Sublime views for a superb coastline.
From the moment you set eyes on this marvellous stretch of Italian coast for the first time, it is a spectacular succession of marvellous views only comparable to the superb Amalfi Coast.
A unique conjunction of sea and mountains, with hillsides shaped by man over the centuries with such mastery that it has created a perfect symbiosis that has earned it the recognition and protection of UNESCO since 1997.
As you can imagine, among so many slopes and mountains overlooking vertiginous cliffs, there are numerous viewpoints throughout the Cinque Terre that will delight any lover of photography.
Undoubtedly one of the best views of the rugged Cinque Terre coastline with its characteristic terraced crops, cliffs and colourful houses is from the Doria castle in the village of Vernazza.
This unique 11th century fortress stands on imposing rocks in the highest part of this beautiful Ligurian town. For centuries it was an important bastion in the defence of this stretch of coast. The oldest part is the 70-metre-high cylindrical tower, which was restored in the 20th century.
From there, and paying an entrance fee of 2 euros, you can enjoy the beautiful view of Vernazza, with its houses with pastel-coloured façades, its small beach, the pretty port and the church by the sea. We will also be able to contemplate the rugged coastline of Cinque Terre with its peculiar terraces for cultivation and we will understand why it has remained isolated for so long.
To reach this point, a short walk of about 15 minutes through the steep and picturesque alleys of Vernazza is required. The walk requires a little effort and some stairs, but will be fully rewarded when you finally have the grandeur of the Cinque Terre and Vernazza at your feet.
Fish and more fish.
As everywhere else in Italy, Cinque Terre eats a lot and very well. For the locals, everyday life revolves around food and its preparation.
In a place like Cinque Terre, with such a spectacular stretch of coastline, we can imagine that fish and seafood are two very important ingredients in some of the most traditional dishes.
This is the case, for example, of sardines or salt-cured anchovies (aciughe sotto sale), a real delicacy that can be enjoyed as a starter in one of the many restaurants in the area.
The "zuppa di pesce" (fish soup) is a dish that, when translated directly into English, might leave us somewhat indifferent or make us think of a simple, rather light soup. Nothing could be further from the truth. Normally, it is an exquisitely cooked seafood dish made from local products with a rich tomato-based sauce in which we will have no choice but to use our fingers and enjoy it to the full.
It is worth noting that thanks to the rich seabed of the Ligurian coast, Cinque Terre is home to some of the best seafood in Italy.
In order to taste the wonderful fish of Cinque Terre we can opt for the cheap and quick fried fish stalls. These places serve anchovies or squid in a cardboard cone to eat while you stroll or sit quietly on the beach.
The more elaborate dishes and specialities can be enjoyed in one of the many restaurants in the area, accompanied by some of the famous local wines.
All the steep slopes of the mountains that make up the Cinque Terre have been worked over the centuries by man creating a multitude of terraces to allow the cultivation of olive groves and vineyards.
And from such a particular terrain with such a special climatology, some highly valued wines have been produced, as is the case of the "vino Bianco 5 Terre". It is a yellowish wine, dry, fresh and perfect to drink chilled with the rich products of the Ligurian Sea. On the other hand, the Schiacchetrà wine, a wine obtained from sultanas and therefore with a golden colour, slightly sweet and full-bodied, is ideal for pairing with cheeses or desserts.
And with a good glass of wine and these fresh fish, we can only say: Enjoy!
There is nothing better than taking a piece of the flavour of these lands as a souvenir.
When you think of shopping in a country like Italy, the first thing that comes to mind are the big fashion brands, the elegant boutiques of Milan, the Via Condotti in Rome or the outlets scattered all over the country.
This is not the case of Cinque Terre, made up of five small villages, where you will hardly find any clothes shops or any reference to Italian fashion.
Cinque Terre, today dedicated to tourism, has based its regional economy on fishing and agriculture.
Those men and women who worked on the terraces bringing their produce down the hillside are the
same men and women who a little later were bringing the fish up to the quays from their small boats. The smell of anchovies curing in salt mingled with the smell of wine fermenting in their barrels in a perfect symbiosis. And it is precisely these products that can be found for sale in a multitude of gastronomic and craft shops.
The salt-cured anchovies typical of Monterosso, the wines with denomination of origin, mainly the white ones or the "schiacchetrà", the honey of Cinque Terre, extra virgin olive oils, pesto, fresh pasta...
Another of the most typical products to take home as a souvenir is the limoncino. Indeed, on the slopes of the cliffs of Cinque Terre there are many lemon trees whose fruits are used to make this delicious liqueur, a first cousin of the popular limoncello of Sorrento or Capri. After all, the climate and the orography are very similar.
In Vernazza, along Via Roma, the main street of the village, you will find numerous gastronomic shops where you can buy and even taste some of these products.
I can think of no better gift for our relatives than to make them part of the journey to Cinque Terre through its flavours.
In addition to these products, we will find the classic souvenir shops with fridge magnets, postcards or calendars with images of the spectacular landscapes of Cinque Terre.
Pictures to make any photographer fall in love.
Undoubtedly when we arrive in Cinque Terre and more specifically in Vernazza we want to take pictures of every corner. The light, the green terraces full of vineyards falling over the sea, the vineyards falling into the sea, the cliffs, the blue of the water and the waves breaking against the rocks are an against the rocks are an incomparable setting for any lover of photography.
From the train station of Vernazza we already have a wonderful picture of the Via Roma, the street that leads to the lower part of the village, with its colorful houses in pastel tones and the clothes on the pastel-colored houses and the clothes hanging in the windows.
And speaking of photography, as soon as we leave the station we will see snapshots of the 25 October 2011, when a huge flood swept through the same street, taking away the lives of the lives of 13 people and hundreds of thousands of euros in material damage. Nothing would make us think that such an idyllic place could one day be completely destroyed. Thanks to these photographs we can get an idea of such a catastrophe.
At the end of Via Roma we reach Piazza Guillermo Malconi, popularly known as "la piazzetta". Popularly known as "la piazzetta". It is the nerve centre of Vernazza, with many restaurants, terraces, the boats restaurants, and terraces, the fishermen´s boats with their nets, the beach and the beautiful church of church of Santa Margherita Ligure. A marvellous scene where everyone wants to take a want to take a picture. But it is not the best picture of the place.
If you want to get the picture that will be sent by everyone, the best souvenir of your trip and the picture that will remain as the and that photo that will remain as an authentic postcard, you will have to move a little further away from the square.
From here you will surely be able to see the breakwater that comes out from the beach and that forms the small port of Vernazza. Well, if you walk along it until the end, you will see how Vernazza will appear in front of us at the foot of the green mountains, between terraced vineyards, the blue of the sea, the yellow tower of Santa Margherita di Antiochia and the Margaret of Antioch and the colored houses reflected in the water.
It is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful pictures that you can take in Vernazza and without the narrow streets of the village to other viewpoints situated on the heights.
A secret hidden among centuries-old trees.
The greatest monument in Cinque Terre and in Vernazza is the landscape, which over the centuries man, in conjunction with the orography of the terrain and taking advantage of the natural resources present in the area, has moulded to his needs. A landscape and a way of life so characteristic that it has been recognised by UNESCO since 1997.
The main feature is the famous artificial terraces on the slopes of the mountains that man has been shaping. In addition, he took advantage of the few inlets between the cliffs to develop the five medieval villages that give the Cinque Terre regional park its name.
It is also a clear example of how to live and coexist with the environment that surrounds us, not only without damaging it, but also enriching it.
This is undoubtedly the best and largest monument in Cinque Terre, and to experience it, what better way than to enter this landscape through the path that will take us to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Reggio.
It is a religious complex built in the remote 13th century in Romanesque style. The intention of this sanctuary was to guard an image of the virgin that legend has it that it was carved by the evangelist Saint Luke himself.
It is a beautiful temple that invites to prayer and is located in the shade of centenary pines and holm oaks.
Among these natural monuments is a cypress tree, considered the oldest tree in Liguria at over 800 years old.
The path that leads to the sanctuary is not suitable for everyone, as it is a steep climb of about 2 kilometres. Once past the Vernazza cemetery, the path continues through vineyards and olive groves, passing the chapel dedicated to San Bernardo, a place of great devotion for the local inhabitants.
From this point, embedded in the stone walls that separate the agricultural terraces, you will find marble bas-reliefs with images evoking the Stations of the Cross until you reach the inlet of the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Reggio, situated 317 metres above sea level.
A beautiful excursion to visit this religious monument hidden among holm oak woods that will take about an hour on the way there and about 30 minutes on the way back. Undoubtedly, this is one of the monuments that few people know about, but it is a must to visit.
A bath in crystal clear waters.
One of the many striking things about Cinque Terre in general and Vernazza in particular is the spectacular colour of the sea. It has rocky bottoms with crystal clear and generally calm waters that in the wonderful Mediterranean light show a whole range of blues, greens and turquoises.
From the breakwater of the small port it is possible to see the bottom, dozens of fish swarming and the fishermen´s boats flying over the water. This, together with the high summer temperatures and the presence of two small pebble beaches, with calm and shallow waters, make the option of bathing practically irresistible.
During the summer months, many bathers enjoy the crystal clear Ligurian waters, which can reach 27 degrees Celsius, or toast their skin in the warm Italian sun.
Young, not so young and families with children flock daily to these tiny coves.
Vernazza´s two beaches are very close to each other. The most famous one is in the very same piazza Guillermo Marconi, next to the village church, and is made of dark gravel. Its waters, protected by the harbour breakwater, are very calm. Although we will have to share the space with the fishing boats stranded on the sand and tourists taking the photo of the day.
The second, somewhat more hidden from prying eyes, is made of stones, wider and can be reached through an opening in the rock. It is rather more irregular than the previous one and you have to be careful when walking along it. It is also much more open and more exposed to currents, but offers a greater degree of privacy than the previous one.
And if you have a snorkelling mask, don´t hesitate. We are in the heart of a protected marine park, with one of the best preserved sea beds in the Mediterranean. Without having to stray far from the shore we will see dozens of different fish, crabs and, if we are lucky, the odd octopus.
Be that as it may, our stay in Vernazza is a unique opportunity to take a dip in the wonderful waters of the Mediterranean and although the sand, salt and sun can be a little uncomfortable, the temptation is much greater. Dare to do so!
A church full of legends.
As we can imagine in places like Cinque Terre, isolated for centuries between the mountains and the sea, a land inhabited by men and women who watched life go by, busy fishing and farming, the stories and legends were many and have been passed down orally from old people to children right up to the present day.
In Vernazza, for example, there is a church dedicated to Santa Margherita that rises majestically by the sea. It is undoubtedly the most photographed building in Cinque Terre and there are several legends about it.
One of them tells us that the Muslim raids were so numerous that the inhabitants of Vernazza were forced to hide the treasures of the church, including its beautiful silver bells. To do so, they decided to take them up the hillside into the mountains and dig a deep hole where they would go completely unnoticed.
But the clashes with the Saracens lasted for years, even centuries. Many inhabitants died, either in battle or of natural causes, so much so that the location of the treasures was lost in time, but even today, on stormy nights, it is still possible to hear the pealing of the bells echoing through the valleys and cliffs without anyone having been able to locate them.
But the stories concerning the church of Vernazza do not end with its bells.
Another legend tells that in ancient times a small wooden chest washed up on the shore of its beach, inside which the remains of an index finger were attributed to Saint Margaret of Antioch. The inhabitants of Vernazza then decided to build a church in honour of the Saint in the Isolotto district, in the inner part of the town, but a huge storm blew down the building, taking the relic of the Saint with it.
With the passage of time, the wooden chest with the finger floated back to the same spot on the shore as the first time, and the faithful understood that Saint Margaret wanted the church to be erected on that spot. And so it is that today the church stands majestically by the sea, next to the small beach, creating one of the most beautiful pictures of Vernazza.
Still from those years of Saracen attacks comes the tragic story of Maimuna, a young girl from Vernazza who, fleeing from a Muslim raid, decided to hide in the cave in the rocks under the church of Santa Margherita, only to never come out again. In the centuries that followed, every time a boat crashed on those dangerous cliffs, the inhabitants of Vernazza blamed the wandering spirit of Maimuna.
Even today, on windy nights and on rough seas, his wailing wanders through the narrow streets of the village.
A walk for nature lovers.
There are many and varied walks within the Cinque Terre regional park, but the "sentiero azzurro" (blue silk trail) stands out among them all.
This is a trekking route that runs entirely within the Cinque Terre and after 12 kilometres connects the five main villages of the park, namely Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore.
This path, so popular today with tourists visiting the Cinque Terre, has existed since time immemorial as a means of communication between the five towns. We must remember that it was not until 1926 that the construction of the railway that would bring the region out of its historical isolation began. Roads arrived even later. And until then, the only way to reach these villages was by boat or along these trails, on foot or on the back of a mule.
The route requires a high degree of preparation and offers spectacular scenery winding between terraces, cliffs and bridges.
Some sections are even closed to the public at certain times of the year due to the possibility of landslides. The ideal time to do it is during the spring and autumn months, avoiding the inclemency and storms of winter or the strong summer heat.
Obviously, to do this complete route requires a full day´s stay in Cinque Terre, very specific physical conditions and good equipment. In total, the itinerary takes about 5 hours and is divided into 5 sections that vary from medium to easy difficulty.
Of the five sections, the most popular is the one from Riomaggiore to Manarola, known as the Via dell´Amore. Its fame is due to the fact that it was dug out of the rock of the cliff at the beginning of the 20th century when the construction of the railway moved the original path and that it can be done in just 20 minutes without much difficulty.
The views of Cinque Terre from the Via dell´Amore are spectacular and the route is subject to continuous restoration. At the moment, for example, it is closed to the public for maintenance until about 2023.
A haven of peace, close to paradise.
It is common knowledge that Italy is home to some of the most beautiful cemeteries in the world.
Some of them are truly monumental, with sculptures worthy of any renowned museum. This is the case of the monumental Staglieno cemetery in Genoa. Others are ancient and historic, such as the catacombs in Rome, and some are a little macabre, such as those housing the mummies of the Capuchins in Palermo.
But in addition to these internationally famous holy fields, each town has its own cemetery, perhaps less striking but all of them are places of peace, with beautiful tombs decorated with sculptures, flowers, family photographs and centenary cypress trees.
In the case of the Vernazza cemetery, the deceased also enjoy a better view than anyone else in the village. In an attempt to reward them with eternal rest or to allow them to enjoy the beauty of the Cinque Terre forever, the cemetery has been placed in a privileged location.
It is truly a haven of peace high above the sea and Vernazza itself, an infinite view that invites reflection. A place like no other that transmits peace as you stroll among rows of niches with small crucifixes and images of the Virgin Mary that remind us of the deep faith of the Italian people, more evident and accentuated in these small villages.
It is a place where you don´t hear the hustle and bustle of the tourists that flood Via Roma or Piazza Guillermo Marconi a few metres away. It is a little corner where few people go and which does not appear in any guidebook.
As you can imagine, getting here requires a considerable physical effort, which is rewarded by the beauty of the place and the grandeur of the Cinque Terre.
As you go up it is inevitable to think of the funeral processions, followed by the locals, along the road that zigzags up the mountainside to this marvellous enclave, as if by burying them up there you bring them a little closer to paradise and make it easier for them to enter.
This is how we find ourselves in this beautiful and pleasant corner of Cinque Terre, a little closer to paradise.
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