Located in the northwest Italy, Cinque Terre is a group of centuries-old seaside villages on the rugged Italian Riviera coastline. The five villages are Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso and all have an incredible fusion of history and culture. In each village, colourful houses and vineyards cling to steep terraces, harbours are filled with fishing boats and trattorias turn out seafood specialties along with the Liguria region’s famous sauce, pesto.
Until the 1960s, these five were isolated from the world and difficult to reach, except by boat. It was only after the railway lines were built in 1870 that they were connected to the outside world and the region has since then been getting many visitors. Today, Cinque Terre has become a very popular tourist destination and a part of the Cinque Terre National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Vernazza village is located in province of La Spezia, Liguria, north-western Italy. It is the only one of all the five villages of Cinque Terre to have a natural port that is surrounded by subtle colourful pastels and the charming Piazza Marconi that has a sea-facing amphitheatre.
Settled during the Roman times, Vernazza was of strategic importance during the age of the Maritime Republics in Genoa. It grew as a powerful fortified town with a strong military defence and is characterised by its trademark narrow lanes called ‘caruggi’. These lanes are aligned almost vertically with the pastel-coloured homes, a maze of stairs and tiny terraces, along with big blue sea views that pops at every turn.
Corniglia that sits atop a 100m-high rocky headland is the highest of the five Cinque Terre villages. Though it is the only village to lack access to the sea, it can be reached from the railway through a long flight of stairs called ‘Lardarina’. Situated in the middle of the Cinque Terre, Corniglia has two exclusive small beaches at its sides, narrow alleys and colourfully painted four-storey houses. Surrounded by vineyards, it is also known to be a big producer of wine and agricultural goods.
Belvedre di santa Maria, an enchanting terrace on the seaside, is the only vantage point from where one can view all five villages simultaneously. One should definitely take a walk in its serene and tangle streets and also visit the Church of San Pietro that dates back to 1334.
Monterosso al Mare
Located on the hills in the northwest coast of the region, Monterosso al Mare is the largest village amongst the five villages of Cinque Terre. With its beautiful reefs and the crystal-clear waters in the sea, it is famous for its hospitality.
Monterosso has been divided into an old and new section marked by the medieval tower of Aurora. The new part, Fegina, is full of life, and reflects how tourism has made the area rich with its great number of excellent hotels and restaurants. On the other hand, the old part of Monterosso is dominated by the ruins of the castle and characterized by typical narrow medieval streets and multi-coloured terraced houses. A small tunnel of about 100 metres connects these two sections. The lemon trees of Monterosso and its white wines are a treat to visitors.
Riomaggiore is Cinque Terre’s easternmost village and acts as the unofficial headquarter of the five. It is the easiest to reach amongst all the five and is the first village to be discovered through the paintings of the Italian artist Telemaco Signorini who often visited and stayed here. Artists and photographers are still drawn to the village.
Bequeathed with more grapevines than any other Cinque Terre villages, Manarola is famous for its sweet Sciacchetrà wine and claims to be the oldest village of the five. The bustling main street and waterfront promenade are still lined with fishing boats and other such reminders of everyday village life.
Opposite the Natività di Maria Vergine church that dates back to 1338, more than 10,000 lamps and 200 figures light the surrounding hillsides on Christmas and is considered to be Italy’s largest Christmas illumination.