To visit what is referred to as “Cinque Terre” was a major reason for our choice of the place for our summer holidays this year. We have several times passed by, either on the highways or by train; in both cases you only get some very short glimpses (especially when the train spends 90% of the trip in tunnels), but these glimpses make you understand the beauty of the landscape.
This part of the Italian Riviera has an extremely steep coastline. “Cinque Terre” can be translated “Five Lands” and refers to the five villages Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore.
You can reach them by boat or by train. Local trains spend most of their time in tunnels, tunnels which more or less open only when you reach the local station. Boat service is of course dependent on weather, the mooring conditions are mostly very delicate. There is also a theoretical possibility to approach the villages by car, but this alternative must be avoided especially during the peak tourist season.
We spent two full days, using boat as well as train. (One of the villages, Corniglia, on top of a hill, cannot be reached by boat.)
If you chose the boat, a normal departure point is La Spezia, a major port and naval base, with a first stop at Portovenere.
Portovenere has origins from BC and its name seems to refer to a Venus Temple (or to Saint Venerius). There are some old fortresses, churches, but of course also some narrow streets with a number of bars and restaurants. The place is also linked to Lord Byron. A now collapsed “grotto” was the starting point for a very long swimming tour he made to visit Shelley, near Lerci. (See map below.)
Aiming for the five “Cinque Terre” villages by boat from Portovenrere, you can admire the rough coastline, sometimes with terraces and small houses, occupied seasonally (no electricity, no water…). Wine, olives and pesto are cultivated. … and – from the sea – you should not forget the anchovies.
Here are some pictures from the five villages, all charming.
The water is uniformly crystal clear (heavily protected) and invites bathing, sometimes involving some courage….