Italian land and nature: Cinque Terre and Porto Venere
- WTI Magazine #102 Apr 14, 2018
A trip from Levanto to Lerici in the magnificent and intact Ligurian scenario of the Cinque Terre is truly a special experience. It’s an authentic venture into the magic of multicoloured historic villages situated in a spectacular vertical position overlooking the seaside, on steep land where vineyards reign. This is a marvelous trip to the towns in the protected area of the Parco Nazionale delle Cinque Terre, which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Our journey starts in Levanto, whose old town centre is home to true architectural wonders such as the 13th-century Gothic church of Sant’Andrea or the 13th-century municipal loggia. The trip continues along a steep jagged coast overhanging the sea, with inaccessible vineyards created in the rock.
The area is divided into 5 seaside and agricultural villages enriched with colours, simplicity and charm. The first true stop in the Cinque Terre is Monterosso, a well-known tourist destination embellished with elegant villas and a large beach. The old town centre, whose narrow alleys clamber up the hill, is home to the Gothic parish church of San Giovanni Battista and the 17th-century church of San Francesco, which is connected to the convent of the Capuchins. This is also where the literary park dedicated to local poet Eugenio Montale is situated.
Next is Vernazza and its charming marina, which is surrounded by the medieval little town and its characteristic little piazza, two Genoese lookout towers and the enchanting Gothic two-storey church dedicated to Santa Margherita d’Antiochia.
Just a short distance away at 100 m asl is Corniglia, a village perched on the ridge of a promontory and connected to the beach by a stairway with 365 steps. This town - which is traditionally dedicated to vineyard cultivation - offers visitors a marvelous view.
The enormous black cliff overlooking the sea and home to Manarola - which is known for wine and oil production - with its colorful houses seemingly coming out of the rock also makes a big impact.
The last town in the Cinque Terre, and heart of the homonymous park, is Riomaggiore, a picturesque fishing village with tall, narrow, pastel-coloured houses and alternating light and darkness coming from the tight alleyways.
Once you have left the protected area, make sure to stop in Porto Venere.
This characteristic and famous holiday destination in Liguria is the perfect example of the combination of nature and architecture: From its seaside promenade framing the marina to the infinite range of colours of its narrow houses, steep stairways and narrow alleys, and the Bocche promontory where the church of San Pietro stands out (from the Early Christian Period and renovated in Gothic style).
Take a tour of the sanctuary of Madonna Bianca, also called parish church of San Lorenzo, which was built in the 12th century in Romanesque style and was later renovated and expanded. Don’t miss the impressive Doria castle and military fortress. The 3 islands of Palmaria (destination for boat tours visiting the Azzurra grotto), Tino and Tinetto, which are part of the Parco Regionale di Porto Venere, are in front of Porto Venere.
Our journey continues towards La Spezia, where you should visit the abbey of Santa Maria Assunta, which has a very interesting artistic heritage, the Amedeo Lia museum and the Museo Tecnico Navale museum of the Italian Navy.
The last stop is in Lerici in the so-called Gulf of Poets (that is the Gulf of La Spezia, which was chosen by Byron and Shelley as a holidays resort). The town stands out for its stairways, alleyways and impressive military castle. Make sure to go for a stroll along the seaside promenade and to tour the oratory of San Rocco with its 14th-century bell tower, and the church of San Francesco to see its precious works of art.