In July of 2013 I traveled to Florence with my family. While walking around, we ran into a couple who had just come from this amazing coastal city called Cinque Terre. After speaking with them, my sisters and I begged our parents to take a day to complete the mere two-hour drive to this magical place we had just heard about. Unfortunately, we could not find the time to fit the trip into our schedule and we left Italy without getting to see the breathtaking colors of Cinque Terre for ourselves. At the time, I thought I missed Cinque Terre by 100 miles but in reality, I just had to wait four years.
Cinque Terre, or “Five Lands” in English, is composed of five fishing villages along the western coast of Italy. These villages date back to the early medieval period where they originally served as places for the residents of nearby cities to flee and escape invading barbarians. The oldest of the five, Monterosso, was founded in 642 AD followed by Riomaggiore, where we will be staying, in the 8th century. Cinque Terre is famous for its bright and brilliant colored buildings built on the steep landscape and cliffs overlooking the Ligurian Sea that all together create a breathtaking view. The coastline, five villages, and surrounding hillsides are all included in the Cinque Terre National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. After a series of detrimental floods, many roads were destroyed or damaged leading. Thus, cars are banned from all the villages and, therefore, are only accessible by walking paths, boats, and trains.
When the box of cookies was being passed around at our last Cultural Routes meeting, I immediately reached for Cinque Terre. Of all the cities, we are traveling to during our time in Europe, I am most excited to explore Cinque Terre. I have many positive pre-conceived notions of the city. Cinque Terre is often referred to as “wonderful,” “enchanting,” and “heaven on Earth”. Cinque Terre is a place I have only dreamed of visiting one day. Not only am I excited to explore the area for myself and see if it lives up to its reputation, but I am most excited to see the colors. One of my favorite hobbies is photography. I have developed a certain bond with my camera over the past couple years that pulls me into every photographic opportunity that comes my way. I am most likely the designated group photographer for every school dance, spontaneous adventure, and trip or vacation and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Cinque Terre is a photographer’s dream. Besides the classic postcard shot, the colors of Cinque Terre make every inch of the villages a magnet for cameras everywhere.
I can only image how many secrets are hidden throughout Cinque Terre that can only be discovered through photographs. This leads in to my questions, and more importantly, how I plan to answer them: through the lens of photography. Is there a deeper meaning behind the colors? I have a difficult time accepting that the buildings were painted for the sole purpose of looking pretty for a postcard. I want to discover how different colors in different regions and corners of Cinque Terre reflect the personality of the people living there. How do the locals describe the colors of Cinque Terre and how do they interact with their village despite the endless waves of tourists that come through every day? Do the locals see the colors differently than the tourists? I believe that I will be able to answer these questions through photographing the villages, the locals, and the tourists. It is often said that a picture is worth a thousand words which is plenty to be able to answer these questions and help understand the local people of Cinque Terre.