The Five Lands

Cinque Terre, meaning “five lands,” is composed of the five villages Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso. Each village contains many boxy, pastel colored buildings, tiny streets and pathways, and sculpted terraces. The villages—although colorful—almost look to be natural parts of the cliffs. Appearing to be carved directly into the coastline, these villages are secluded from the world, and the people who live here seem to have their own unique ways of life.

Each of the five sections of Cinque Terre has a different personality, history, and quality that adds to the overall city. First,  Riomaggiore is often seen as the HQ of Cinque Terre. It is the largest of all of the villages. Here, there is a castle that was used for defense purposes in the 13th century, and near the castle is the Oratory of San Rocco that was built in remembrance of the people killed by the plague. Second, Vernazza has a small harbor that was used historically for travel by ship. Ships departed from its harbor to go to the Republic of Genoa and to other countries. Third, Manarola is the oldest of all of the villages. Natives here speak a dialect known as Manarolese. Fourth, Monterosso is the village that is often chosen by tourists. It has old and new halves that are joined by an underground tunnel. Fifth, Corniglia is the smallest village and is surrounded by vineyards. To reach the village, one must climb many stairs or take a shuttle bus. The unique assets of each village with the contrasting interconnectedness of the people who inhabit each village is what really makes Cinque Terre extraordinary. The city was created through interaction between the villages.

Before researching, I did not know much about Cinque Terre, so I did not have many preconceived notions, but I did underestimate the amount of history behind these five, small villages. I knew that many people travel to the villages to experience the beauty of the beaches and towns, so I made the mistake of assuming that beauty was the only amazing aspect of Cinque Terre. In relation to the other cities that we explore during Cultural Routes, I did not think that the history behind Cinque Terre could compare. In reality, the history behind the villages is extensive and even dates back to the 11th century.

According to National Geographic, the area where Cinque Terre is located now has been inhabited by people since the Bronze Age, but during the 11th century is when the villages really began to form. At this time, the Tuscan Obertengo family ruled, and the forest slowly began to turn into cultivated land. In the 12th century, the villages became a part of the Republic of Genoa, and in the 15th century, the villages began to be called “Cinque Terre.” During the 16th and 17th centuries, the villages were often under attack by pirates, and there were several natural disasters that pushed the villages into poverty. The building of railroads in the 1870’s was what helped the villages out of poverty. In 1970, Cinque Terre became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A World Heritage Site is a place that is recognized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as of superior cultural and/or physical importance. UNESCO decided that this applied to Cinque Terre based on the fact that the city is a cultural site that represents the interaction between people and nature, is an outstanding example of the architecture of a certain time period, and is an example of human settlement that has a culture dependent on sea and land use.

Before the 1920s, the people of Cinque Terre relied heavily on the Mediterranean, but with the addition of railroads and increased travel to the villages, the villages were able to make money from tourism. Tourism brought the villages out of poverty, however, recently the amount of tourism has started to affect the villages in a destructive way. The question I would like to answer through a City-As-Text Approach relates to this destruction.

The question I would like to answer is:

How are the people, villages, culture, and environment affected by tourism? Considering that tourism brought wealth, how do native people view tourism, the people who visit, and the future of Cinque Terre with the effects of tourism? Do the views differ from village to village?

The ways I plan to tackle this problem include mapping, observing, and interacting. When mapping, I will pay attention to the presence or absence of tourist-like attractions (What have the villages built to attract tourists, if anything?) along with the wear on the villages due to tourism (Is there pollution? Are the important buildings or buildings in general well kept?). Upon observing, I will try to see what kind of person stands out (Is it the person who lives in Cinque Terre or the tourist?) and how people react to the tourists. Finally, through interaction, I will be able to most successfully approach my problem. I will be able to see attitudes of different people towards tourism (How do they really feel about the tourism?), gain knowledge about the effects of tourism that the villagers have noticed (effects on environment, culture, quality of buildings, etc.), how the villagers are reacting to this over-tourism, and what their worries are about the future.