What is the Cinque Terre?
Monterosso Al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore are the five little villages built into the rocks between the beach and the hills that make up the beautiful Cinque Terre.
Along the rocky coastline of northern Italy with terraced hills and vineyards sloping steeply down to the sea, you will enjoy hiking, swimming, drinking red wine, eating delicious food and watching the blazing Mediterranean sunsets away from the busy tourist spots.The area is surrounded with olive groves and vineyards, orchards and chestnut woods.
Each village has its own character and only a few minutes apart by train. There are almost no cars as the villages are not easily accessible by road.
Monterosso, the northern-most village of the Cinque Terre, was formerly surrounded by some woods of cedars, orange-trees and lemon-trees, and is now occupied by touristic residences. The village took origin in the Middle Ages, when with the expulsion of the Saracens (972), the hills’ inhabitants moved to the coast it was part of the Obertenga March and then became a feud of the Da Passanos, who were succeeded by the Republic of Genoa. The defensive tower built by the Genoese as well as the castle (13th – 14th centuries), whose ruins are now preserved in the cemetery of the little town, rise sheer to the sea. The church and the monastery of San Francesco, consecrated in 1623, still stand out on the little promontory. They hold conspicuous works by Luca Cambiaso, Bernardo Castello and a Crucifixion attributed by someone to Van Dyck. Close to the beach of the village there is the parish of San Giovanni Battisti, important medieval building finished in1307. On the facade, with bychrome bands, a great marble rose-window assigned to the masters Matteo and Pietro da Campiglio stands out. Beside the church there is the eighteenth-century oratory with central plant, dedicated to Santa Maria di Porto Salvo. On the hill behind the village, along the carriage road between Levanto and Pignone, there is the sanctuary of Nostra Signora di Soviore, founded, according to the tradition, at the time of the Longobard invasion (641).
At the mouth of a prominent an- fractuosity of the coast, is Vernazza, excellent landing-place
sheltered from the winds. The village probably rose in the l1th century and became active in sea trade particularly after having passed under the control of the Genoese (13th century). To these ones is due the potentiation of the harbour structures and of the defensive works, whose some important ruins remain. The entire old core dominated by the fortress, on which the sighting tower rises, deserves a visit. The nice parish, of Santa Margherita di Antiochia stretched out to the sea on a false cliff, was built towards 1318, and afterwards made longer through two spans. An excursion to the sanctuary of Nostra Signora di Reggio, on the hill which dominates the village, is recommended, where the miraculous image of Our Lady that the legend attributes to San Luca, is venerated.
Corniglia represents a singular exception in comparison with the other centres of the Cinque Terre, because it is perched on a promontory over the sea of a hundred metres. The shore, after having passed the village presents a small creek with a narrow pebbly beach named “”spiaggione di Corniglia”. The parish church of San Pietro lies on a low hill not far from the main core of the village. The facade, with squared stone ashlars, is made precious with a remarkable marble rose window (1351), work by the masters Matteo and Pietro da Campiglio.
Beyond the beach of Corniglia there is the small creek of Manarola, whose compact inhabited area stretches sheer to the sea. The village belonged to the Marquesses of Carpena, to the Fieschis and, since 1276, to Genoa. The main artistic work is the church of the Natività di Maria Vergine or of San Michele, placed in the North of the village. It was built in 1338 by the antelamic masters, authors of almost all the churches of the Cinque Terre. It keeps a polyptyc illustrating the Madonna with Holy Child among Saints by the Master of the Cinque Terre (14th – 15th centuries). On the hill surrounding the village, there is the hamlet of Volastra, where we find the sanctuary of Nostra Signora della Salute, dating back to the 12th century. Though it has been adapted in successive periods, it keeps the originary visible stone ashlars facade.
Manarola is joined with Riomaggiore, situated at the eastern extremity of the Cinque Terre, by a foot-way made out of the rock during the Twenties and known as “via dell’Amore”. The foundation of dispersed settlements on the high grounds of Montenero is traditionally assigned to Greek refugees who escaped the persecutions of the iconoclastic emperor Leon III (eighth century), but the first historic certain news date only back to the time when the Fieschis sold Riomaggiore to the Republic of Genoa (1276). The village, provided with smooth communication lines with La Spezia, had a very considerable touristic development. The church of San Giovanni Battista was built in 1340, but was modified during the 19th century The interior presents a nave and two aisles separated by pointed archs. It keeps a triptych illustrating the Madonna with Holy Child on the throne between the Sts. Sebastian and Rocco by the Master of the Cinque Terre. To the North-West of the village there are the ruins of the castle, from which we can enjoy a wonderful panorama on the coast. On the outskirts of Riomaggiore there is the sanctuary of Nostra Signora di Montenero of very ancient origin, but largely remanaged during the centuries.