The Cinque Terre is a rugged portion of coast on the Italian Riviera. It is in the Liguria region of Italy, to the west of the city of La Spezia, and comprises five villages: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. The coastline, the five villages, and the surrounding hillsides are all part of the Cinque Terre National Park and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Over the centuries, people have carefully built terraces on the rugged, steep landscape right up to the cliffs that overlook the sea. Part of its charm is the lack of visible corporate development. Paths, trains and boats connect the villages, and cars cannot reach them from the outside. The Cinque Terre area is a very popular tourist destination.
The villages of the Cinque Terre were severely affected by torrential rains which caused floods and mudslides on October 25, 2011. Nine people were confirmed killed by the floods, and damage to the villages, particularly Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare, was extensive.
TRANSPORTATION AND TOURISM
There are few roads into the Cinque Terre towns that are accessible by car: the one into Vernazza is open as of June 2012, but very narrow at many repair spots. It leads to a parking area half a mile from town. It is best to plan not to travel by car at all, but to park at La Spezia, for instance, and take the trains.
Local trains from La Spezia to Genoa and the rest of the region’s network connect the Cinque Terre. Intercity trains also connect the Cinque Terre to Milan, Rome, Turin and Tuscany. The Cinque Terre tracks run most of the distance in tunnels between Riomaggiore and Monterosso. The Cinque Terre trains connect the La Spezia train station to all five towns. Unlimited day passes are available for tourists, and the trip from one village to another is five minutes or less.
A passenger ferry runs between the five villages, except Corniglia. The ferry enters Cinque Terre from Genoa’s Old Harbour and La Spezia, Lerici, or Porto Venere.
A walking trail, known as Sentiero Azzurro (“Azure Trail”), connects the five villages. The trail from Riomaggiore to Manarola is called the Via dell’Amore (“Love Walk”) and is wheelchair-friendly. The stretch from Manarola to Corniglia is the easiest to hike, although the main trail into Corniglia finishes with a climb of 368 steps. The entire section from Riomaggiore to Corniglia has been closed since 2011, with repairs delayed due to a dispute between the Riomaggiore town hall and the national park authorities over who will pay for them. In the meantime, it is still possible to walk between these villages although the trail is both steeper and longer than the (closed) path along the waterfront.
In 1998, the Italian Ministry for the Environment set up the Protected natural marine area Cinque Terre to protect the natural environment and to promote socio-economic development compatible with the natural landscape of the area.
In 1999 the Parco Nazionale delle Cinque Terre was created to conserve the ecological balance, protect the landscape, and safeguard the anthropological values of the location. Nevertheless, dwindling interest in cultivation and maintenance of the terrace walls posed a long-term threat to the site, which was for this reason included in the 2000 and 2002 World Monuments Watch by the World Monuments Fund. The organization secured grants from American Express to support a study of the conservation of Cinque Terre. Following the study, a site management plan was created.