The UNESCO World Heritage
Site Cinque Terre
The "five-village coast" on the Riviera di Levante offers scenic delights steeply above the sea. The protected cultural landscape around the villages of Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore can only be fully explored on foot. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997.
The history of the Cinque Terre
Historically, the nature reserve extends from Punta Mesco west of Monterosso al Mare to Punta del Persico south of Campiglia. Its settlement history dates back about a thousand years. Over the centuries, the villages with their colourful house facades clinging to the unruly rock formations came into being. The Cinque Terre inhabitants painstakingly reclaimed the steep banks and built retaining walls and rows of terraces.
Some of the so-called “striscie” (strips) stretch up to the hilltops. Today, the popular Cinque Terre wine is grown here. The wines are mainly DOC wines made from the Bosco, Vermentino and Albarola grape varieties. The “Bianco secco delle Cinque Terre” and the “Cinque Terre Sciacchetrà” are particularly popular.
A long-established farming and fishing culture existed here for centuries. It was not until the improved road connections in the 1970s and 1980s that tourists discovered the area. Today, tourists from all over the world are part of the inhabitants’ everyday lives.
The towns of Monterosso, Vernazza & Corniglia
Monterosso is the main town of the Cinque Terre and the starting point of the classic coastal hiking trail through the unique cultural landscape. The trail connects all five coastal villages. The most famous section is the last stretch from Manarola to Riomaggiore – the Via dell’Amore, the “lovers’ path”. At present, however, the Via dell’Amore is not passable. It was closed due to a landslide. But the sections from Monterosso to Vernazza and from there on to Corniglia are also a real highlight.
Monterosso al Mare is situated at the foot of the wide Sun Valley directly on the sea. Unlike the four neighbouring towns, it has spacious architecture and excellent infrastructure. The pretty old town centre with narrow shopping streets and small squares invites you to linger. Through the San Cristoforo hill, a tunnel leads to the narrow waterfront promenade above the inviting sandy beach with the giant Neptune figure “Il Gigante”. The Romanesque “Chiesa San Giovanni Battista”, the “Chiesa San Francesco” and the “Santuario Nostra Signora di Soviore” above Monterosso are particularly worth seeing.
Vernazza is undoubtedly the prettiest of the Cinque Terre villages. The beautiful little harbour piazza with its Mediterranean serenity is the special highlight of the village. Colourful façades line the small harbour “Porticciolo”, colourful little fishing boats bob in the water and small cafés and restaurants invite you to linger. The main street leads up to the railway station, where the entire village life takes place. The winding stairs lead up to a cosy maze of houses where time seems to stand still.
Corniglia is the most compact of the villages and nestles tightly against a massive rocky outcrop high above the sea. A steep serpentine staircase with 382 steps made of red brick leads to the “Lo-Spiaggione” beach. In the heavenly tranquillity of the old village of 250 inhabitants, you can enjoy a delicious glass of Cinque Terre wine from the adjoining wine terraces. A true pearl of Corniglia is the Gothic “Chiesa San Pietro” with its well-preserved 14th-century striped façade.
The Via dell’Amore between Manarola and Riomaggiore
The neighbouring village of Manarola rises gracefully above a rugged rocky outcrop. On the piazza terrace, you can enjoy a magnificent view from one of the restaurants and cafés. The village’s maze of alleys branches up to the last row of houses and offers a variety of tranquil nooks and squares. From the nearby cemetery, you can enjoy the most beautiful view of the colourful facade scenery of the village. The golden-yellow Cinque Terre dessert wine “Sciacchetrà” is grown in the surrounding wine terraces.
From here begins the centrepiece of the Cinque Terre coastal trail: the legendary Via dell’Amore. It was laid out in 1930 and originally served to improve understanding between the villages. Young people from Manarola and Riomaggiore quickly turned the coastal path into a meeting place for lovers, which earned it the beautiful name “the path of love”. At several points, you can walk down steep steps to the sea. In the small “Bar dell’Amore” you can enjoy a typical Italian “aperitivo” with a view of the cliff.
The village of Riomaggiore is the easternmost of the Cinque Terre villages and huddles around the narrow shore of the small harbour bay. It’s a lovely place to linger and enjoy the tranquil atmosphere. Above the station are the remains of the old 16th-century Genoese castle, which can be reached by a lift and a small flight of steps. Here you will find a viewing platform with a café, from which you can enjoy a magnificent panoramic view.
A few steps further, you reach the beautiful 14th-century Chiesa San Giovanni Battista with its white rose window. In Via Signorini you can visit the house of the famous Cinque Terre landscape painter Telemaco Signorini. In the main street, Via Colombo, the daily life of Riomaggiore takes place in lovingly furnished bars, shops and taverns.
The coastal village of Portovenere
Although Portovenere is no longer directly part of the five villages of the Cinque Terre, it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997, along with the Cinque Terre National Park and the Palmarian Islands.
The small coastal village of Portovenere is one of the most beautiful places in Liguria and forms the entrance to the “Golfo dei poeti”, the Gulf of La Spezia named after important poets. Stroll along the medieval old town alley to the furthest point of land and enjoy the lively hustle and bustle on the sea promenade.