Together with vernazza, Monterosso is my favourite! And it is the only one among Cinque Terre villages which has a beach, and a VERY lovely one, my favourite! Pebbles, crystal clear water, lovely surroundings... On the beach there is a huge rock and in it the Gigante is sculpted, carrying the wight of the world on his back.
The medieval tower "Aurora", located on the hills of the Cappuccini, separates the ancient part of the village from the more modern part. It's also more "modern" than other village
Riomaggiore is another of five CInque terre picturesque villages, which are all in a very short distance from one another.
Riomaggiore was founded aroundthe river Maior, ay around 8th Century, when it was founded by group of Greek refugees who escaped the religious persecution of the Byzantine Emperor, Leone III 'L'Isaurico'.
The place is built of a series of footpaths which follow the outline of the land. These steep footpaths allow direct access to the upper floors of some of the houses, the oldest of which are tower-like and built vertically in parallel clusters. They are all colourful and on high cliffs, stemming right down to the sea. Everywhere around you'll find colourful boats as well, as it is a fishermen's village, although nowadays tourism is the major activity. :)
You can hike from one village of Cinque terre to another, and further, the view along the coast is magnificant!
There is an especially beautiful footpath called La Via dell'Amore - The Trail fo Love, which starts in Riomaggiore. Well, you can get ideas. :))
If you follow La Via dell'Amore at its other end (or, the beginning, if you start from there :)) you'll find another beautiful Cinque Terre village - Manarola.
There are no precise details about when it was founded, but some of the architecture dates back to 13th century, although the area has been inhabited since much longer ago.
Most people stick to the coastal trails. However, since the Cinque Terre card lets you use the green buses, another option is to take the green bus from Vernazza up to San Bernadino(head uphill past the train station a hundred meters or so til you see the parking lot and the post office...this is where the bus stop is). The trip takes about 20 minutes but it's a spectacular drive. One you get to San Bernadino, there are fabulous views of Corniglia and Manarola. The people are also really nice (as they don't get all that many tourists). There is a little cafe where you can get a beer, soda, snack food before heading out on the trail to Vernazza (approx. 1 hour). The beauty of this trail is that it's all downhill so it's not that difficult. Plus, you have really nice views of Vernazza most of the way down. We were there in high season and didn't see one person on this trail.
It's definitely work a little sweat and a couple Euros to get on the trail, heading north to Monterosso. The views are amazing! The main picture in this section I took on this path. It is fairly popular, but too many people come in to Vernazza on the train and don't even know this trail exists! It connects the five towns of the Cinque Terra and, since it is maintained by Italy's Park Service, it is in fairly good shape.
One interesting thing you will notice on the trail is that even in this rugged landscape, people are practicing agriculture - raising livestock and farming crops! It is very rustic, the steep hillsides make traditional farm equipment infeasible, so the farmers have to be creative! This picture is of a transport system that they used (still use? Probably!) to carry supplies and their crops...kind of like a roller-coaster! A real eye opener.
Here is an experience I will never forget: We hiked from Vernazza all the way east to Riomaggiore. From there we took a train all the way west to Monterosso Al Mare. From Monterosso we hiked east back to Vernazza, which though it is only the next village over, was a fairly rigourous 2 hour hike. But here's the kicker...we timed it perfectly with the sunset. If you play your cards right you will have the most astonishing tapestry of coastline and colors ever conceived by man. Every second was like a whole new experience of colors and scenery. Just look at the handful of pictures from this one two hour hike.
At first I wasn't sure which place is so relativelly close to Monterosso al Mare, but then the Italian guide told me it's Vernazza. Actually, there are only three kilometres distance between this two places and it takes two hours of time to get from Monterosso to Vernazza by footpath.
I've took this pictures with long camera lens.
Ok, to be honest I didn't climb up to the Belforte because my wife, who was with me, had a very bad knee injury just a few days before our departure. We almost postponed this trip but her decision was to go, no matter pains she gad. I didn't want to leave her alone and it is the reason why have missed spectacular arial views from both sides of Vernazza.
I will revisit this area again, have no doubts about it.
The village of Vernazza was founded by people who are descended from the hills Reggio. The future settlement must have secured a source of water and they find a stream here, which is also called Vernazza. The houses are built along the creek and the rocky slopes that hides the village from those who were approaching from the sea.
This is the rest of the arch bridge that was built in the Middle Ages.
The architecture of a coastal settlements of Mediterranean is in particularly interesting. If the terrain is hilly, then almost every village has a settlement on the hill, which is usually older by age, and one along the sea. The upper and lower village are usually associated by narrow paths or long stairs if the terrain is very steep.
Except the train, there are a few passages and stairs which connecting lower Vernazza with the outer world.
In the Middle Ages, the western coast of Apennine peninsula was exposed to constant attacks of North African pirates. These attacks were especially directed towards, at that time, rich Republic of Genoa and Vernazza was part of that republic. Doria castle was built in the 15th century as a lookout tower to protect the village from attacks of pirates.
Corniglia is in the heart of Cinque Terre, it's the central village. Corniglia is located on the ridge of a rocky promontory at the foot of a terraced vineyard. It is more concentrated on agriculture than on fishing.
Small fishermen's villages in Mediterranean area are usually constructed in a shape of bunch of grapes, no matter if in Italy, Greece, Croatia or Spain. Such a villages are determined by the port, which must be well protected from the northern winds and sea water which has to be deep enough for a small ships. Fact is, not many such a bays could be find in the coastal area. It is why space at the shore is usually too small and pretty valuable forcing people to construct the houses one very close to another. Thats the reson why Vernazza has carruggi, short and very narrow streets.
As you are making your way between the towns, the hike from the third to the second (if you are traveling North to South) can be a bit tedious and tiring, especially when it is warm outside. We found a wonderful place to stop, it is a little house/cafe hung gracefully on the ledge with an amazing view of the ocean and the next time (so you can use the excuse of a great photo opportunity for the stop as well). When we entered the little shop, we were greeted with a friendly smile and a freshly (we literally watched him do it) squeezed cup of blood orange juice. It was amazingly refreshing and just what we needed.