This summer we are on the road in North Italy, Switzerland and South of France and one of our spots that we are going to visit is Cinque Terre – the 5 little villages at the Ligurian coastline about 2 hours drive from Genova.
The 5 villages of Riomaggiore , Manarola , Corniglia , Vernazza and Monterosso are stretching about a distance of 15 km at the azure colored Italian Riviera over here.
I am excited as I am curious about this marvelous landscape for very long years since they are located in a wild nature at a steep mountain range and a rough coastline at the Italian Riviera.
The history of these villages actually dates back to the Bronze age. Then it was a strategic maritime point for the Roman Empire . In the 9th century Saracens occupied this region and the inhabitants of the villages were forced to flee into the mountains.
In the 11th century the Obertengo Family from Tuscany was reigning over the region kicking out the Saracens so that the village inhabitants could move back to their hometowns. In those days the region started to change since the inhabitants of the villages invested a lot of work into agriculture and turned the rough forests and cliffs into picturesque and fertile wine terraces and olive tree groves .
The region was always under attack of pirate ships or of natural disasters but the people stayed strong and loyal to their home and trade started in the region .In those days the wine of these wine yards became very popular .
In the 12th century the villages became part of the Republic of Genova. Since the islands were isolated and there were no roads to the villages , the only way to get to Genova was by sea and it took about 2 days to sail over there .
In the 15th century people started to call the region ” Cinque Terre ” . The villages were always very quite and were hidden gems in the beautiful mountain range and therefore also not very known by travelers or visitors until in the 1970 s an American writer was writing about these marvelous little fisher villages.
Finally in 1997 Cinque Terre became UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE due to its outstanding beauty at the Eastern Ligurian coastline and its steep mountains slopes .It was always inhabited by peaceful fishermen and farmers . The traditional life style existing here since more than a thousand years was key to survive in this rough and dramatic natural environment. On the other hand it is an outstanding example of a balance between nature and people to build up an extraordinary synergy and harmony between both .In the past 30-40 years tourism became another pillar for the villages to survive and to maintain the vineyards and acres of olive plantations.
Today there are very steep roads for vehicles that are not preferred as it is very difficult to drive over here .
Instead there is a local railway that we are also going to use. We enter the railway in La Spezia and our first stop is at Riomaggiore.
How picturesque , how peaceful and beautiful it is …
The little houses of the fishermen and farmers are situated at the steep slopes of the mountains , doors and windows are open , the lingerie is hanging and waving on the lines outside . The houses are mainly in yellow or reddish colors.
Once you come up from the little train station you are just at the cute little port with its many little colorful fisher boats , fish restaurants . People are lying on the rocks for some sun bathing . The scenery is awesome .
We are just going up the stairs to enjoy the nice view and the backside of the cliff since there is a little bay where you can have a swim in the Mediterrean Sea.
As it is more than hot – I think we have about 36 degrees and real summertime , there is nothing better than to take a bath in this slightly wavy , dark green , a little rough but beautiful sea.
We jump into the cool water to refresh . The scenery of the cliffs, the vineyards and the nice village is really so beautiful.
Afterwards we walk back to the fishermen village – everything is small , tight and steep and very close by.
Since we are hungry we take some freshly fried octopus in a cone …. wow, they are soooo delicious !
We do enjoy this unique location and its inhabitants – everybody is very friendly .
After having spent some time and enjoyed Riomaggiore we go back to the train station and take the next train – our next stop is Vernazza just a few minutes away from Riomaggiore.
Once we arrive at Vernazza and walk down the stairs of the train station ,we recognize a lot of cute boutiques and nice shops.
A little further we arrive at a beautiful piazza.
At the waterfront there are marvelous cafes and fish restaurants . The smell of the fish dishes , ice cream , Italian coffee , a breeze of the salty ocean wind and a breeze of the bright sun is in the air . The smell is so good…
The little houses again in yellow and red colors ,the colored umbrellas in blue , yellow , orange and red ,the white lingerie in front of the windows looking like a decoration , the green jalousies at the windows for sun protection ,the music , the friendly people are giving also this place a very pleasant and peaceful mood .
There is a guitar player who is singing wonderful songs .The atmosphere is fantastic with this musician and his melodies in the air .
At the right hand side there is also a cathedral overlooking the whole piazza and at its back side there are the mountains . At the side of the cathedral there are also steep steps which lead to one of the hiking trails.
We want to enjoy the view and the mood and sit down at the waterfront for a nice Italian Coffee and some aperitifs .
Later on we take a walk at the seaside – the colorful little boats in front of the bay , the people lying in the sun with their colorful swimsuits and their laughter , the kids playing in the water , people lying high on the cliffs to breathe the fresh wind and to take a sun bath as well – the scenery is so marvelous and unique . Happiness is in the Air.
The sun is very intense and we want to have a look at another 3rd village as well – we take the next train , also just a few minutes trip to our next stop , which is MonteRosso.
MonteRosso is totally different then the 2 villages before . Here you have a long flat coastline. Everywhere you see the colored striped umbrellas – marine blue and white , orange and green , yellow and white and some are in nice solid colors – it looks so cute .People are in the water , swimming – the sand coast is much smoother over here and much easier to access.
The sun is bright – the best thing to do is to be in the water …
A little further there are some brilliant cafes with a nice view – we decide to have some ice cream and to protect ourselves from the sun by getting into the shadows of the café building and have some rest as the sun is really very strong .
I can tell you, Italian Ice Cream is not an ice cream – it is a Dream ! We get some vanilla ice cream with some great fresh strawberries and blueberries – it is awesome.
After having spent some time and having had some rest and some joyful talks with friends , we leave the site in the very late afternoon for Levanto to drive back to Milan.
I do hope that I will be back one day to Cinque Terre to stay here for a couple of days and to fully enjoy the seaside at the cliffs and the nice atmosphere here in the 5 cute villages which is so brilliant .
It should be also beautiful to come in spring to this location when you can hike between the 5 villages and where you just walk along the coastline in the mountain trails and have some other breathtaking views from the heights and the wonderful nature .
When I think about the reason why I liked Cinque Terre so much , I somehow came to the conclusion that these little villages ,all the atmosphere , the colors and the smell of these villages remind me very much of the little small fisher villages in my hometown in Istanbul .
Not only this , it also reminds me of my childhood in the 1970 s when Dad was still alive and took us on weekends to these places as he was also in love with the ocean, the boats,the fishermen arranging their nets and catching their fish and the full life around the fisher villages..