The "Cinque Terre" include the coastal belt of the territory that runs from Punta Mesco, the western promontory of Monterosso, to Portovenere
The steep profile of this territory, sometimes overhanging on the sea, with growings and vineyards, terraced thanks to the famous "little dry stone walls" (built with stones without cement), where rocks and barren areas appear covered with heather, broom and pines, only in a depht of 3 or 4 kms., highlights some 700-800 metres high relieves.
The villages of the Cinque Terre (Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza e Monterosso), crouch between the ridges of the Ligurian Appennines, downgrading over the sea, and the creeks of their spurs.It’s a strip of land of an as enchanting as rugged nature, where inhabitants became used to obstacles and toil, always fighting with love for their landscape.
The name "Cinque Terre" firstly appeares in the "Desptio Orae Ligusticae" by Giacomo Bracelli, a 15th century historian of La Spezia, who wrote: "…….there are 5 lands on the cliff, almost the same distance from one to another; their names are Monterosso, Vulnezia (actually called Vernazza), Cornelia, Manarola and Riomaggiore (…..) with so marvellous steep mountains, that also birds are afraid to fly over them, stony and barren mounts looking like to the ivy and vine ones. Here people produced the famous wine for the Royal tables……".
These places make us wittnesses of the real phisical sacrifice of man and his spirituality, in the hug of an unique "fresco" between land, sky and sun. The wild and harsh beauty of this secluded world, appears as a metaphor of a man who everyday works hardly, looking for the flavour of his toil’s products..
The age-old and aristocratic isolation of this strip of ligurian territory, certainly helped to protect the beauty and the charm of an unusual landscape, that is vigorous and partly intact with the peculiarity of its five villages. All this is very important and probably the main attraction of the Cinque Terre, that always succeeds in exciting the fantasy of its numerous and passionate visitors.
Perhaps in no other place, like in the Cinque Terre, man changed the original landscape, and nowadays nature and human history seem to be inseparable. For every anthropic landscape, the original natural elements (slope’s structure, rock, stone’s colour, soil and vegetation) are the foundamental features: here, in the Cinque Terre, this is more
foundamental than in every other place, because rocks, stones and slopes are basical elements in the environmental tissue. Architecture changes with the joint of planes and spaces, the wideness of volumes, the chromatic shading and the perspective; town-planning suffers the natural web and the original plan.
By the way, while after Punta Mesco the landscape softens into wider valleys, from Monterosso to Riomaggiore the steep mountains on the sea show thin and worn out rocks, like a corroded cliff toward the open sea, from Riomaggiore to the Tino Island. All is a wonderful example of a perfect integration between man and nature, in the creation of the famous terraces of oliveyards and wineyards, mixed with a confused green vegetation and woods.
All is example of a landscape where man is the main character and the guardian. This territory preserves its typical orographic elements, keeping unalterate its happy relationship between nature and man’s work, like Giustiniani wrote:
"It’s the example of the clever human mind that can provide to all what nature refused him".
To understand this territory, we must go down and penetrate among the houses into the intricate and thick urban web of the villages; then we must come back on the top of the mountains, going to San Bernardino, Groppo, Volastra, Madonna di Reggio or Montenero, tasting the air and the soul of this land.
It’s necessary to go up again from the sea rocks, from the lonely fluttering
agave to the high cottage among the olive trees or to the Sanctuary on the mount: it’s a daily pilgrimage for all inhabitants of this territory, a reinforcing travel that joins man to sea.
On the top of the hills, you can travel along the labyrinth of tiny paths with their "little dry stone walls" (walls built with stones without cement), the
vegetable gardens on the edge of precipices and a lot of flower beds, protected like relics, among the orderly and stretched rows of vineyards.
People can scan the bottom of the cliff, like hawks, admiring the neverending emerald of the sea and then going up again on the green terraces embroidered by vineyards like a Persian carpet; finally, they look at the turquoise sky with rare white and filmy clouds, then they close the eyes, smelling the heady strong sea air, permeated with heather, pine and broom.
Immersed into this landscape, you could feel yourself nearer to the sense of life and it will seem you possess the whole universe.
The villages and their territory are the result of a cultural and organic stratification of things: it’s the union of men with a secret, intimate, expressive and hard nature, like the difficult landing from the sea on the rocks of this land.
( Text from " Magiche Cinque Terre ", Luna Editori )