The beauty of the Cinque Terre is undoubted. Their charm has also recently come to the cinema, for the first time in a cartoon version, thanks to the success of Luca, one of Pixar’s latest efforts. The film has attracted further attention to this area, already a popular destination for European tourism.
The sea, history and splendid landscapes of this corner of Liguria can be appreciated in a variety of ways, and why not, even on board an electric car. Be Charge has installed dozens of recharging points in the region just a stone’s throw away from France, and it is in La Spezia, from the charging station in Via Dalmazia, that we begin our tour, after arriving in the morning from Milan.
Day 1 – La Spezia, Riomaggiore and Manarola
Having left the car in the charging station near Piazza Matteotti, we decide to take a short tour of the town. Although it is not strictly speaking part of the so-called Cinque Terre, a walk around the seaside town is an excellent and pleasant choice.
Without realising it, we arrive at San Giorgio Castle. From the fortress, built on a hill, there is a splendid view of the town. After getting off and having something to eat to break our hunger, we go to retrieve the car to start the tour, heading for Riomaggiore.
The drive is really short and after a few minutes we arrive at the first village chosen for our itinerary. Having parked the car – fortunately it is not high season – we head for Piazza Vignaioli, one of the main squares of the village. At the end of the square, we take a few photos and enjoy some really beautiful views.
The ancient village, the easternmost and southernmost of the Cinque Terre, has an essentially peasant and not maritime culture, with its typical dish being the salted rice cake, prepared according to tradition on the occasion of the patronal feast of Saint John the Baptist.
Taking advantage of the delicious specialities of the area, we settle down in a trattoria for lunch after getting lost in the alleys of Riomaggiore. Well refreshed, we put on a pair of comfortable shoes to reach the second village on our tour, for which we decide to take the longest route, the famous Via dell’Amore, which is a breathtaking path.
The Via dell’Amore is carved directly into the rock, at the side of the cliff. In 30 minutes we reach Manarola, admiring incredible landscapes all along the way. The village spreads out around the course, now not visible, of the Groppo stream, from which a series of narrow stone-paved alleyways reach the houses on the sides of the promontory and the vegetable gardens.
Parallel to this is the so-called Via di Mezzo, which was of great importance to the village before the stream was covered. One curiosity is the white concrete pyramid that stands out between the houses in the main square, representing a trigonometric signal for sailors.
Before returning to Riomaggiore, we head for the best viewpoint in town. To reach the belvedere, we walk along the main street towards the port, then continue along the path along the coast to cross the sea, through the town.
There you will find a path with a railing with benches on which to sit and enjoy the best view in the area. We calmly take the Via dell’Amore again and return to Riomaggiore, where we will spend the evening and night.
Day 2 – Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso
For the second day of this three-day itinerary in the Cinque Terre, we explore the other three villages in the area: Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso. Waking up early, after having had breakfast in front of the sea, we retrieve the car and head to Corniglia, the generally less crowded village of all the Cinque Terre.
Corniglia is the only village not built directly on the water, resting its foundations on a hill: once you have parked your car, you have to climb 382 steps to reach the village. The village is really suggestive, so much so that even Boccaccio mentioned it in his Decameron.
The town is developed along the main street, Via Fieschi, which connects the historic centre and the parish of San Pietro to the belvedere of the terrace of Santa Maria. And if under the church square you can admire some remains of medieval sculptures and architecture, it is the terrace itself that is the unmissable part of a visit to Corniglia.
From here, an extraordinary panorama opens up: the mountains and the Sanctuary of the Madonna delle Grazie on one side, the sea with the small bay that forms the Marina di Corniglia and the Spiaggia di Guvano from above. After lunch with an excellent fish dish we return to the car on our way to Vernazza.
Often called the Jewel of the Cinque Terre, it is considered by most to be the most beautiful village of all. Once in the village we continue our search for views, walking towards one of the most famous viewpoints in the area.
We head towards the right-hand side of the village, on the Monterosso-Vernazza path. From there, going up the path and coming back we will find several points to see the panorama of Vernazza. After taking a few photos, we decide to visit the church of Santa Margherita d’Antiochia, the most imposing building in the port area of Vernazza.
Presumably built here after the bones of Santa Margherita were found on a nearby beach, it is its unusual octagonal tower (located on a different side of the church than usual) that sets it apart from the others along the coast. At the end of our visit, we head for Monterosso, the last stop – not least – of our Ligurian weekend.
Unlike the other four villages in the Cinque Terre, Monterosso has a distinct old and new town, divided by a tunnel dug under the San Cristoforo promontory. After leaving the car at the Loreto car park, we head for the old town..
This part of the village is dominated by the walls of the ancient fortress – the Aurora Tower – and the remains of the Fieschi Castle, as well as the Church of San Giovanni Battista and the Capuchin Convent. Here you will also find brightly coloured houses, winding streets and steep stone steps, common to all the villages of the Cinque Terre.
Also known as Fegina, the modern section stretches along the coast from the promontory of San Cristoforo to Punta Mesco. This is where you will find the most beautiful beach in Monterosso (indeed, the most beautiful beach in the Cinque Terre), the railway station and one of the two car parks for visitors.
The two areas are about 15 minutes apart: after touring both, we settle down in a wine shop for a pleasant sunset tasting. At the end of the weekend, we return to the city, but not before making a pit stop to recharge in La Spezia.
The memories we take home with us are many, but what we promise ourselves is to return to this beautiful land in the summer, to fully enjoy the beaches of the Nature Reserve.