DAY 1: CINQUE TERRE is five crazily constructed fishing villages, set amid some of the most breath taking coastal scenery on the planet. A Unesco World Heritage Site since 1997, Cinque Terre is now visited by tourists. Before that, very few knew about this beautiful place, and most of the people living there were poor. Today, tourism has helped the hearty residents to prosper. Driving there is not an option --no vehicles. Monterroso is the exception --some cars are able to drive there, but only in certain parts of the village. The best way to get to Cinque Terre is by boat or train. Do you want to go to the next village? Steep paths mean lots of climbing along high cliffs, while a railway line cut through a series of coastal tunnels, taking the less brave from village to village. Thankfully, cars were banned over a decade ago, helping the villages to be great places for walking and enjoying the scenery.
DAY 2: Cinque Terre's five villages are really old. Monterosso (which is the furthest north), was founded in AD 643, when hill dwellers moved down to the coast to escape from invading barbarians. Riomaggiore the next village, was started in the 8th century by Greek settlers fleeing persecution. The others are Vernazza, Cornelia and Manarola. A visit to Cinque Terre offers several castles and picturesque churches --all very old.
DAY 3: Miss Hurdle and Miss Hesse went to Cinque Terre this summer on their trip to Italy. They rode in a big boat along the coast so they could see the villages from the Mediterranean --the best way to see them! Their boat landed in Monterosso. Monterosso is split in half by a large rock cliff that still holds the remains of an ancient castle. On one side is the old village with narrow streets where shops, small places to eat, and quaint houses gave them much to see. They then went through a tunnel in the cliff to the other side of Monterosso and noticed a huge difference. This side looks more like a beach resort and is popular with tourists and Italians wanting to enjoy the beautiful waters of the Mediterranean. They ate at a restaurant here and had one of many gelatos. When it was time to leave, they rode the double decker train that went through tunnels carved out of the mountains.
DAY 4: In October 2011, flash floods along the coast wreaked havoc in Vernazza and Monterosso, burying historic streets and houses under 13 feet of mud. It took the area two years to recover and restore the damage done to the historic site, but today it is as beautiful as before the flood. Miss Hurdle and Miss Hesse's Italian tour guide told them that nature has a way of reclaiming places where people were never meant to live. The villages of the Cinque Terre have weathered storms, landslides, and attacks from the sea. Somehow over the centuries the people have endured. It is their home.
DAY 5: Cinque Terre's unique historical feature is the steeply terraced cliffs where a complicated system of fields and gardens have been hacked, chiseled, shaped and layered over the course of nearly 2000 years. So marked are these artificial contours that some scholars have compared them to the Great Wall of China in their grandeur and scope.