Portovenere, Cinque Terre, and the Islands (Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto)

800px-1_manarola_evening_2012
Manarola (Chensiyuan/Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0).

 Italy
Province of La Spezia, Liguria Region
N44 6 24.984 E9 43 45.012
Date of Inscription: 1997
Criteria: (ii)(iv)(v)
Property : 4,689.25 ha
Ref: 826
Latest News/Travelogues: ITALY; IT – PORTOVENERE CINQUE TERRE AND THE ISLANDS (PALMARIA TINO AND TINETTO)

800px-1_vernazza_2012
Vernazza (Chensiyuan/Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 4.0).

The Ligurian coast between Cinque Terre and Portovenere is a cultural landscape of great scenic and cultural value. The layout and disposition of the small towns and the shaping of the surrounding landscape, overcoming the disadvantages of a steep, uneven terrain, encapsulate the continuous history of human settlement in this region over the past millennium.

Brief synthesis

Stretching 15 km along the eastern Ligurian coast between Levanto and La Spezia, the jagged, steep coastal landscape has over centuries been intensively developed with stone walled terraces for the growing of vines and olive trees. The area was almost inaccessible, except by sea, until the Genoa-La Spezia railway was built in the 1870s.

The property, extending from the Punta Mesco in the west and to the Punta Persico in the east, encompasses the territory of Porto Venere, the three islands of its archipelago (Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto), and the Cinque Terre, the collective name of the five villages of Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore.

Some of the cultivation terraces extend to as much as 2 km in length. Terraces extended along the steep slopes from a few meters above sea level to up 400 m a.s.l., the highest altitude suitable for cultivation. They were mostly built in the 12th century, when Saracen raids from the sea had come to an end. The drystone walls are most often carefully constructed of sandstone rough blocks, bonded together with pebbles removed from the ground.

The maintenance of the terraces and the cultivation of vines and olive trees on the terraces reflect a communal approach to farming and the collaboration and cooperation of the communities without which such cultivation would not have been possible.

The natural garrigue and maquis vegetation survives intact in the higher parts of the steep ridge. The nature of the terrain and the vegetation provides food and shelter for a wide range of insect and animal species.

The local communities have adapted themselves to this seemingly rough and inhospitable environment by living in compact settlements on the coast or in small hamlets on the hillsides (e.g. Volastra, Groppo, Drignana, San Bernardino or Campiglia), erected directly on the rock with winding streets. The general use of natural stone for roofing gives these settlements a characteristic appearance. They are generally grouped around religious buildings or medieval castles. The terraces are also dotted by innumerable tiny stone huts isolated or grouped together (e.g. at Fossola, Tramonti, Monestiroli or Schiara) used for temporary shelter during the harvest.

The main five villages of Cinque Terre date back to the later Middle Ages. Starting from the north-west, the first is the fortified centre of Monterosso al Mare, that is a coastal town grown along two short valleys and facing one of the few beaches that exist in the area. Vernazza has developed along the Vernazzola water-stream on the slopes of the rocky spur protecting the village from the sea. Corniglia is the only village which has not been built on the coast itself but on a high promontory projecting to the sea. Manarola is a small hamlet in which the houses are ranged in part on a rocky spur running down towards the sea and partly along the Grappa stream. The most eastern – southerly village is Riomaggiore; its houses line the narrow valley of the Rio Maggiore water-stream, today covered to be used as main street.

Portovenere was an important commercial and cultural centre dating back to the Roman period, from which archaeological remains survive in its vicinity. It is compact in form, the houses aligned along the coastline culminating in the Doria Castle, which dominates the settlement and is a historical palimpsest, with many traces of its medieval predecessor.

Off the coast at Portovenere, the three islands of Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto, noteworthy not only for their natural beauty but also for the many remains of early monastic establishments that they contain.

The rugged and visually dramatic coastal landscape, with its tall compact settlements and visually spectacular terraces that were shaped over almost a millennium, is an exceptional testimony to the way traditional communities interacted and still interact with their difficult and isolated environment to produce a sustainable livelihood.

Criterion (ii): The eastern Ligurian Riviera between Cinque Terre and Portovenere is a cultural site of outstanding value that illustrates a traditional way of life that has existed for a thousand years and continues to play an important socio-economic role in the life of the community.

Criterion (iv): The Ligurian coastal region from Cinque Terre to Portovenere is an outstanding example of landscape where the layout and disposition of small towns, historically stratified, in relation to the sea, and the shaping of the surrounding terraces that overcame the disadvantages of a steep, uneven terrain, encapsulates the continuous history of human settlement in this region over the past millennium.

Criterion (v): Portovenere, Cinque Terre, and the Islands (Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto) is a remarkable cultural landscape created by human endeavour over a millennium in a rugged and dramatic natural environment. It represents the harmonious interaction between people and nature to produce a landscape of exceptional scenic quality.

Suggested Base:

Genoa (Italian: Genova, Ligurian: Zena) is a historic port city in northern Italy, the capital of the Liguria region. As a tourist attraction, is often overshadowed by cities such as Rome or Venice, even though it has a long history as a rich and powerful trade centre. However, with its multitude of hidden gems behind cozy alleyways, excellent cuisine (notably fish and seafood), renovated old port, beautiful sights (including one of Europe’s biggest aquariums), and its position as the European Capital of Culture in 2004, the birthplace of explorer Christopher Columbus is an enticing place which is gradually becoming more included in the touristic market. With unusual typical slate-roofed houses, artistic churches, lovely seaside villas, and several luxurious boutiques, Genoa is a must-see if you want to experience the “quintessential” Italy. [read more]

Parma is a city in the province of Parma, part of the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. Attend the opera at the gorgeous and world-famous Teatro Regio, known for its passionate and critical local opera aficionados. Buy tickets early as the opera is extremely popular in Parma and tickets sell out early. The Festival Verdi celebrates the famous and adored Parma resident Giuseppe Verdi throughout the month of October every year. Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta (Duomo), Piazza Duomo. The cathedral and the adjacent baptistery, both were built in the late 12th century. The frescoes inside the building are very moving, as well as the relief sculptures on the interior stone. The painting inside the dome of the cathedral is one of the most remarkable paintings of the Renaissance. Entitled Assumption of the Virgin by Correggio, it shows the Virgin Mary being taken up to Heaven. [read more]

Milan (Italian: Milano; Milanese: Milan) is financially the most important city in Italy, and home to the Borsa Italiana stock exchange. It is the second most populous city proper in the country, but sits at the centre of Italy’s largest urban and metropolitan area. While not considered as beautiful as some Italian cities, having been greatly destroyed by Second World War bomb raids, the city has rebuilt itself into a thriving cosmopolitan business capital. In essence, for a tourist, what makes Milan interesting compared to other places is that the city is truly more about the lifestyle of enjoying worldly pleasures: a paradise for shopping, football, opera, and nightlife. Milan remains the marketplace for Italian fashion – fashion aficionados, supermodels and international paparazzi descend upon the city twice a year for its spring and autumn fairs. [read more]

Advertisements

10 Replies to “Portovenere, Cinque Terre, and the Islands (Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto)”

  1. There are a lot of ups and downs on the Cinque Terre, so that’s worth taking into consideration for your knee. There’s no climbing per se though, it’s more walking on trails :). However the Cinque Terre can also be enjoyed by non-walkers. There are trains between all the villages, and you can get a day ticket and take trains between villages, stop whenever you like, stroll around towns, and then continue to the next village.

    Like

  2. My favorite among the Cinque Terre was Vernazza. As soon as I arrived this town unfolded in a picturesque labyrinth of cobbled lanes and stairways wide enough for barely two people to pass at a time. The magic was alluring and I soaked in its atmosphere, all spruced up for the Christmas season. Hobbit-like houses leaned over narrow paved stairways and steep alleys were festooned with laundry hanging from the windows, almost as if to assert their Italian style.

    Like

  3. Walking the Cinque Terre track is not tramping as we know it in New Zealand. Parts of the track are steep and narrow, but most of it is a meander along pathways through orchards and small settlements. A highlight was watching the local folk working in the vineyards and olive groves, perched on impossibly-narrow terraces, or rather ledges, which have been carved into the hillsides over the centuries.

    We dawdled along the 10km path in the spring sunshine, sampling the local delicacies of anchovies, pesto, farinata and focaccia, cooling off in the heat of the day with gelato made from Corniglia honey, and refreshing plunges in the ocean.

    The track could easily be walked in a day but if you want to absorb the beauty and the atmosphere of the region, spend at least three days in one of the little villages and explore some of the hinterland and history of the region.

    Like

  4. Manarola was my personal favourite, colourful houses stacked on top of one another cling to the rock face and create a colourful mosaic which you just can’t resist photographing. We enjoyed lunch at a cafe and watched fellow tourists enjoying the sunshine and a cooling swim at the rocky foreshore while local fishermen went about their business.

    Like

  5. Some of our favorite things to do in the Cinque Terre (besides walking):

    • Sit on the square in Manarola, watching the local kids race their foot-powered scooters around the plaza as parents cheer them on. Stop by the toy stand there, where you can buy an Italian comic book about Texans working in the oil field.

    • Grab a bottle of wine and take the stroll out Via dell’Amore, the walkway between Manarola and Riomaggiore. Even though it was closed when we were there, we could walk partway out, sit on a bench and watch the sunset.

    • For spectacular photos of Manarola, walk north of town on the main trail, stopping just below the little pocket park, where the sidewalk curves with the coast. At dusk, the buildings practically glow in the most beautiful light.

    • If the coastal path between Manarola and Corniglia is closed (and even if it’s not), take the high road instead, climbing up to the village of Volastra. Grab a lemonade at the tiny grocery and peek into the beautiful chapel.

    • In Vernazza, dine at Ristorante Belforte and order the steamed mussels or grilled octopus. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to sit on one of the terraces clinging to the cliff.

    • Walk beneath a stone arch at the foot of Vernazza to a gravel beach created during the devastating floods of 2011. Then dive into the ocean.

    • Rent a beach umbrella in Monterosso.

    • Eat gelato in Corniglia — it was some of the best we found during our 10-day trip to Italy.

    • Eat dinner — and order the seafood antipasti — at Billy’s in Manarola. http://www.trattoriabilly.com

    • Stay at least two nights. High season runs from mid-June to mid-September. Day trippers flood the towns, but by dusk most of the crowds are gone.

    Like

  6. After a night spent relaxing on the boat, we set our alarms early, put on our hiking clothes and caught the first train from our hotel in La Spezia to trek one portion of the five trails – from Vernazza to Corniglia. The guide books say you can complete the entire trek, across all five villages, in six to eight hours – which we considered overly ambitious. If you prefer a leisurely pace, stopping for lunch, gelato and picture breaks, pick one or two portions of the trail and expect the abbreviated trek to take three to four hours.

    There are two trails, the red and blue. Blue is is the easier – though still quite challenging for those who simply want to stroll. There are steep hills and craggy steps, but it’s the kind of hike that will leave you tired and thirsty at the end, but feeling so glad you did it.

    And as noted above, bring your swimsuit in your daypack and cool off with a dive into the bay. Don’t attempt the challenging red trail unless you are a seasoned trekker, and bring along enough water and snacks to get you through.

    Take note, the train will save you. It makes a stop at each of the five villages, making it easy to call it a day at any village along the and head back home– or to a restaurant for a scenic meal.

    Like

  7. I visited all five towns in the cluster and, while Monterroso al Mare, one train stop to the north, has a longer, more crowded beach and a livelier nightlife, Vernazza was, to me, clearly the most appealing of the five. After days of scouring the art museums of Florence, it was a pleasant contrast to visit here. A visit to Vernazza should include an exploration of the few back alleys to get a sense of the rhythm of the relaxed local lifestyle. To explore the surrounding area, buy a Cinque Terre pass that allows for hiking and train travel between the five towns. The latter can get quite crowded midday during high season. Some of the hiking trails were closed during my visit. I recommend that, even if you don’t hike the trail between the five towns, at least hike up the steep trail overlooking Vernazza for a magnificent view. It’s a particularly striking sight in the early morning.

    Like

  8. Each comes with its own personality, and the best way to see the lot is to pick one as a home base (we’ve chosen Manarola because it’s smaller and quieter than the others), then spend a few days hiking between them, eat grilled octopus and cool off with a swim in the sea. We’re in no hurry. Here in the Cinque Terre, it’s all about walking, relaxing and soaking up the views. Make sure you have proper footwear before you strike out. Some of the trails (especially the one from Vernazza to Monterosso) are extremely narrow and crowded. In sections, passage is only single file, so if you meet someone coming the other direction you’ll have to wait your turn.

    And the steps! The Vernazza to Monterosso section of the trail has as many as a skyscraper — hike it northbound or your quads will stage a protest. And only attempt the walk if you’re reasonably fit.

    Happily, Vernazzo and Monterosso offer fine swimming, too, so once you’ve worked up a sweat hiking you can cool off in the sea. We braved the tiny gravel beach in Vernazza in our hiking duds — and it was totally worth it.

    If you walk from one town to the next and don’t feel like hiking back, you can catch the train for a few euros. Even better, hop on a ferry boat for a different perspective of the Cinque Terre.

    Some of our favorite things to do in the Cinque Terre (besides walking):

    • Sit on the square in Manarola, watching the local kids race their foot-powered scooters around the plaza as parents cheer them on. Stop by the toy stand there, where you can buy an Italian comic book about Texans working in the oil field.

    • Take the stroll out Via dell’Amore, the walkway between Manarola and Riomaggiore. Even though it was closed when we were there, we could walk partway out, sit on a bench and watch the sunset.

    • For spectacular photos of Manarola, walk north of town on the main trail, stopping just below the little pocket park, where the sidewalk curves with the coast. At dusk, the buildings practically glow in the most beautiful light.

    • If the coastal path between Manarola and Corniglia is closed (and even if it’s not), take the high road instead, climbing up to the village of Volastra. Grab a lemonade at the tiny grocery and peek into the beautiful chapel.

    • In Vernazza, dine at Ristorante Belforte and order the steamed mussels or grilled octopus. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to sit on one of the terraces clinging to the cliff.

    • Walk beneath a stone arch at the foot of Vernazza to a gravel beach created during the devastating floods of 2011. Then dive into the ocean.

    • Rent a beach umbrella in Monterosso.

    • Eat gelato in Corniglia — it was some of the best we found during our 10-day trip to Italy.

    • Eat dinner — and order the seafood antipasti — at Billy’s in Manarola. http://www.trattoriabilly.com

    • Stay at least two nights. High season runs from mid-June to mid-September. Day trippers flood the towns, but by dusk most of the crowds are gone.

    Like

  9. WHAT SHOULD I BRING WITH ME? Not too much! Chances are you’ll have to climb a huge hill or a flight of stairs to reach your accommodation, so try to bring as little as possible. If you’re walking then don’t forget decent shoes as well as a hat of scarf in summer, as there’s not a lot of shade along the paths. Also pack a water bottle as there are free water taps in each village where you can refill it.

    Although Monterosso’s the only village with a real beach, you can swim from each of the villages – amazing after a sweaty day walking – so bring your swimmers. If you forget things like sunscreen there are shops in each village, but because it’s a touristy area they do charge a premium. And if you get stuck English is widely spoken around the Cinque Terre.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.