We spent all day at four of the five villages of Cinque Terre (loosely translated as "the five lands") today. In theory, there should be just one photo of them. After all, my intent in this PESO gallery is to provide a high level visual diary entry for each day, with the more detailed photos going elsewhere.
Nope, today I couldn't do it. There are too many aspects to Cinque Terre to hit it in one shot. I'm therefore going to use three, and even those are over-summarising.
First, some Q&A.
What is Cinque Terre? A series of five ("cinque", in Italian) fishing and agricultural villages which cling to the rugged cliffs along the coast in Liguria in Italy's north-west. The earliest date back to about the 11th century or so, and they prospered when nearby Genoa was a major naval and trade power.
What is their claim to fame? That depends who you ask. They gained some fame in literary circles in the late 1700's / early 1800's when some of the English romantic poets fell in love with the untamed coastline and the basic, rural lifestyles that it supported. (It's easy to love a peasant lifestyle when you live in a fashionable terrace house in London.) They would visit, and tell their poet friends about it, and their poet friends would visit. All except for Percy Bysshe Shelley, who drowned in the area when his sailing boat sank 'cos, like, that's what boats do. Which is why I try to avoid them. Another claim to fame is the colourful houses in each village. Legend has it that this was so that the fishermen could make out their homes from the sea, but I have seen that claim questioned with some people (and I'd say who if I regarded the sources as reputable) asserting that the tradition of colourful houses dates back no earlier than the 20th century and is part of the tourist appeal. There is a belief that the tourism to Cinque Terre exploded when the amiable Oregonian travel writer Rick Steves extolled their virtues. How true that is, I have no idea. I had never even heard of Rick Steves two years ago (believe it or not) but it's quite possible because he is a travel guru.
Our first stop was in the town of Manarola, the second most southerly of the villages, since it was the most readily accessible by road. The villages themselves are connected by rail, and by boat (except for the central village of Corneglia, which has a very small dock and therefore cannot take the larger ferries) but not road. You have no way of getting a tour coach into most of them. Consequently we were dropped off at Manarola and made our way through the village to the seaside. From there (and after a coffee) we went back to the railway station for a 10 minute trip to the most southerly village of Riomaggiore. That's where this picture was taken.
It illustrates one of the key points about Cinque Terre; the way the villages hug the coast. Every centimetre of land must be fought for. Consequently both farms and houses are jammed into every available space, as we see here.
We then boarded a boat (yes, I know, I know, but I was luckier than Shelley was) which took us straight down to the northernmost village, Monterosso Al Mare (red mountain on the sea, roughly translated) which is more normally abbreviated as Monterosso. This is the most touristy of the five villages. The next two images will be of that one. We had lunch there and spent a couple of hours after lunch, after which we caught a train back to the fourth village of Vernazza for a brief stop. After that, we caught a train back to the next major city to the south of Cinque Terre, La Spezia where the bus was waiting for us. It almost felt like home, in the sense that we had to stand for most of the trip in a crowded train, just like on the Illawarra line.
Why didn't we visit Corniglia? Because in addition to it not having a boat ramp that can accept ferries, it has a steep and winding single road from the railway station to the village, which is perched high up on the rocks. We would have burnt half the day (okay, maybe a slight exaggeration) just getting to the place and back. Consequently we saw it from the water only and restricted our visit to the other four villages.