The five villages
The first historical record of Monterosso dates back to 1201 when the Lords of Lagneto , owners of the castle of which today remains only some ruins, entered into an agreement with Genova and in 1214 founded the community of Monterosso and began to fortify the village to protect it from violent Saracen raids, building the most powerful defense system of the Cinque Terre.
Monterosso al Mare was much loved by Eugenio Montale, Nobel Prize winner for Literature in 1975. He spent summers in the “rocky and austere village, asylum for fishermen and farmers … ”
You can stay in modern Fegina with its beach , or in the colorful and medieval old town.
Here between narrow and intricate streets is the church of San Giovanni Battista, built starting in 1220. The building, in Gothic- Genovese style, has a beautiful two-tone facade. Between the door and the apse is a bell tower, erected for defensive purposes and then elevated in 1400.
Also of interest is the Capuchin monastery dating back to the seventeenth century as well as the church of St. Anthony of Mesco from 1335.
Other notable points of interest include the art nouveau villa of the Montale family in Fegina, the articulated defense system and walls of the citadel on the promontory between Fegina and the old town, the remains of the ancient castle with its two towers, and at the foot of a rocky cliff the majestic Aurora Tower.
Perched on a stately and enchanting cliff, Vernazza already appeared in historical records from 1080 as a fortified village and efficient maritime base of the Marquis Obertenghi, and was a probable point of departure and landing for navel forces involved in Saracen defense.
The medieval town, with its magical and mysterious alleyways enclosed by the multicolored houses in hues of pink, red and yellow, is ranked among the top one hundred most beautiful villages in Italy, and is now crowded with tourists from around the world. It has a long and ancient seafaring tradition and a glorious past of sailors and captains. In 1170 Vernazza fought alongside Genoa and won against the Pisans, and as a faithful ally of the Republic, in the middle of 1200, was involved in clashes with troops of Frederick II.
It is delightful to arrive in this wonderful village by sea. From the harbor enclosed by pastel colored houses, you can visit the church of St. Margaret of Antioch. The building, mentioned for the first time in 1318, is embellished with large trefoil windows, a Medieval structure to the east, and a Renaissance structure to the west. Vernazza also boasts the remains of its mighty defense system. What survives today of the ancient fortified structures are the remains of the city wall, the Doria Castle, the eleventh century watchtower, Belforte, and the Tower of the Convent of the Reformed Fathers of San Francesco.
Perched on a high bluff a hundred meters above the sea, Corniglia is the only town without easy sea access. To get there you must climb “Lardarina”, a long brick stairway (33 flights with 377 steps), or take the road that leads from the railway station. The village is surrounded on three sides by vineyards and terraces, which follow a “ribbon structure” from the main street Via Fieschi.
In this lovely town you can visit the eighteenth century square largo Taragio with its Oratory of Santa Caterina and fascinating theater stage between the houses, and the parish of St. Peter, one of the most interesting monuments of the entire coast, a beautiful example of Ligurian Gothic. The building was erected in 1334, then in 1351 came the rose window in white Carrara marble, the work of Pistoia Matteo and Pietro da Campigna. Of particular interest inside are the twelfth century baptismal font, the statues of the evangelists and the polyptych divided into segments that represent the Masters.
A fresco of sunny colors, a paradise of vineyards and olive trees, a historic village of saline colors in which the houses seem to arise from the cliffs of the long, narrow marina. The first historical evidence of Manarola belong to the second half of the thirteenth century and are linked to the domain of the Fieschi family of Lavagna. The latter, for some time in conflict with the Republic of Genoa, were defeated in 1273 when the Superba sent a fleet of 14 galleys to counter the rebel Niccolò Fieschi, lord of the village.
Under Genoa, the town experienced a progressive development, becoming one of the largest producers of food, especially of wine and oil. To this agricultural vocation Manarola owes the origin of its name, which historians argue result from Manaraea dialect, previous to the current Manaaea, dating back to an ancient magna roea, ie magna rota, or big wheel from a watermill. In the lower part of the village, in fact, you can still admire the old mill, restored by the National Park.
In Piazza Pope Innocent IV, you can visit: The church of San Lorenzo, built in 1338 in Gothic-Ligurian style , consists of three naves, with a baroque interior from a barrel vault; the White bell tower, an ancient defense and watchtower, built in the fourteenth century; the fifteenth-century Oratory of the Disciplined of Santissima Annunziata and the old Hospital of St. Rocco.
Nestled between two steep terraced hills that descend to the sea in steep cliffs, the ancient village of Riomaggiore strikes visitors with its vertically built, delightfully colored houses. While walking through the alleys, archways and stairs of the village, one is fascinated by the alternation of light and shadow.
All of the houses have two entrances: one on the facade at the level of the alley, the other at the back at the height of the upper road, in 1500 guaranteed an escape route in case of attack by the Saracens. The first news of the territory of Riomaggiore dates back to 1239, when the people of the district of Carpena swore loyalty to Genoa, and when in 1251, the inhabitants of the small villages on the coast of Casen, Cacinagora, Saricò and Lemen decided to converge at the mouth of the “river” and founded Riomaggiore.
In the nineteenth century, the village then inhabited by about 3,000 people, enchanted the Florentine painter Telemaco Signorini, a leading member of the current of the Macchiaioli. How fascinated he was by this village you can see in his paintings, in which he portrayed the dark and gloomy hidden corners of the alleys, the chiaroscuro of widenings and the shadows of the stairs.
In the upper part of the village you can visit the church of San Giovanni Battista, built in 1340 on a basilica plan, with pillars in different styles and with two gothic doors. Also worth a visit are the oratory of Santa Maria Assunta of 1500, the Oratory of Saint Anthony and the Oratory of San Rocco.