The Cinque Terre
Though today the Cinque Terre enjoy the reputation of a little corner of paradise, this was not always the case. The 15 kilometers of coastline between Levanto and La Spezia once was barren, uninhabited terrain, difficult to negotiate by land and, due to the presence of Saracen pirates, dangerous by sea.
Hard work transformed this inaccessible and nearly uninhabited region into the marvel that it is today. The first attempts to cultivate grapes in the Cinque Terre were made by Benedictine monks in the 11th century. Local farmers continuedthisremarkable undertaking, ‘reclaiming’ from the hillsides bits of land wherevines might take root. In the 12th century, the presence of Genoese and Pisan troops in the region afforded a measure of security, which attracted new inhabitants from inland regions to work in the vineyards of the Cinque Terre. With this extra manpower, the farmers began to createa series of stone terraces to support their olive trees and grapevines, an enormous task that continues to the present day.
For centuries, the inhabitants of Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore have worked to temper the harsh underlying beauty of the Cinque Terre and thereby enhance it. This is a rare instance of man improving upon nature, rather than destroying it.

Though winemaking dates back to ancient times, it was not until the late Middle Ages that this practice began in the Cinque Terre. By the 14th and 15th centuries, Cinque Terre wines were exported to other parts of Europe, and visitors began to tell of “peasants who plant and tend their vines while suspended by ropes over rugged cliffs.” Vernazza, the safest port in the region and the point of embarkation for all Cinque Terre wines destined for France, Belgium, and England, gave its name to the renowned wine that came to be known as “Vernaccia”.