Travel photography – Italy – Day 2/3

Cinque Terre (The 5 Lands)– La Spezia, Riomaggiore, Manarola & Corniglia.

Ian Cooper Photography-Travel Photographer-ItalyOn of the finest places to enjoy travel photography.  On leaving Florence, I realized one thing about the Italians, & that was their transport system! Mostly clean, mostly fast, sometimes cheap but never ever on time!

Once on board the speed train to La Spezia in the Laguria region it was also apparent how we in South Africa lack a great public transport system. The Italians have train, bus, boats; taxis for everyone & most of them are relatively cheap. Don’t expect hiring a car to be reasonable…remember that we are paying close to R10 for 1 Euro!!! The equivalent B class car here in SA with unlimited mileage will cost R245 per day…in Italy for an inferior Fiat cost R800 per day!

Anyway, off to Cinque Terre a remote chunk of the Italian Riviera, which is traffic free, lowbrow, under appreciated & there is not a museum in sight. In fact each of the 5 villages has no more than a railway station, bus stop, an ATM & 20 Gelateria’s! Honestly besides pretty little architecture, famous forts & churches, Cinque Terre boasts sun, sea, sand, wine & pure unadulterated Italy. Here you will also find callused locals, sunburned travelers, no Vespas & many happy relaxed tourists. Besides centuries of history, each village prospers & fishing, seafood, castles, grapes, wine, churches, artists & boats are very evident.

Riomaggiore is the largest & oldest in the region. Looking from the top of the hillside at the village the buildings & homes look like a fascinating tangle of pastel homes leaning on each other like drunken sailors. The blue sea, the grey reefs & the rocky coast, the green terraces covered with vineyards & olive groves create an explosion of color. It was evident in almost exaggerated fashion I noticed the typical architecture embroidered with a myriad of lanes, stairways, little alleyways & covered passageways. Riomaggiore is captivating & has amazingly evocative landscapes that are almost wild yet peaceful & charming. Above the village the old Genovese castle dominates the landscape & was build in the 15th century. There are two sides to Riomaggiore: the fishing village & the peasant’s village, which faces the mountain. Obviously the fishing village faces the sea! Picturesque Riomaggiore is also enhanced by the presence of Montenero, a very ancient sanctuary & church, which along with the castle, date back to the 14th & 15th centuries.

A twenty-minute walk along the rugged coastline takes you to the next village, which is Manarola. Along the way is the lovely and interesting “Love’s Trail” (Via Dell’Amore), where thousands of couples have “locked” their love for each other by placing & locking a padlock on the railings, fences, gates, rock secures & doors.

Manarola is a charming village, which is perched on a sheer rocky spur some 70 m above the sea on one of the most breath taking parts of the coastline of Cinque Terre. Its typical tall houses huddle together adding a bright touch to the narrow alleys & steps with their vivid pastel colors. A few vestiges of the town’s old castle can be spotted among the houses. The castle, testimony to the rule of the Fieschi family was destroyed in 1276 by the Genovese. An enchanting village where I found some of the friendliest locals & also offered some of the most beautiful & unforgettable views of Cinque Terre.

Corniglia was the next stop. Corniglia is 105 meters above sea level & the only village in Cinque Tree that is not on the sea. But it has the same spectacular sea views on the one side & terraces covered with dense vineyards on the other as the other villages have. This village is more famously known than its neighbors as it is richer in history & also is famous for its own wine, the Vernaccia. Getting to the top of the village from the station is more than an average effort. A path zigzags approximately 400 stairs to the town. Once you reach the top there is a congratulatory sign welcoming you to the village & reminding you of the steep climb! This, with all my photography gear nearly killed me! Whilst dining on a local dish, gulping on a local Moretti beer, I witnessed some locals obviously upset by something & managed to get some truly magnificent portraiture, the type of emotional portraiture that captures the true Italian ways.

Once I had captured some sensational shots it was back to Manarola to get some night photography. This time I new sunset was at about 21h00!

Pondering on the train on my way back to La Spezia I was already thinking ahead to tomorrow which was going to take us into the countryside, a whole new look at Italy.