Discovering the Cinque Terre: the National Park, the Marine Protected Area and the five villages
The aura of isolation that has surrounded five almost inaccessible coastal scenery, has made them one of the eastern Riviera’s premier attractions. Clinging haphazardly to steep cliffs, they are linked by footpaths, by train, and now by narrow, unasphalted and rather tortuous roads, a fairly recent development.
The local train on the Genoa-La Spezia line stops at each town between Levanto and Riomaggiore, easternmost of the villages and closest to La Spezia and the A12 autostrada.
All five of the C. Terre and the tiny mountain settlements that are linked to them are connected by well-established hiking footpaths for much of their history, these were the only way to get from town to town on land.
Although today the train, and to a certain extent the road, have surpassed the footpaths, they’re still well kept and showcase breathtaking ocean views as well as access to rugged, secluded beaches and grottoes that will never have a train station.
The largest of the five fishing towns is Monterosso, with a 12th-century church in the Ligurian style, lively markets, and small beaches.
To the east is Vernazza, a charming village of narrow streets, small squares and arcades, and the remains of forts dating from the Middle Ages.
The buildings, narrow lanes, and stairways of Corniglia, the middle village, are strung together on a hillside amid vineyards; excellent views of the entire coastal strip can be seen on a clear day.
The enchanting pastel houses in Manarola are nestled into a steep hill, hugging the rocky shoreline.
At the eastern end of the Cinque Terre is Riomaggiore, hudled around a tiny harbor dotted with fishing boats and hemmed in by sheer cliffs.
The Cinque Terre National Park
The Cinque Terre National Park, established in 1999, has several atypical elements that make it unique. The C. Terre Park, in fact, with its 3860 hectares, is the smallest National Park in Italy and at the same time the most densely populated, with about 4,000 residents in the five villages (Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare).
What makes this area so special is the fact that here the natural environment has been deeply altered by human action. For centuries, nearly a thousand years, the inhabitants of the Cinque Terre have dissected the steep slopes of the hills that are thrown to the sea to obtain strips of arable land, said Cian, are supported by dry stone walls, the true identity of the Cinque Terre stretch that made them famous worldwide.
The National Park established the center of his act the defense of this peculiarity: to bring back the resident to intervene in the landscape by cultivating and taking care of it and, at the same time, tracing and rediscovering the ancient practices of the forefather. This pressure legacy has allowed the inclusion of C. Terre in the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Environmental Quality Brand
Following the achievement of the ISO 14001:2204 and waiting for the EMAS licence, the National Park promotes voluntary certifications, like the Environmental Quality Brand (MQA).
The MQA is an important tool for the creation of territorial system in which tour operators snd restaurants owners, farmers and business owners, help to ensure the environmental quality through the permanence of traditional activities, such as viticulture and fishing, for a proper maintenance and sustainable development of the Park.
Through the instrument of the Quality Brand, with the responsibility and commitment of all those involved, the Authority wants to encourage tourism linked to particular products of the Cinque Terre, that allows to know and discover the specificities of the territory.
The Park Authority purpose is to promote a new culture and to communicate effectively the unique characteristics of the Five Lands to the tourist, providing visitors with a high level of quality in all stages of the visit and the stay.
Marine Protected Area
The Marine Protected Area of the C. Terre was established in 1997 and includes the municipality area of Riomaggiore, Vernazza, Monterosso and for a small portion of Levanto.
The purpose of the “Marine Protected Area Cinque Terre” (which includes three-zone A, B, C) is to protect and enhance the natural, chemical, physical and marine biodiversity and coastal, and above all, through environmental restoration measures, with the collaboration of academic and scientific world.
For these reasons are consistently produced curricula, monitoring and scientific research in the fields of natural sciences and environmental protection, but also actions for the promotion of sustainable development of the environment, with particular regard to the exploitation of traditional activities, local cultures, the eco-tourism and the use of socially sensitive.
In recent years the National Park and the Protected Marine Area of the Cinque Terre, which since 1999 have become part of the Cetacean Sanctuary, have enabled a number of projects with several Italian and European protected areas.
The area of the C. Terre National Park can boast an ample and varied network of footpaths. Spectacular views overlooking the sea, terraced with vineyards and olive trees and a rich Mediterranean scrub, will make your hiking experience unique.
It is worth remembering that the journey along the paths of the C. Terre will always occur in good climatic weather conditions, with appropriate footwear and by people with good hiking practice. The paths are like mountain paths, often without protection, with considerable differences in height and also points exposed to danger.
Moreover, depending on weather conditions, the ground may vary and it can be bumpy.
Children must be accompanied by adults and followed carefully.
The five villages
The village was established along the steep valley of the stream Rio-Major. The Marina is breathless, from there the colourful tower-houses seem to rise from the sea to meet the green hills.
A watercolour made by bright colour framed by terraces cultivated with vineyards and olive. Pastel spots that climb from the marina along the valley to reach the “Cian”.
The village of Corniglia, with its houses perched on a steep cliff, has difficult access to the sea and it is visible from all other 4 villages. The peculiarity makes it particularly suggestive.
The village was founded on a small enchanting bay, whose crystal waters are the mirror of the church of Santa Margherita d’Antochia. From the castle, an ancient lookout fortress, you can see the entire Gulf of C. Terre.
“…Rocky and austere village, refuge for fishermen and farmers”, as the Nobel Prize Eugenio Montale described the village of Monterosso, summer retreat of his family. A rich church and a lot of narrow and fresh carruggi are the setting for lively lemon trees.