If you ever get tired of life, bypass the therapist and immediately head to Cinque Terre! Here five crazily constructed fishing villages, set amid some of the most dramatic coastal scenery in the world, ought to provide enough to bolster the most jaded of spirits and has earnt it a Unesco World Heritage status site since 1997. Sinuous paths tempt the antisocial to traverse seemingly impregnable cliff sides, while a 19th-century railway line cut through a series of coastal tunnels ferries the less brave from village to village.
Rooted in antiquity, Cinque Terre’s five villages date from the early medieval period. Monterosso, the oldest, was founded in AD 643, when beleaguered hill dwellers moved down to the coast to escape from invading barbarians. Riomaggiore came next, purportedly established in the 8th century by Greek settlers fleeing persecution in Byzantium. The others are Vernazza, Corniglia and Manarola. Much of what remains in the villages today dates from the late High Middle Ages, including several castles and a quintet of illustrious parish churches.
Buildings aside, Cinque Terre’s unique historical feature are the steeply terraced cliffs bisected by a complicated system of fields and gardens that have been hacked, chiselled, shaped and layered over the course of nearly two millennia. So marked are these artificial contours that some scholars have compared the extensive muretti (low stone walls) to the Great Wall of China in their grandeur and scope.
Hiking in the Cinque Terre is one of the best things to do in Italy. Five charming beautiful villages linked by footpaths clinging to the land above the azure Mediterranean make this a walkers dream.
Offering endlessly changing scenery and some of Europe’s finest coastal walking, the Cinque Terre is the perfect accompaniment to a Tuscan wine holiday adding a little adventure to your gourmet wine holiday.
Looking for a break from walking? Not a problem. There’s a train or a boat every hour or two between the villages. Mountain biking is another great way to discover the Cinque Terre with dedicated bike paths.
Cinque Terre’s namesake wine is a white made primarily from the native grapes Bosco and Albarola, although some producers include Vermentino.
Grown in narrow, steeply terraced vineyards that weave along cliffs jutting out over the Ligurian coast, winemaking here is defined as heroic viticulture because of the difficulty to work the rocky, craggy terrain.
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