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Article About Liguria - ITALY

The Cinque Terre

Five miles of rocky coast in eastern Liguria, two promontories lie at each extremity, thousands of kilometres of dry walling, cultivated into vineyards, five southerly villages castled up on spurs of stone or disposed in clusters of very small inlets. These are the co-ordinates of the Cinque Terre (Five lands).
Recognized finally as a National Park in 1999 and UNESCO protected territory since 1997 as a system of naturalistic environmental interest. This zone is characterized by the presence of precipitous slopes which have been cultivated into vineyards by means of fatiguing system of terracing the only evidence of transformation operated by the laborious human activity on the territory.
The suggestive type of coastal projections on the sea with sheer cliffs that often overtake the verticality alternated with bays, winding paths and enchanting small beaches between cliffs with a profound back drop, a rich variety of ichthyic (fishing) all of which make this district an authentic natural "opera of art".

Geologically, the landscape was created by a series of folds which were formed when the rocks were pushed, raised and pressed together in the Tertiary period. Millions of years of erosion have slowly given shape to countless small peninsulas and bays between the two extreme promontories: Punta Cavo of Montenero and Punta Mesco.

Here, five villages Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, Riomaggiore make up the renowned Cinque Terre.

We know, from archaeological findings, that man has inhabited this stretch of coastline from very early times. Jewellery and decorated shells are some of the traces left behind by prehistoric man.

Over the years, the people have succeeded in imposing their will on this difficult landscape through terrace cultivation consisting of narrow strips of land on the hillside or sheer cliffs called "fasce". Man has had to build countless short dry walls "muretti" and steps to support the steep strips of land. From a research carried out by naturalists it seems that, over thousands of years, the inhabitants of the Cinque Terre have carried out an enormous task in constructing and repairing these famous short dry walls "muretti".

So much so that the two-metre-high, eleven thousand kilometre long network of dry walls is comparable to the Great Wall of China.

Perhaps it is the hard work that the farmers have been carrying out for hundreds of years together with the air made salty by the sea spray on stormy days that have made the grapes so sweet and the olives and lemons so tasty.

The ancient "Etruscan Road" was brought back into use by the Romans, bringing both trade and commerce to the Cinque Terre. It was abandoned again during the rule of the Republic of Genoa. Perhaps the area has preserved all its natural and untouched beauty because the road was abandoned again.

Even today, it is not easy to reach the five villages, arriving either by train or along the winding roads. However, these access difficulties are the surest guarantee for the preservation of this characteristic and unique landscape.

The climate
The province of La Spezia and the Cinque Terre enjoy a mild climate aided by the Apennine Mountains which provide shelter from the north winds. The climate of the Ligurian sea during winter is usually mild.

The temperature is at its highest level in July and August when it reaches nearly 30C.


Showers are usually short but frequent during Spring and Autumn. In winter, however, these rains turn to snow even at low altitudes where winter-sport-lovers often spend their holidays.

Very rarely in summer, the north wind blows and the sea appears completely white because of the sea foam but this also serves to clear the humidity from the air that hangs over the Riviera. This allows tourists to enjoy wonderful views ranging from the south and the outline of Corsica, to the west and the promontory of Portofino. From the eastern cliffs, at night, you can see the brightly reflected lights of the Versilian coast.

The geography of the area allows the dominant, south wind to shift masses of warm, moisture-charged air towards the Apennine Mountains. On reaching the mountains, the lower air temperature leads to condensation causing sudden and abrupt rain showers.

The dryness of the Cinque Terre in summer, makes its unique outline stand out and at the same time it is also one of the main reasons why their famous wines are so good. According to the experts, the harvest that comes from a very, dry summer, even if poor in quantity, is likely to produce a vintage, quality wine.

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