A visit to Italy’s Cinque Terre—or, Five Lands—is a trip back in time to five picturesque villages clinging to the slopes and cliffs above the Ligurian Sea. Crooked streets wind between colorful homes stacked one above the other. Family-owned fishing boats tuck into small harbors at night. In large degree, English is spoken here only enough to order your dinner and book a room.
In October 2011, the villages of the Cinque Terre—and the hiking trails between them—suffered tragedy when heavy rains caused flooding and landslides, burying the towns of Monterosso and Vernazza in several feet of mud.
The hiking paths along the coast are closed for the 2012/2013 winter season, but will be open again beginning spring 2013.
Loredana Pantano, a licensed Cinque Terre guide and expert, answers a few questions for travelers intrigued by the area.
1) What has been done to ensure recovery in the Cinque Terre since the 2011 flood?
Immediately after the flood, emergency workers and volunteers focused on removing debris. A big effort has been made to recover what was buried under meters of mud. Troops of volunteers and the local people (strong-spirited, stubborn and great workers) worked together in order to ensure a prompt recovery in time for the 2012 season. We can say proudly that the current situation is a wonderful result.
2) Why do you love the Cinque Terre?
I love Cinque Terre. I deeply love them. It’s a special area of my region . . . like a hidden secret part of a diary; it’s like a painting or a concert of music. Not so easy to describe, but easy to live. A land with thousands of years of history, but so contemporary, so strong and delicate at the same time [that it] welcomes and demands respect. [The Cinque Terre are] protective like a mother, strong like a father and funny like your best friend.
3) What’s your favorite part of the Cinque Terre?
I love all the five lands, like a mother loves all [her] children, respecting the different personalities of each one. I can say each one has a small private corner, an intimate, hidden refuge that I like to visit and share with my small groups.
4) What experience do your guests like the most?
I think that each traveler is looking for something special during his journey. Everybody has [their] personal way to travel and visit, and my goal is to understand . . . the dream of each person. Cinque Terre offer something for all tastes: walking in the carruggi—the small medieval streets—following just the smell of good focaccia bread or pesto sauce, taking a short ferry boat ride to enjoy the unique landscape made by miles of terraced vineyards from the sea, hiking from one village to the other, being in perfect harmony with the nature, meeting happy fishermen with their fresh [catch] or just sitting and tasting a good glass of local wine. I may say that the experience guests like most, is the wonderful sensation of being part of this masterpiece of nature and simplicity.
5) Why do you love leading guests in the Cinque Terre?
I am a licensed professional tour guide since 1994 of the Italian Riviera, Genoa, Portofino area and Cinque Terre. I really like my job. Every day I get in touch with many people of different nationalities, languages and culture, and I have the great opportunity to share emotions and exchange good energies.
I love very much leading people in the Cinque Terre, because it’s like welcoming guests to my home, opening my hearth and my experience, and being sure that my guests will leave with a smile and good memories to remember forever.
Genoa, Italy provides the nearest major airport to the Cinque Terre. For travel within the Cinque Terre, you’ll need to utilize a network of trains, ferries and hiking paths. You’ll also want to purchase the Cinque Terre card in order to walk those trails because the villages are in a national park. Your travel agent can assist you with your plans.
A visit to the breathtaking Cinque Terre is perfect for first-timers to Italy or for returning travelers yearning for immersion into the authentic Italian experience. The Cinque Terre will delight, surprise, relax, and invigorate you.
And that’s good for the traveler’s soul.