Monday, July 16, 2007

Cinque Terre

Our main reason for coming to the Liguria region is to visit Cinque Terre. In medieval times, the name “terre” (land) meant village. From this origin comes the name Cinque Terre (five villages.) Over the centuries, through constant collective work, man has managed to create a monument in landscape architecture of steep terraces sloping down to almost touching the lapping sea waves, the only landscape of its kind in the world. Why the first peoples that lived here decided to embark on the massive task of building 7000 km of dry stone walling, cleverly built without cement to cultivate as vineyards and make their famous D.O.C. wines will never be known, but generation after generation continue to maintain and improve on the original terraces.

Liguria is a place of mixed emotions and experiences. The weather was awful at times (only when on holiday), the scenery spectacular, the services was confusing at times, the food was the best in Italy and the hospitality was out of this world.

We had a late start to the day due to the rain in the morning. We went to the harbor for a boat ride to the villages of Cinque Terre. Due to the weather the boat was not going to stop at the individual villages, but only at Portovenere and at Monterosso al Mare, the last and largest of the five villages. At Portovenere, where we had to change boats, it was chaotic, and announcements were only in Italian, which left many tourist from different nationalities stranded and upset because no one seems to know which boat was to depart next and in which direction. The constant rain only stopped once we got to Montorosso al Mare, but it would intermittently rain the rest of the day. In the hope to get some pictures of the villages from the boat I went to the back of the boat while Monica and Lamar stayed indoors and 300 Italians sang several folk songs to make the choppy journey more enjoyable and bearable.

Monterosso al Mare was packed with visitors, so much more than usual I would guess because it was a national holiday, and we had to struggle to find a place to lunch. We eventually found seats at Ristorante il Pussu, where I had an excellent spaghetti la marinara with lots of mussels and clams and savored a small bottle of “vini tipici locali” of Cinque Terre D.O.C white wine. After lunch we went for a walkabout in some of the town’s narrow streets, some barely 2 meters wide and took some photos. We then took the train to Manorola. Originally we planned to walk the via dell’amore (the love path) with its beautiful vistas of mountains and sea, between Manorola and Riomaggiore, but decided against it because of the weather. After spending about an hour in Manarola we head back to La Spezia in a packed train with barely standing room available.

Notwithstanding the weather, the trip to Cinque Terre was worth it. The quaint little villages are unique and beautiful. The evening we packed for our trip to Venice the next day and ended off our stay in Liguria with an excellent dinner at the argituristica downstairs.
Portovenere harbor and its colorful beach houses. This scene is very popular with painters.

Manorola clinging to the mountain side.

Corniglia. The only village that is not at the seafront. It sits on top of a hill.

Vernazza is somewhat protected from the violent seas by a rock face on the right.

Monica overlooking the tiny beach at Monterosso al Mare, the only village with a beach.

Monica and Lamar out strolling through the narrow streets of Monterosso al Mare.

The man-made landscape of steep terraces sloping down to almost touching the sea waves. Here they make the famous dry white D.O.C wines.

Manorola. All the house are painted in pastel colors except for the house slightly to the right of the center of the picture. I guess its where the town's rebel and non-conformist stays.

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