Cinque Terre is a collection of 5 fishing villages perched on the Italian Riviera that appears from the water as a colorful natural outcropping of the coast’s jagged mountains. Set amid some of the most dramatic coastal scenery on the planet, these 5 villages of Cinque Terre—Monterosso Al Marne, Vernazza, Corniglia, Riomagglore, and Manarola—date back to the 11th century. There are historical documents on the region dating back to the eleventh century, but there’s evidence it was inhabited as far back as the Bronze Age. Historians refer to the important part this section of coastline played in the geographical strategy of the Roman Empire and, later, the Saracens. Vernazza and Monterosso were the first towns to be established and the others flourished under the rule of the Republic of Genoa. All this wonderful history has left its mark on the diverse styles of the architecture of the churches, monasteries, villas and fortifications.
Cinque Terre remained isolated from most of Italy until a railroad built in the 1970s connected the secluded region to the rest of the country. Cinque Terre is still a little tricky to access. A rail or boat trip to Cinque Terre will get you there, so you can enjoy the region’s world famous hiking trails, exceptional wine, and brightly colored dwellings that face the sea. And remember all five of the villages are car-free, which makes them so much easier and more pleasant to get around when you’re exploring on foot.
Located in the region of Liguria, one of Cinque Terre’s most striking features are the densely clustered red, yellow, and pink homes that are visible from the sea. Legend has it that fishermen applied colorful paint to their homes so that their dwellings were visible when they were out at sea. The truth is that Cinque Terre residents didn’t repaint their homes until the 1970s, when the railroad came to town. Traveling to Cinque Terre by boat is a breathtaking experience, because a boat ride offers the most stunning view of Cinque Terre’s iconic architecture.
Those lovely aquamarine waters that roll in and lap the shores of the villages are definitely something special to look at, and even better when you dive in for a dip. But there’s also something else that makes them special: the unique biome of the water in the protected harbors of the villages is extremely rich and nurturing for a variety of marine life. Cinque Terre’s rich water enables many types of marine organisms to live in its depths. It’s also why the fishing here is so prolific and the seafood is absolutely superb. Anchovies are a particular specialty, so make sure you try them.
And a little known secret, if you hike along the long trail covering all five towns, on a hot day, you may find a farmer out there under a vine covered shack selling cups of homemade lemonade or white wine. What a treat!!!
The entire Cinque Terre area is designated a National Park and it has also come under protection as a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1997.