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The Cinque Terre

Why are they called Cinque Terre? The five old cities of Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso were formerly completely isolated by the mountains and the sea in a magnificent environment of rigorous and wild nature that had a self-sufficient economy. The small groups of houses constructed side by side can only be reached by boat or curving trails that even today are still used by anyone who wants to leisurely discover the landscape silently and on tiptoe so as to not damage the fragile natural balance and the untiring work done by man. Because it doesn't have a specific name, people always called Cinque Terre the five villages and today, what were discovered and appreciated by tourism coming from all parts of the world, can be reached by train and have become part of the UNESCO World Heritage. This name became synonymous with a natural environment, art, history, culture and a small open-air museum.

Corniglia is the smallest of the Cinque Terre villages, but it is also the most authentic with a more intimate atmosphere. It is located on a rocky promontory in a panoramic position overlooking the sea. If you arrive on foot by the trails from Vernazza or Manarola, or from the station at sea level, there is a set of 382 rock step going up to Lardarina. For those who are less sporty, there is a regular eco-friendly service of vans using ecological buses. The city developed around a main route, Fieschi road, that leads to the San Pietro church. On the Santa Maria viewpoint that offers a superb view over the sea and the rugged coastline of the Cinque Terre. The promontory is surrounded by hills covered in vineyards, cultivated on terraces in strips of land organized vertically, delimited and protected by the traditional walls of dry rock. Below, on the sea, the station and some fairly wild beaches can be found, among which is Guvano that became famous during the hippie movement and is also open to naturists. Thanks to the happy union between the sea and the rock, but also, and especially, for its authentic aspect with little interference from man, this piece of the coast is probably the most suitable part of the entire Cinque Terre Natural Park.

Riomaggiore is the most oriental of the Cinque Terre cities and is the departure point of the very famous "Via dell'Amore"(The Way of Love), a trail carved in the rock overlooking the sea that offers stunning views. Tucked between the mountains and the sea, the city was developed in parallel lines of houses, tall and narrow, with facades painted in pastel colors according to the Ligurian tradition. A legend places the origin of Riomaggiore in the VIII century when a small group of Greek refugees, who had escaped persecution from the Byzantine emperor, settled here. The city is organized around a small port, the true beating heart of the city, that is lively in all seasons.

Manarola, the second smallest city of the Cinque Terre after Corniglia, pertains to the exclusive club of the most beautiful urban areas in Italy. The houses, with facades painted in lively colors, are very close to one another. The alleys, called caruggi here, create a dense structure, sometimes organized in various levels with suspended passages that connect the upper floors of the buildings. Every year, during the Christmas season, the hill that dominates the city is lighted by a gigantic nativity scene in which all of the people and scenarios are made of light bulbs.

Monterosso is the largest and certainly the most lively of the Cinque Terre cities. The modern part, Fegina, where the station, beach and various bars and restaurants are, is separated from the medieval historical center by a tunnel. Between the two, the castle, constructed by the noble Genovese family Obertenghi, and the Aurora tower, previously used by the local population to defend against Saracen pirate attacks, dominate the sea. A statue of the god Neptune seems to hold up the rocky outcropping that separates the two villages. The narrow streets of the medieval city, colorful and happy, are dotted by small businesses and stores that sell typical local products or arts. The San Giovanni Battista church is an excellent example of the Ligurian gothic architecture. Between Levanto and Monterosso, the Punta Mesco promontory is crossed by a panoramic trail for hiking, in the middle of Mediterranean vegetation between vineyards and olive groves.

Vernazza is a unique city among the Cinque Terre cities that was constructed on a natural port in the center of a small cove protected by a ring of reefs. The origin of the city dates back to the Middle Ages and its delicately decorated houses are a testimony to the glorious past in the time of the maritime republics when Vernazza was one of the main cities of the Republic of Genoa. The village is typical of Liguria, with characteristics that are common to the other Cinque Terre and, generally speaking, of the entire Ligurian coast with the houses painted in lively colors and windows surrounded by frescoes in trompe l'oeil and the tangled alleys in an intricate maze, the fishermen's wooden barges in various colors and the air perfumed by the smells of salt and lemon. Behind the small port and the beach, you can find the famous plaza that receives visitors, offering them many opportunities to rest while the Santa Margherita d'Antiochia parochial church, which is very impressive with its tower that resembles a minaret, seems to challenge the sea.

La Via dell’amore (The Way of Love) connects Riomaggiore to the village of Manarola. This passage with a view of the sea that is about one kilometer long, is part of a much longer road, the Sentiero Azzurro (The Blue Trail), that goes from Portovenere to Sestri Levante. Open since the beginning of the 1920s, with the aim of creating a means of communication between the two villages that up until then didn't have many relationships, soon became a highly symbolic place for lovers who started to use it as a background, romantic and favorable, for declarations of love or marriage proposals.
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Deiva Marina, Riomaggiore, Corniglia
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