Stuck to the rocks
The fishing village of Riomaggiore and its harbour, part of the Cinque Terre, at the Riviera di Levante, Liguria, Italy
Some background information:
Riomaggiore is a picturesque village and comune in the province of La Spezia, situated in a small valley in the Liguria region of Italy. It is the first and southernmost of the five Cinque Terre villages one meets when travelling north from the harbour city of La Spezia. The commune of Riomaggiore has more than 1,500 residents and a train station at the Genoa-Pisa railway.
The village, dating from the early thirteenth century, is known for its historic character and its wine, produced by the town's vineyards. Riomaggiore is in the Riviera di Levante region and has a shoreline on the Mediterranean Sea's Gulf of Genoa, with a small beach and a wharf framed by tower houses. Riomaggiore's main street is Via Colombo, where numerous restaurants, bars, and shops can be found.
The villages of Riomaggiore and Manarola are connected with each other by a trail along the coastline, the so-called Via dell'Amore (in English "Trail of Love"). The trail's name was inspired by the fact that it provided an easy connection for young lovers who lived in the two small towns, and who were previously separated by the mountainous terrain. In 2012, a rockslide injured four tourists and caused the trail to be shut down for repairs. Until the date we were there, it still hadn’t been completely re-opened, although it is one of the most important tourist attractions in the area and is an integral part of the Cinque Terre National Park.
The Cinque Terre (in English "Five Lands") is a rugged portion of coast on the Italian Riviera. It is located in the region Liguria, in the northwest of Italy and comprises the five villages of Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore (from north to south), that are situated at the coastline and nestled to the coastal rocks. The coastline, the five villages, and the surrounding hillsides are all part of the Cinque Terre National Park. Together with the nearby more southerly situated harbour town of Porto Venere, the five villages were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. In its explanation the UNESCO described the Cinque Terre as a "particularly scenic coastal area with small towns built among the steep rugged terrain". Not just since then the Cinque Terre area is a very popular tourist destination.
Over the centuries, people have carefully built terraces on the rugged, steep landscape right up to the cliffs that overlook the sea. Part of its charm is the lack of visible corporate development. Paths, trains and boats connect the villages, and cars cannot reach them from the outside.
The first historical documents on Cinque Terre date back to the 11th century. Monterosso and Vernazza sprang up first, while the other villages grew later, under military and political supremacy of the Republic of Genoa. In the 16th century, to oppose the attacks of Turk forces, the inhabitants reinforced the old forts and built new defense towers. From the year 1600, Cinque Terre experienced a decline which reversed only in the 19th century, thanks to the construction of the Military Arsenal of La Spezia and the building of the railway line between Genoa and La Spezia. The railway allowed the inhabitants to escape their isolation, but also brought about abandonment of traditional activities. The consequence was an increase in poverty which pushed many to emigrate abroad, at least up to the 1970s, when the development of tourism brought back wealth.
In all five villages fishing always contributed to the sustenance of the residents, but only in Monterosso al Mare, fishing was used as the village’s main industry. In the other four villages the locals mainly lived off vineyards and olive cultivation Hence, the mountainsides of the Cinque Terre are heavily terraced and are used to cultivate grapes, olives, citrus fruits and cactus pears.
Given its location on the Mediterranean Sea, seafood is plentiful in the local cuisine. Anchovies of Monterosso are a local specialty designated with a Protected Designation of Origin status from the European Union. The Cinque Terre area, and the region of Liguria, as a whole, is known for pesto, a sauce made from basil leaves, garlic, salt, olive oil, pine nuts and pecorino cheese. And Focaccia is a particularly common locally baked bread product. Finally, Farinata, a typical snack found in bakeries and pizzerias, is a savoury and crunchy pancake made from a base of chick pea flour.
The grapes of the Cinque Terre are used to produce two locally made wines. The eponymous Cinque Terre and the Sciachetrà are both made using Bosco, Albarola, and Vermentino grapes. In addition to wines, other popular local drinks include grappa, a brandy made with the pomace left from winemaking, and limoncello, a sweet liqueur flavored with lemons.