In medieval times, the word 'terra' (land) meant 'village.' This is the origin of the name of this beautiful area: Cinque Terre (Five Villages). The inhabitants of these places had agricultural origins and lived on the hills. They came down to the coast once the Saracens had finished invading, when the sea became safe; they populated the villages at the mouths of the rivers along the shore. Cinque Terre's landscape is harsh and wild and the coast reflects this. High cliffs dropping down into the cobalt blue depths of the sea, hiding minute coves at Riomaggiore and Vernazza, or tiny ports like Manarola.
The Cinque Terre, is recognized by UNESCO as a 'World Heritage Site', and is a national park and protected marine area.
After meeting your driver on the pier, you will set off on the 60 minute drive to La Spezia. Here you will meet your professionally trained local guide and board a boat to reach Riomaggiore. The boat ride is approximately one hour and once you arrive in Riomaggiore, you will begin a walk along the captivating Via dell'Amore (The Lovers' Pathway), a charming path connecting Manarola to Riomaggiore, partially cut out of the steep cliffs overlooking the sea. It was once a narrow track built for the railway towards La Spezia. But soon, the romantic pathway became 'Via dell'Amore', and that is the name that has remained.
You will have approximately 20 minutes free time to explore in Manarola, before you take a 15 minute boat ride to Vernazza: this tiny resort is located at the mouth of a river and is naturally protected from the threat of the sea by a rocky promontory making it the only major landing point in the Cinque Terre. Vernazza has always had a strong political and economical importance which is witnessed by the style of its houses and streets, decorated with loggias and refined arcades giving it the appearance of a noble and elegant village, located on a steep cliff. After a brief orientation, you will have approximately 30 minutes free time to explore.
Following Vernazza, you will board a boat to Monterosso. The medieval center of Monterosso has remained perfectly preserved with its tower-houses and 'carrugi' (narrow alleys). The remains of the walls and defense system are a testament to the town's numerous sea battles. The Castle, overlooking the sea, and the Aurora Tower, the only one standing out of the thirteen towers built in the 17th-century, help paint the picture of this tempestuous time. At the end of your tour you will have approximately 2 hours of free time to explore or grab a quick lunch, before your transportation picks you up in Monterosso to return to the port of Livorno.
Due to excessive flooding in 2011, the Via dell'Amore has been closed to guests for safety reasons. It is not known when (or if) it will be reopened. Until that time, transfer between villages will all be done by boat.