Travelling from the Tuscan capital of Florence to Cinque Terre is well worth the two hour trip. Renowned as one of the most stunning parts of the Italian coastline, the string of five cliffside villages is a sight to behold. Despite their attraction to tourists who flock here for the iconic hiking, wonderful vistas and vibrant Italian seaside atmosphere, many visitors know little about the history of this pretty coastal area. Here we disclose a little about its interesting past and hopefully inspire people to delve a little deeper into what makes the region what it is today. |
The Origins of the Cinque Terre
Despite the name dating back to the fifteenth century, this coastal region was inhabited long before that. Remains of bones and primitive tools have been found here, proving the existence of even the most primitive of life.
As you would expect, the Romans certainly made their presence felt in the area when they took charge from the local Ligurians. Considered an area of huge strategic importance, the Romans had their work cut out for them maintaining their stronghold, eventually losing it to the Saracens in the ninth century, who came and destroyed the villages that had been constructed here. All the local people escaped to the surrounding hills.
In turn, the Saracens were ousted and the Tuscan Obertengo family moved in to rule the area. Locals began to make their way back towards the coastline and tentatively started reconstructing the hamlets that once stood here. It was at this time the houses you see today were built, the terraces were cultivated, the dry stone walls were created and the vines and orchards were planted.
On your trip from Florence to Cinque Terre, you will notice lots of watchtowers along the coastline. These were built for the guards who had to keep a lookout for pirates who were plentiful at the time.
The twelfth century was significant for the five villages, as that’s when the region became a part of the Republic of Genoa and the coast became famous for its production of quality wine.
This region has always been subject to natural disasters and the locals historically relied on help from Genoa whenever they experienced landslides or other destructive events. Despite the precarious location of the five villages, the power of nature didn’t deter the local people who managed to recover their wine trade time and again. More and more vines were planted and, to this day, the wine is well known throughout Italy.
After the unification of Italy, Italian infrastructure was improved drastically and a coastal railway line between Genoa and Rome was constructed. It passed through the five villages and linked them together. For any visitors travelling from Florence to Cinque Terre who don’t fancy the hiking route, the train offers a relaxing alternative.
Awarded a UNESCO World Heritage status in 1997, the area became a national park in 1999.
There is little doubt that a trip from Florence to Cinque Terre is a highlight on any tour of Tuscany, but if you book with a local tour operator, your visit will be made extra special. Nothing beats local knowledge and when you’re accompanied by a tour guide who knows the area inside out, you will enjoy the history, culture and total experience even more.
Mauro Bramante is the Director of WalkAbout Florence, an independent business offering unforgettable tours and excursions around Italy including day trips from Florence to Cinque Terre. Whether you want to ride a Vintage Vespa, try the famous Chianti wine or get cooking with fresh local ingredients, Mauro's company promises excitement, adventure and above all, fun. If you're keen to experience the magic of Italy with the help of some passionate and knowledgeable tour guides, look no further than WalkAbout Florence for your next getaway.
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