Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Cinque Terre... it Calls Me to Come Back

Cinque Terre is pronounced Chink-weh Tay-reh ...and roll the r's!  Cinque means five.  Terre means lands... or in this case it's five villages.  Truly this an extraordinary place to visit.

We were able to visit four of the five villages in one day trip from the cruise ship.  The first one was Manarola... and this photo shows the character that is common in all five.

Each are very colourful villages, clinging to the steep mountainside, sea on one side with terraced mountain vineyards around each village... and each had extremely difficult access by land.

There is a walking trail between all of these villages. You can see the white handrail along the trail carved into the rugged cliffs.  I walked out on this trail to get that first 'poster photo' to introduce  you to Cinque Terre.

In the centre left of this map you can see 'Cinque Terre' in the water fronting a thin black line with villages dotted along it.  These villages are so small only two of the five are mentioned in this map.

The five villages from top to bottom are:

  • Monterosso
  • Vernazza
  • Corniglia
  • Manarola
  • Riomaggiore

This is the main street in Manarola.  There are no vehicles in these villages.

But there are lots of boats.  Fishing and agriculture are the two main livelihoods here.

Getting the boats up the boat ramp to it's parking place takes several strong men and a boat dolly... and to get it back into the water takes the same effort in reverse.

This signboard shows the whole village with topography lines... the terraces.  The thicker beige coloured line is the main street that leads to the boat ramp and the ocean.

We arrived near the first village in a 48-passenger tour bus... and I took this photo out the window as our bus wound its way close to the village.

The parking lot on the outskirts did not have very many cars.  You must remember that these villages were built between 400 to 900 years ago... long before anyone ever thought about designing communities to accommodate vehicles.

There are few roads into these villages.  A vehicle road was just opened in June 2012 to Vernazza... and it ends in a parking lot one-half mile from the village.

When trains arrived in Italy these little villages blossomed with the new access to the world.

This tunnel is for foot traffic only... and it was long!  It goes from the train station in Riomaggiore to the main part of the town.

Four of the five villages of Cinque Terre have passenger ferry service... and after our first train ride to Riomaggiore we went by ferry to the other villages.  At the end of the afternoon we took the train again and went all the way to La Spezia where our tour bus met us to take us back to the cruise ship.

All of the villages in Cinque Tere are built around a stream, which provides the necessary source of potable water.  The stream runs down the valley to the ocean and the houses are built on the adjacent hillsides.

This water wheel has been in use for a long time and was still in operation.

What could be nicer than to live next to a stream with your window open to the sound of the babbling water?

All the homes here are made of stone and mortar. It was not until more recently that the owners started to stucco and paint them a variety of colours.

When our group stopped to view this bell tower our tour guide told us how the tradition of stucco and painting the houses different colours came to be.

When one of the fishermen was out in his boat many years ago... he likely had been in the sauce when he looked up at his village and couldn't tell his house from any of the rest.

So he decided to paint his house so he could tell which one was his. Soon others liked the idea and picked a different colour for their house until today we have an amazingly colourful community.

Each of the villages has a church... but there was not time to go into each one as long as we were trying to stay with our tour group.

Red geraniums at noon bade us farewell as we were leaving Manarola.

Flower boxes on balconies were quite common.

In Riomaggiore the boat access to the ocean was easier...

part of the village was closer to sea level.

We saw a lot of laundry hung out to dry... a community without clothes dryers.

There was an absence of any American fast food franchises.

This village invited us to rent a room and stay a while.

Both of us thought it would be easy to stay here a month... if we could get wireless internet!

With produce like this we could enjoy staying here a while.

We watched several guys dive off the high cliffs at Riomaggiore... just like in Acapulco.

30 minutes in this village was not long enough... we will have to come back and soak up more of this!

The advantage of taking the passenger ferry between villages afforded us excellent photo opportunities from the water.

The train did more to open up these villages to the world than anything.  There is very little open track above land in these parts... almost all the track is thru tunnels or over bridges.

We did not stop at this village of Corniglia...  every village has a church.

Hopefully we can come back here again.  This village had the least attractive boat access... hence no ferry service.  But it appears they keep some fishing boats right near the shore.  The rain caught us off guard here.

When we got to Vernazza we were pretty wet...

So we took cover in the church where I just sat and meditated for 20 minutes to dry out while Shirley took lots of photos inside this humble church.

Just in front of the church was this amazing mosaic done with three colours of stones.

We didn't go very deep into this village before it was time to catch the ferry to Monterosso.

From the harbour at Vernazza we could see Monterosso thru the rain.

And all the way to Monterosso it just poured...

Monterosso was not quite as appealing to us in the rain.

We all hurried from the dock to get to the village... looking for some shelter and some food.

It wasn't cold, so to sit outdoors under an umbrella was just fine... and the pasta here was wonderful.  We had the table behind the petunias.

As we ate we watched people in rain gear braving the elements.

The rain let up about the time we finished our meal, so we went exploring this last village before heading back to the ship.

These were the only bicycles we saw in Cinque Terre... likely locals ride them from outside the village into Monterosso.  Didn't see anyone riding bikes inside the village.

When stucco flakes off the wall you see the stones, bricks and mortar.  Building maintenance is a constant.

Very interesting striped designs on the church and two nearby buildings.

The train has totally changed this ancient community... it brought the world here and it allowed the local people access to the world.

When it started to rain again we ran for cover under this train overpass.

The needles on these Mediterranean pine trees are just like our Ponderosa Pines... but the branch structure is like a common green vegetable... hence they call them Broccoli trees.

"Everywhere is within walking distance if you have the time." -Steven Wright


  1. Shall we stay one month or two...? It was a glorious spot, even in the rain.
    Thanks for the memories.

  2. never been but would love to go someday. maybe in a couple years for the 50th anniversary holiday festival, ja? apparently you can walk between villages but there are a few.. um.. stairs.

  3. It is pretty interesting to look at the photos from the hiking trails. Just Google it up.

    The place to start is Moterosso... over 600 stairs... and apparently the most beautiful... so we would like to get the hardest part done early in the day.

    When we were there much of the trail was closed due to land slides... only one section was open. You cannot plan for that. It is what it is when you arrive.

    We like to hike in beautiful places. It is on my Bucket List to hike the whole trail.

  4. What wonderful photos--love the different colors of the houses!

  5. It was wonderful to be there... and to go from one village to another and see the consistent variety.

  6. Of all that I've seen of your time in Europe, this is the place I would most like to see and stay for awhile. Totally my speed. Love love love.