Cinque Terre [Five Lands] are five independent villages – from south to north Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare – along the coast of Liguria. The rocky terrain that makes up this coastline creates a number of raged promontories and secluded coves. Each village has its own unique character. Riomaggiore, Manarola and Vernazza are clinging dramatically to the steep cliffs surrounding their harbors. While Corniglia is perched high on a peak surrounded by rocky terraces. These villages seem unaffected by the passage of time. They are characterized by narrow, steep streets and colorful houses. The largest, Monterosso, overlooks a wide bay with a sandy beach. It basically looks like any seaside Mediterranean village.
These originally fishing villages date back to the 11th century. They were isolated until the 19th century, when railway lines were built connecting them with the rest of Italy. The 1970s brought a boom in tourism. Visitors were charmed by the colorful, quaint little villages. It was then that the anecdote was born according to which the houses were painted in such an array of strong colors that it was easier for the fishermen to spot the village from the sea, amidst the greyness of the rocks. The truth is more prosaic, the buildings were painted in the 70s to make the villages more appealing to the tourists. Unfortunately, since then, the painting has faded heavily, and even the facades are crumbling.
The beautiful scenery and the variety of hiking trails attract visitors from all over the world. Some hiking trails are more demanding than others, but along the coast, visitors can find fairly easy footpaths that can provide access to secluded beaches in places. The ancient footpath, known as the Sentiero Azzurro [Blue Path], offers stunning views of the rocky coastline and terraced vineyards. The path connects all five villages and was once used by locals as it was the only way to reach the neighbouring villages. The most famous part of this path winds along the edge of the coastal cliffs between Riomaggiore and Manarola, called Via dell’ Amore [Lovers’ Lane]. However, this trail has been closed for several years and there is no apparent sign that it will open in the near future. In general, due to the unstable nature of the area, frequent landslides result in regular trail closures.
Know Before You Go
The most convenient way to get around is by the regional train; driving and parking would be a nightmare.