Location: Italy, Europe
Theme: Regions & Landscapes
The Cinque Terre along northern Italy’s Riviera is a series of villages that have been rather amazingly carved into a steep terraced-vineyard coastline.
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Cinque Terre (Five Lands) describes the rugged Mediterranean coastline on the Italian Riviera between Genoa and Tuscany, where the hills are carved into green terraces that descend toward the water. In the 12th century, the medieval citizens of the Levante Riviera transformed their rocky environment into arable land, creating 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) of terraced landscape with over 1900 kilometers (1180 miles) of stone drywall buttresses. For hundreds of years, Italians cultivated grapes and other crops in the hills above the five Ligurian towns of Monterosso al More, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. The region became famous for the quality of its wines as well as for the verdant beauty of its sculpted topography. In the 20th century many of the vineyards were abandoned when the local owners found themselves unable to compete with the high production and low costs of larger commercial wineries elsewhere in Europe. In 1973, Italy’s president bestowed Cinque Terre with a Document of Controlled Origin (D.O.C.), marking it as a valuable national landscape, but his gesture did not reverse the trend of desertion.
Along the Mediterranean coast in northern Italy, the cultural landscape of Cinque Terre provides a powerful example of the way that humans can alter and shape their own environment. Liguria’s man-made terraces stretching between Genoa and Tuscany testify to the agricultural and engineering prowess of the medieval Italians. The wines produced from the terraced vineyards of this remarkable landscape have received international acclaim. In addition to its historical and cultural value, the landscape is simply beautiful, offering breathtaking views of the sea and a spectacular array of flora and fauna. The exceptional beauty of the landscape has drawn and inspired many famous writers, poets and musicians, among them the English Romantic poets Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron, the French novelist George Sand, and the German composer Richard Wagner. Cinque Terre was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1997 as part of Portovenere, Cinque Terre, and Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto Islands.