Cinque Terre is a must-see when in Italy. This UNESCO World Heritage site has a unique landscape that you won’t be able to admire anywhere else! It’s a destination that will cool you down in summer, thanks to its stunning beaches and crystal clear water, and leave you breathless on any other season for its beautiful rocky coasts and the pastel coloured houses that identify the picturesque villages.
Cinque Terre: the story of this arduous land
The names of the five villages are Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. The first historic documents that deal with them are rooted in the XI century. The oldest villages are Monterosso al Mare and Vernazza, while the others were born later, when Genoa became the political and economic leader of the territory. During the XVI century, when the Turkish attacked the area, the inhabitants reinforced the old fortresses and built new defensive towers. They remained quite isolated till when the railway started to connect them to Genoa and tourism increased.
Not all the Cinque Terre have a direct contact with the sea
Corniglia is the only village that doesn’t touch the sea. This charming place is indeed located on a rocky hill 100 metres above the sea level, overlooking the sea. Corniglia is the smallest village of the Cinque Terre, but it’s also the less touristic and therefore most authentic one. It’s a true gem that will give you the chance to enjoy the view of the whole riviera! You can reach it with a walk into the nature during our hiking tour, which will let you visit the 5 villages in just one day!
What to eat
We can’t avoid to mention pesto all genovese, though the name refer to the main city Genoa. Liguria is the territory of basil, rosemary and sage, which is why this sauce is so popular. Pesto all Genovese is, indeed, mostly made with basil, Parmigiano Reggiano, aged Pecorino, pine nuts and EVO oil. This amazing sauce is used mainly for pasta, but you can find it in focaccia, pizza and bruschetta too. Basil can also be used to produce other goodnesses, such as ice-cream. Yes, you read well: in Liguria they make basil ice-cream!
Talking about focaccia, when you visit these tiny charming villages you need to try the one with anchovies from the Ligurian sea. Another typical product of this arduous lands is honey! Since Cinque Terre are very isolated, their soil has remained pristine and pure, giving birth to flowers with a unique scent. Moreover, the influence of the sea and the hilly area create some peculiar conditions for an amazing honey you won’t find anywhere else.
What to drink
If you want to try some typical wine, you’d better choose for a white one. Cinque Terre DOC is made with three different types of grapes: Bosco (60%), Albarola (20%) and Vermentino (20%). This still wine presents a straw yellow colour and important mineral notes with some rosemary and sage scent. Tasting a Cinque Terre DOC means understanding the flavours of the territory and the story of a land. Curious fact: grape harvest in Cinque Terre is called “eroica” (heroic), since the rocky hills are not easy to cultivate and pickers have to do the harvest on their knees! Another famous wine is Sciacchetrà, a liqueur wine produced in extremely small quantities. The grapes are indeed picked one by one and left in the cellar for 50 days. The grapes are then selected to create a wine with 17% of alcoholic volume that will be left ageing for at least one year. A bottle of Sciacchetrà can be very expensive, but you can’t leave Cinque Terre without trying it.
Liguria is popular for citrus as well. Lemons, in particular, are used to create limoncino, a liqueur similar to the more famous limoncello. What’s the difference between the two? Well, you have to know that origins matter, which means the real limoncello should be produced in Campania, while Limonicino is a Ligurian product. Moreover, the first recipe leaves lemons to brew for two months, while the second just for one. This liqueur is normally served cold and appreciated better after eating, as a digestive.
The best beaches of Cinque Terre
Cinque Terre are characterized by a clear sea and some of the most beautiful beaches of the region. Monterosso al Mare has the most accessible ones, such as the sandy Fenigia or the less crowded Gigante beach. Guvano beach in Corniglia is another hidden gem, different from the other two because of its wilderness. Other less touristic beaches are in Framura, a tiny village between Cinque Terre and Portofino. Porto Pidocchio, for example, is a small hidden beach made of pebbles and sand. Vallà, Torsei and Arena are the other three must-see beaches of Framura, the last one being the most visited because of its proximity to the train station. The feeling of putting your feet into the clear water surrounded by rocky hills cultivated with vineyards and pastel coloured houses is matchless!