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

Manarola (Chensiyuan/Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0).
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
Vernazza (Chensiyuan/Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 4.0).

The coastal Ligurian Riviera between Cinque Terre and Portovenere is a cultural site of outstanding value, representing the harmonious interaction between man and nature to produce a landscape of exceptional scenic quality that illustrates a traditional way of life that has existed since 12th century and continues to play an important socio-economic role in the community.

This area between Levanto and La Spezia, where human communities have adapted themselves to this seemingly rough, inhospitable nature by building compact settlements grouped round religious buildings or medieval castles directly on the rock, has winding streets and layout and disposition that overcomes the disadvantages of a steep, uneven terrain.

It is a very jagged, steep coastline that transformed into an intensively terraced landscape so as to be able to wrest from nature land suitable for growing vines and olive trees.

The general use of natural stone for rooting gives these settlements a characteristic appearance.

The five medieval villages of Cinque Terre are the fortified Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore, with the most prominent features being St John church (1244), ruins of old castle, and the 17th-century Capuchin monastery.

Portovenere is an important cultural centre whose remains include a large Roman villa on the coast at Varignano, a Benedictine monastery, a church with both Romanesque and Gothic elements, and culminating in the Doria castle (12th-16th centuries).

Off the coast are 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 flora such as natural garrigue and maquis vegetation survives intact in the higher parts of the steep ridge, while the nature of the terrain and vegetation provides food and shelter for a wide range of insect and animal species.

The Committee decided to inscribe this site on the basis of criteria (ii), (iv) and (v), considering that the eastern Ligurian Riviera between Cinque Terre and Portovenere is a cultural site of outstanding value, representing the harmonious interaction between people and nature to produce a landscape of exceptional scenic quality 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.

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7 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.


  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.


  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.


  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.


  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.


  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.


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