (blue). No pass is required for the other trails and there are several of them.
If you are a more experienced hiker, take advantage of other trails that go higher up the mountain. These trails are well maintained, off the beaten path, and usually have fewer tourists. You can obtain detailed maps from any of the park offices. The paths number 7, 7/a and 6/d are particularly scenic and pass through nice vineyards and terraces.
Steep Stone Terraces and Walls
Over the centuries, people have carefully built terraces on the rugged, steep landscape, all the way up to the cliffs that overlook the sea. When the wine terraces were built there must have been an enormous amount of work carrying all the heavy stones. It was apparently a task through the centuries. It is estimated to have taken about 200 years to build the entire stone-wall network. Its total length has been calculated to be at least equal to the Great Wall of China.
Part of the charm of the area is the lack of visible corporate and commercial development. Paths, trains and boats connect the villages, and cars cannot reach them from the outside. Monterosso, Manarola, Riomaggiore, Corniglia, Vernazza are the five villages that make up Cinque Terre. These villages are adorned with myriads of dry-stone-walled vineyards and olive groves.
Levanto Town is the usual access point to explore these lovely villages. Except for Corniglia, which is nestled on top of a huge cliff; all four villages slope down to sea level. Monterosso is quite different from the other towns as it is divided into two sections.
The new section exudes a more beach resort ambience. Here, you can find a big sandy beach complemented by a nice boardwalk. This part is populated by hotels, modern apartments, beach-side restaurants and cafes. The older section of Monterosso is similar to the other four villages, which still have the old-world appeal. That’s highly evident in their traditional pastel colored houses and narrow streets.
Taste Linguarian Food and Homegrown Wine
A visit to Cinque Terre is not complete without tasting Linguarian food and the region’s homegrown wine. In fact, the dishes that come from this Italian region are considered some of the tastiest in the country. So while here, do not miss the chance to dine at one of the village restaurants, and try famous herb cuisine like the pesto pasta, focaccia, minestrone, sea bass fillets top with asparagus sauce and stuffed basil leaves. Compliment your sumptuous meal with the region’s fragrant white wine called Sciacchetrà.
After exploring the towns’ interiors, you can also choose to spend a day or two at some of Cinque Terre’s many bays and small beaches. If you possess an adventurous and romantic spirit, then follow the trails that lead to panoramic views of the sea and the slopes. It is customary for the hotels in most villages to close from November to March or April.
If you are traveling around that time, you have the option of renting a room in a village residence. You will find that there are many villagers who offer rooms to visitors. Staying in someone’s home who lives there offers an inside look at a home and is a more personal atmosphere than staying in a hotel. In Riomaggiore village, you can also ask an accommodation booking office to assist you in securing a room for the rest of your stay.
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