Cinque Terre - History

A bit of history


The area that is Liguria today was inhabited already in the Bronze Age as proven by findings of bones and tools.

This strategic coastline played an important role in the Roman Empire. Then in the 9th century, the Saracens occupied the region and demolished the small villages around here. Local people ran away to the hills.

In the 11th century, the Tuscan Obertengo family ruled the area after ousting the Saracens. The local tribes moved back down to the sea and raised their first houses. During those days, the new inhabitants started a heroic work that we still admire today. They turned the natural forests and rough, steep slopes into cultivated terraces, built dry stone walls and planted vine. The villages were often under attack by pirates so guards kept an eye on the sea from many watchtowers. In the meantime, commerce on the sea started.

In the 12th century, the region became part of the Republic of Genoa. Back then, it took two days to sail from the villages to Genoa. By this time, the coast was famous for its excellent wine.

In the 15th century, locals started to use the name "Cinque Terre".

During the 16th century, there were many pirate attacks against the Ligurian coast. Luckily, the villages of the Cinque Terre had a strong defense system.

In the 17th century, a terrible storm ruined the crop so the villages needed help from Genoa. Following natural disasters, the population of the Cinque Terre always dropped.

In the middle of the 1800s, the wine market recovered so even more vine was planted.

In 1870, Italy was unified; many rail lines were built. The coastal line between Genoa and Rome passed through the Cinque Terre so the villages could be reached by train. By the 1960s, the winding coastal road was finished; it offers amazing views over the villages and the sea.

In the 1970s, an American travel writer was enchanted by the five quiet, hidden villages and raved about the Cinque Terre in his guidebooks. Since then, many travellers have enjoyed the hospitality of the inhabitants of the Cinque Terre.

Since 1997, the Cinque Terre has been a UNESCO World Heritage site.

In 1999, the Cinque Terre National Park was founded.

Today, you can keep an eye only on tourist boats (no pirates!) from the watchtowers. And it only takes two hours to get to Genoa.