Monterosso al mare, Cinque Terre, Liguria
The Cinque Terre are located in Liguria region, very close both to the Tuscany boundary and to the city of Genoa.
Geologically speaking, the landscape of the Cinque Terre was created by a series of folds, formed when the rocks were pushed, raised and pressed together in the Tertiary period. Millions of years of erosion have slowly given shape to countless small peninsulas and bays between the two extreme promontories: Punta Cavo of Montenero and Punta Mesco.
Here five villages, that's to say Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore, form the renowned Cinque Terre. We know that, due to archaeological findings man has inhabited this stretch of coastline from very early times. Jewellery and decorated shells are some of the traces left behind by prehistoric man.
Over the years, people have succeeded in imposing their will on this difficult landscape through terrace cultivation consisting of narrow strips of land on the hillside, or sheer cliffs called "fasce". Man had to build countless short dry walls "muretti" and steps to support the steep strips of land. From a past research carried out by naturalists, it seems that, over thousands of years, the inhabitants of the Cinque Terre have carried out an enormous task in constructing and repairing these famous short dry walls "muretti", so much that the two-metre-high, eleven thousand kilometre long network of dry walls, is comparable even to the Great Wall of China.
Perhaps, it is the hard work that the farmers have done, carrying out for hundreds of years together with the air made salty by the sea spray on stormy days, that make the grapes so sweet and the olives and lemons so tasty.
The ancient "Etruscan Road" was brought back into use by the Romans, bringing both trade and commerce to the Cinque Terre. It was abandoned again during the rule of the Republic of Genoa. Perhaps, this area has preserved all its natural and untouched beauty, because the road was abandoned again.
Even today, it is not easy to reach the five villages, arriving either by train or along the winding roads. However, these access difficulties are the surest guarantee for the preservation of this characteristic and unique landscape.