Fun Facts About Cinque Terre

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Have you heard of Cinque Terre, the cluster of five Italian villages clinging to the mountains along the coast? All I knew about this region in northwestern Italy came from photos I’d seen of the colorful houses in the villages. So when my grandson listed Cinque Terre as one of his “must see” destinations, for our 2017 trip to Italy, we made sure our tour included a stop here.

I’m so grateful for the opportunity to spend a day exploring the largest of the five villages. This gorgeous area offers visitors a peek into the laid back lifestyle that many Italians enjoy.

Discover these fun facts about Cinque Terre.

Fun Facts About Cinque Terre title meme

Origin of the Name

The Italian words cinque terre translates to “five lands”. These five lands are the five villages perched on the mountains along the coast. They are Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso. The largest village is the last one, Monterosso.

The entire region is a national park. And in 1997 it became a protected UNESCO World Heritage site.

Fun Facts About Cinque Terre villages
Fun facts about Cinque Terre – the village of Manarola

Cinque Terre is a Car Free Zone

Cars are not allowed in the villages of Cinque Terre. Instead villagers and visitors travel by boat, train or on foot.

We arrived in Monterosso via boat, leaving from the town of La Spezia. Our tour guide, Andrea, shared interesting local stories as we chugged along the coastline.

And we departed Monterosso on board a sleek train that passed through rocky mountainous tunnels.

Fun Facts About Cinque Terre La Spezia
Fun facts about Cinque Terre – arrive by boat, train or on foot

Cinque Terre Is a Relatively New Tourist Destination

Only the Italians knew about the wonders of Cinque Terre, until the 1970s. An American journalist visited and fell in love with the region. After he included the villages in a guidebook, other visitors arrived to explore Cinque Terra too. It’s now an extremely popular destination.

Fun Facts About Cinque Terre Italian coast
Fun facts about Cinque Terre – an American journalist drew attention to the location. This is Port Venere, a town on the way to Cinque Terre.

The Water is a Beautiful Color

The brilliant aquamarine water in the village bays provides a stunning contrast for the colorful houses on the mountains. The protected harbors shelter a rich variety of marine life, including anchovies, which is a Cinque Terre specialty.

Four of the five villages offer sandy beaches to enjoy those waters and catch some sun too.

Fun Facts About Cinque Terre monterosso bay
Fun facts about Cinque Terre – the water is a gorgeous aquamarine color

You Must Sample the Pesto

The herb basil grows in abundance in the Cinque Terre region. It’s used in many locally prepared dishes, even gelato! Dining in a little ristorante in one of the villages is a must, especially when the meal features freshly made pasta and basil pesto.

I enjoyed basil pesto over gluten free pasta for lunch in Monterosso. It remains the best pesto I’ve ever had.

Fun Facts About Cinque Terre pesto
Fun facts about Cinque Terre – they serve an amazing basil pesto

The Houses are Pastel Colors

All of those charming houses, perched on the mountainsides, are painted pastel colors. When the sun sets, the light washes over those soft hues, creating photo worthy moments. The reason for the color choices connects to fishermen out to sea. From his distant vantage point, a fisherman could identify his house based on the color.

Fun Facts About Cinque Terre monterosso
Fun facts about Cinque Terre – the pastel houses of Monterosso

Cinque Terre’s Most Popular Product

Cinque Terre villagers grow grapes in the steeply terraced vineyards. The difficult cultivation earns wine makers the name “heroic viticulturalists”.  Their hard work produces an incredible white wine called Sciacchetra that’s dry and somewhat sweet. Due to the limited space, only a few thousand bottles are produced each year.

Fun Facts About Cinque Terra - vineyards
Fun facts about Cinque Terre – incredible white wine

Cat Lady Paradise

Cinque Terre is considered a cat haven. Every village hosts semi-stray cats that hang around the seafront. And cats lounge outside every seafood cafe and shop, hoping for a treat from fishermen cleaning their catch. Locals leave dry cat food in covered bins with signs asking people to refill empty dishes.

Fun Facts About Cinque Terre cat
Fun facts about Cinque Terre – cat haven

Add Cinque Terre to Your Travel List

My daughter, grandson and I loved our day in Monterosso. After beginning our trip in Rome, we welcomed the slower pace in Cinque Terre. Each of us fell under the spell of this relaxed coastal region. We waded in the Mediterranean, wandered narrow streets, visited tiny shops and dined on the freshest foods in a homey ristorante. Truly, I could spend weeks exploring all five villages.

I hope you learned something new about Cinque Terre. And that this jewel in Italy makes your travel list.

Fun Facts About Cinque Terre Elissa and Dayan
My daughter and grandson enjoying time in Cinque Terre

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Five Italian Villages

When Dayan and I met with our travel agent in January, and discussed our Italy 2017 trip, Ken asked my grandson what cities and areas he wanted to see, as that would determine which tour we joined. Dayan shared a list of locations that were high priorities to him, “must sees” on this upcoming adventure. 

Near the top of his list was the coastal region in northwestern Italy called Cinque Terre. Dayan had been telling about these villages for years. The architecture stood out to him, along with the villages’ unique locations along mountains with nearly vertical drops into the Mediterranean Sea. 

Among all the tours available, only one included a stop in Cinque Terre. Called Italian Treasures, this 11 day tour is the one Dayan selected. 

Five Italian Villages
On Day 4, we spent a good portion of our day exploring Monterosso, the largest of the five villages in the region known as Cinque Terre (pronounced chink-a-terr-a, which literally means five villages). Dayan was excited that this long held dream was becoming reality. 

Here are highlights of our day:

Five Italian Villages
The villages are only accessible by boat or a train that chugs through the mountain. We traveled by bus to La Spezia where we boarded a boat with our local tour guide, Andrea. Our morning cruise took us down the coast, as Andrea told us about Cinque Terre’s history and shared interesting facts in a fun and playful way. 

Five Italian Villages

Andrea had an easy to listen to humorous delivery during our tour along the coast. 

Five Italian Villages

Leaving La Spezia. 

Five Italian Villages

Approaching Port Venere, which is not one of the five villages. Entering the sea, we turned to head up the coast. 

Five Italian Villages

Port Venere’s bay. The five villages, in order as they appear moving up the coast: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Cornigla, Vernazza and Monterosso, where we spent the day. The villages cling to rocky outcroppings or march up the mountain in miniature inlets. This area has become a National Park. The villagers grow and harvest grapes in terraced vineyards and supplement with other crops. Because the villages attract tourists from around the world, they also have shops and ristorantes for the visitors, bringing revenue into the area. 

Five Italian Villages

We explored the largest of the five villages today, Monterosso. This is the church, faced in stripes of local black and white marble. The colors for the houses and buildings are chosen to correspond with the colors of native flowers. 

Five Italian Villages

We had lunch at a little ristorante on Via Rome. I enjoyed gluten free pasta with pesto. Yum!

Five Italian Villages

After lunch we waded into the Mediterranean Sea, where I captured the moment. I’m changing my profile photo and cover photo daily on Facebook, using highlight pics from the day. This momentous snapshot became today’s profile pic. 

Five Italian Villages

I love this series of pics, taken as Dayan waded in the Mediterranean. 

Five Italian Villages

Looking across at Old Monterosso. The silver train crossing the bridge is similar to the one we took back to La Spezia. 

Five Italian Villages

The incredibly beautiful Monterosso Bay. 

Five Italian Villages

The new part of Monterosso with its stunning bay. The train station is located here. 

Five Italian Villages

These two are sharing such a grand adventure. I am grateful to be journeying with them. 

Five Italian Villages

We had such an amazing time exploring Monterosso. From boat ride to walking through the village to catching a train out, it was fun and educational and peaceful. The turquoise sea casts powerfully calming energy over this whole area. I was thoroughly enchanted. 

I could stay on Monterosso for a month, and I would enjoy every moment. Not this time though. Tomorrow we are off to Siena and San Gimignano. After exploring those villages, we will reach Florence by nightfall. So much more awaits us. 

Five Italian Villages We made a stop on our way back to the hotel in Lucca. Elissa captured Dayan in a classic pose with the Leaning Tower of Pisa!