The Cinque Terre consists of five small villages (“cinque terre” means “five lands” in Italian) - Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso which cling to the Ligurian cliffs along Italy’s western coast. The villages are connected by a train track, that finds itself a way along the coast through many tunnels. The walking trail that connects the villages is very spectacular, with many magnificent views on the coastline. They are usually thought of and visited collectively, mostly because they’re so close to one another that you can walk from the first to the fifth in a matter of hours, but there are five different towns and each does have its own personality.A millennium ago, when pirates began marauding in the region, the Cinque Terre had no beaches (or, for that matter, trains), and villagers hid high on the hills amid their vineyards and gardens. Eventually, they built watchtowers to look out for buccaneers. Those watchtowers still spike the coastline, darkly romantic mementos of an age of swords and bullion.
Monterosso al mare
The historical origin of the village dates back to 643, when there was the first considerable settlement on the sea by the people living on the hills, in order to escape the barbarian invasions. The place-name probably derives from the red color of the hair of the most important family of that time. Monterosso it is characterized by a medieval historical center, Monterosso Vecchio, and by a modern residential district, which spreads along the beach of Fegina. In the past, the prevailing business was fishing, above all tunny fishing, at the beginning of the 17th century. Monterosso has the best beaches of the Cinque Terre villages and the most wine shops, artisan shops, hotels and restaurants. The village is divided into two parts from San Cristoforo hill and the old part of the village, protected by a rock spur, still presents the maritime village. We suggest to visit the church of Capuchin Father, from which one can admire a wonderful panorama of the village and the promontories which enclose the Cinque Terre. The church has a painting of the Cambiaso and a "Crucifixion" attributed to Van Dyck.
Vernazza has a natural pier with a amphitheatre shape making it perhaps the most picturesque village of the Cinque Terre. Vernazza was a Roman installation and had a big strategic importance during the age of the Maritime Republics in Genoa. It was also famous for its carpenters.
We suggest a walk in the village that is dominated by a watch tower and the "Castello" remains. In the small square, overlooking the seaside, there is the church of Santa Margherita di Antiochia.
Vernazza is the village with the safest and most convenient port in Cinque Terre. You can visit the Santuario di Reggio, Church in the hills behind Vernazza (350 meter), dating from the 13th century. Take the Sentiero N° 8 to get there.
Placed on a steep promontory, with two exclusive small beaches at its sides, Corniglia can be reached from the railway through a long flight of steps leading to the village (an elevator is being built).This village stands sharply out from the others in Cinque Terre. As a matter of fact it has a marked agricultural vocation and is classified as a rural village instead of a maritime one. It is situated on a hundred-meter high promontory sheer above the sea, and it is surrounded on the three internal sides by terraced vineyards. Once the sea could only be reached by a long stair made of 370 steps, the Lardarina, now it can be reached also by a road passing near the railway, which runs a little above the beach, the Guvano Spiaggione of the village.
The exterior structure of houses recalls the rural areas of the inland: they are usually one story high and only recently have had upper stories added. The village has been known since the 13th century, but it has ancient Roman origins. The name probably comes from an old farm where the white wine, already renowned, was produced. We suggest a visit to the Church of San Pietro (1334), which is considered one of the most significant monuments in the gothic-ligurian style of the Cinque Terre and a view the Belvedere, an enchanting terrace on the seaside.
Manarola is older than Riomaggiore (beginning of the 13th century). The village is surrounded by vines and is situated along a stream. The wine of Manarola is very famous and the "Via dell'Amore" starts here: an easy to walk, paved path a distance of two kilometres, connecting Manarola to Riomaggiore.
The houses descend right down to the sea, clinging to wave-beaten rocks. Here as well the main street consists of the covering of a torrent, from which narrow alleys, paved with stone, depart. The place-name comes from "Manium Arula", a small temple dedicated to the Manes, built here in Roman times. It is connected to Riomaggiore, of which it is an outlying village, by the famous Via dell'Amore.
In the upper side of the village, we suggest to visit the church of San Lorenzo (1338) with its beautiful rose window dating back to the 14th century.
Riomaggiore, which is the most eastern and the nearest village to La Spezia connected by a scenic road, is named after the stream crossing it. It's interesting to see the seashore and the upper side of San Giovanni Battista, with its two wonderful twin doors made of marble, which are placed in its southern side and which date before the church itself. Above the village, the Sanctuary of "Madonna di Montenero" stands out, built on the homonymous promontory and which is the last of the gulf the Cinque Terre. Tramonti areas, which goes from Portovenere to Riomaggiore, has been made into National Park of Five Lands and into a park for marina life together with the flora and fauna.
The first historical accounts about this village date back to approximately seven centuries ago.The first three villages were settled on the hills along the coast around the first half of the 13th century.
The landscape runs at right angles to the sea and the streets are made of stairs and steps. A stream runs under the main street, the so-called Rivus Maior from which the village takes its name. The famous Via dell’Amore (Way of Love) begins in the main street. This symbol of Cinque Terre overlooks the sea and connects Riomaggiore with Manarola.