1 EAGLETON NOTES: The Cinque Terre

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Wednesday, 10 October 2012

The Cinque Terre


The Cinque Terre (Five Towns) on the Ligurian coast north of Pisa is strung along 18km of serrated cliffs between Levanto and La Spezia, and is one of Italy's treasures. These five higgledy-piggledy villages – Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore – are cut off by mountains choked with olive groves and dry-stone-walled vineyards, where farmers have eked out a living over the centuries.

The Cinque Terre became a Unesco World Heritage site in 1997, which includes a protected marine area, and became a national park (Parco Nazionale delle Cinque Terre) in 1999. Wine growers still use monorail mechanisms to ferry themselves up and the grapes down these unique lands, and in some cases have to harvest by boat. If the terraced hillsides are not worked, they will quite literally slide into the sea.  (Read more: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/italy/cinque-terre#ixzz28pd9e3jw).

Mo had decided that it was a 'must see' and Diane and I were very happy to see it too.  A friend in New Zealand had planned to walk the five towns a few years ago but the group she was going with abandoned it at the last minute.  We set off at the crack of dawn to get there before the crowds.  We took the train from La Spezia and were at the most southerly town of Riomaggiore before the gates to the walk were manned (tickets permitting you to do the walk were obtainable at the rail station though).

The first photo taken from Riomaggiore shows the extent of the Cinque Terre which stretch as far as the  sunlit promontory in this photo:

The first sector of the walk from the south
We arrived at Riomaggiore very early before the crowds (and before the sun had penetrated the start of the walk - the next photo was taken after we'd completed the walk to the second town and back) which the previous day the girls said had been enormous:

The southern start of the walk
Riomaggiore Station below the town
The wall and pedestrian tunnel (upper level) and rail tunnel (lower level)  
The path cut into the rock face 
Cafe with seating on grating built out over the sea
Manarola station and town from the walkway
Manarola looking seaward
Manarola looking landward
Riomaggiore looking back from the path before sun-up
Riomaggiore's main street looking landward
Riomaggiore port below the railway station
Riomaggiore port looking landward
Finally here is a typical view of the terraces, many of which are no more than 2 metres wide, which are typical of the land around the Cinque Terre which is the steepest in Liguria and which used to support 140,000 farmers and which now supports less than 14,000.  Many terraces have fallen into disuse and the walls have collapsed.  Once one wall collapses there is a domino effect and a whole hillside can slide down into the sea.  Ten days after I took the following photo four Australian tourists tackling the panoramic Trail of Love were seriously injured by cascading boulders, while 1,000 people were evacuated last October when mud surged through two of the area's five villages.

Terraces

18 comments:

  1. This is a fantastic area. I never knew it existed. It would be great to walk that path. Superb at dusk I would imagine.
    Where do you find Australians for trail breaking?

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    1. Yes Adrian the sun wasn't at its best position for photography at that hour of the morning but after 8.30 am the crowds become intolerable.

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  2. It is certainly worth keeping, which is of course why it has become part of UNESCO's world heritage.
    Such beautiful names; Cinque Terre literally means "Five Earths" (in that case, obviously the "earths" meaning the territoriae belonging to each of the five towns/villages). Riomaggiore means major river and Monterosso red mount/mountain.
    The walk looks like my kind of "thing" - although I doubt I'd have managed to be there so early in the morning, but I guess you have to if you want to avoid the worst of the crowds! And I seriously hope they did not allow cyclists on the path... they ruined an otherwise beautiful walk along Lake Garda for us back in June.

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    1. Thanks for the information Meike. Crowds are controlled and if the path gets too full they close it. There are no cyclists and later on in the day it would be impossible anyway.

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  3. Alex managed to visit there.. I was jealous... But today we made the decision not to even drive over the hills here, or through the tunnel, and that was my first thought when I looked at your pictures as it reminds me of Christchurch cliffs. The earthquakes have changed my desire to visit quite a few places! Sad, but true. Glad you got to see it though :)

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    1. Yes the earthquakes do rather make one think and it is certainly in my mind when I'm in some of these places where they are a real possibility. Somehow the 'it won't happen today' feeling usually takes over though.

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  4. Your photos are spectacular, GB. What a wonderful vacation!

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  5. Our local travel guru, Rick Steves, (author of several travel books, including "Europe by the Back Door") has traveled to the Cinque Terre several times and recommends it highly. We've never been to Italy, but what beautiful photos and what a beautiful cliff walk. Did you walk the entire 18 km? I hope the weather was temperate and not too hot. Thanks for sharing your experience. xoxo Carol

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    1. No Carol we just walked the first track. We didn't have time because we had to be in Antibes 200miles away that afternoon (and my knee couldn't have done it anyway and I couldn't get a new knee in time!).

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  6. My sister visited this area two years ago. I have a tea towel from there! She loved it too and her photographs of the area are just incredibly beautiful. Was this where she said the smell of the olives was so wonderful? Sorry, I might be getting it mixed it up with someplace else!

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    1. That's the very place. The olives and the sea. Wonderful. By the way Kay I've been meaning to comment on your Monarch butterflies (NZ is full of them). I read your blog but haven't got around to commenting . Memo to self!

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  7. What a lovely place to visit...looking through your photos I got a sense of what it would be like to live there in those quaint little houses on the cliff side (an artist's dream come true scenery) with lots of tourists visiting everyday...smile.
    Glad you enjoyed the trek.
    I think I'm adding Italy to my travel plans for the future, and walk the entire five towns.

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    1. Italy is a wonderful country Virginia. I love it, its food and its people and there is history by the millennium load.

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  8. I don't think I ever heard of Cinque Terre before. Certainly seems like a place worth a visit... From your comments I gather that quite a few people think so ;) Is that a canal in Manarola, like in Venice? At first glance I took it for a street, but then suddenly I noticed boats! Spectacular views in all of these photos.

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    1. Gosh Monica it does look like a canal but no, it is a street. The sea is just at the end of the street.

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  9. Fantastic area. Amazing architecture and history. I've seen photos of it before but none as comprehensive as yours, GB. I have a much better idea of what it's all like now. But that can't compare with the experience!

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    1. No. Experiencing these places first hand is, as I know from my visits to Northland with you, quite different to seeing photos or reading about the places even if one actually learns more by reading.

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