Cinque Terre National Park
The Cinque Terre National Park (Parco nazionale delle Cinque Terre) is the smallest national park in Italy. Its area is only 3868 hectares. Although it is the most populous park in the country. Some 4000 people live there. The Cinque Terre is located on the west coast of Italy. This region is famous for grapes, wine, and olives. There you can see peregrines, ravens, gulls, weasels, martens, badgers, wild boars and foxes. Plants are represented by oaks, chestnuts, rosemary, thyme, heather, strawberry, and juniper.
History of the Cinque Terre Park
The Cinque Terre park includes 5 settlements the history of which starts in 11-13 centuries: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso. This hints at the origin of the park's name since "cinque terre" is literally translated as "five lands".
Unlike many other parks, this one is inhabited by people, which tried to get pieces of land on the steep slopes for centuries to use them for agricultural purposes. Each of the narrow flat plots is underpinned by dry stone walls.
It is noteworthy that in 1997 the park, as well as the neighboring city of Porto Venere, were taken under the protection of UNESCO as cultural heritage sites.
Attractions of the Cinque Terre
Each of the small villages inside the national park is a unique and self-sufficient place.
Riomaggiore can be divided into three parts: the district of the railway station, the pier with a stone beach and the village itself. It is forbidden to use cars there. All the attractions are located within walking distance. The main ones are:
- the Church of San Giovanni Battista erected in 1340;
- the Oratory of Santa Maria Assunta;
- the Church of Sant'Antonio;
- the Oratory of San Rocco;
- the Castle of Riomaggiore;
- the so-called "Road of Love", a hiking trail connecting Riomaggiore and Manarola.
Manarola is the centre of food production, wine and oil in particular. The town enchants with:
- an old mill;
- the Church of San Lorenzo that was built in 1338;
- a defensive tower dating back to the 14th century.
Corniglia is the only one of the five villages that can't be reached from the sea. To get here, you need to take 382 steps of a brick staircase or walk by foot from the railway station. Make sure to see:
- the ruins of the Genoese fortifications;
- the 18th century square of Largo Taraggio;
- the Gothic church of San Pietro constructed in 1334;
- the Guvano beach.
Vernazza is included in the top of the most beautiful settlements in Italy. Car traffic is banned there. Although it's worth coming to the village to see:
- the Belforte bastion;
- the Doria castle;
- the 11th-century watchtower;
- the Church of Saint Margaret of Antioch;
- the Church of San Francesco;
- the Church of San Pietro.
Monterosso al Mare
Monterosso bears the title of the largest town in the Cinque Terre. There you will find:
- a 14-metres statue of Neptune, also known as Il Gigante, that supports coastal cliffs near the Fegina beach;
- the church of San Giovanni Battista built in 1220 that is a good example of sophisticated Gothic architecture.
- the 17th century Capuchin monastery;
- the Church of Sant'Antonio del Mesco built in the 14th century;
- the ruins of an ancient castle with two towers;
- the 16th century Aurora tower.
Cars are banned almost everywhere in the park. The only exception is Monterosso, although the traffic is quite limited here.
How to get there
The Cinque Terre National Park can be reached by rail. Therefore any city in the park is accessible by a regional train from La Spezia. Travel on foot or by train inside the Cinque Terre to get from one village to another or by the sea in a boat.