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 begin your exploration of Cinque Terre. You will proceed by public boat or by local train, depending on the current weather conditions, to the village of Monterosso.
Beautiful beaches, rugged cliffs, crystal-clear turquoise waters, and plentiful small hotels and restaurants make Monterosso al Mare, the largest of the Cinque Terre villages (population 1,730), the busiest in midsummer. The village center bustles high on a hillside. Below, connected by stone steps, are the port and seaside promenade, where there are boats for hire. The village is encircled by hills covered with vineyards and olive groves, and by a forest of scrubby bushes and small trees. The medieval tower, Aurora, on the hills of the Cappuccini, separates the ancient part of the village from the more modern part. 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.
Departing from Monterosso, you will head 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.
Following Vernazza, you will make your way to Riomaggiore. Nestled between two steep terraced hills that descend in abrupt cliffs to the sea, the historic borough of Riomaggiore strikes visitors with its tall vertically built colourful houses. While strolling amidst the tight network of alleyways, the village’s archways and staircases offer charming shifts of light and shade. All of the houses have two entrances: one at the facade on the street level, the other at the rear at the level of the higher road. In the 1500s, these structures guaranteed an escape route in case of Saracen attacks. After a delightful day exploring the picturesque Cinque Terre, you will be returned to the port.
Please Note: In case of inclement weather, one of the villages above may be substituted with another village in Cinque Terre, Manarola.