20130208 Cinque Terre

The Cinque Terre is a rugged portion of coast on the Italian Riviera. It is in the Liguria region, to the west of the city of La Spezia. “The Five Lands” is composed of five villages: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. The coastline, the five villages, and the surrounding hillsides are all part of the Cinque Terre National Park and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Over the centuries, people have carefully built terraces on the rugged, steep landscape right up to the cliffs that overlook the sea. Part of its charm is the lack of visible corporate development. Paths, trains and boats connect the villages, and cars cannot reach them from the outside. The Cinque Terre area is a very popular tourist destination. The villages of the Cinque Terre were severely affected by torrential rains which caused floods and mudslides on October 25, 2011. Nine people have been confirmed killed by the floods, and damage to the villages, particularly Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare, was extensive. (from Wikipedia)

Our first stop from La Spezia was the town of Riomaggiore.

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A popular part of the park system is a walking path that connects the five towns, called the Lover’s Lane. But it was closed after a landslide took out a portion of the walk between the first two towns of Riomaggiore and Manarola in September of last year. Four Australian women were walking the path when it happened. One of them fell down the cliff and had to be rescued off a precarious perch. After surgery to remove her spleen, she is expected to recover fully.

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Fr. Bill Dickinson, Fr.Dennis Yesalonia SJ, Fr. Jim Walsh, me.

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We visited the church of St. John the Baptist built into the side of the hill. It seems the Republic of Genoa in an effort to extend its influence and rule, built churches in the towns of Cinque Terre and named them after the city’s patrons.

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Riomaggiore St John the Baptist Church

The Parish Church of Saint John the Baptist was built in 1340 by order of Antonio Fieschi. Major restoration works were carried out in 1870, and much of the original architectural elements were removed and replaced. Thus, what’s left of the original edifice refers to two lateral portals lushly covered with decorative motifs. The interior is structured on three naves, and some of the most important highlights refer to a 1530 pulpit decorated with a bas-relief rendering Saint Martin, to a wooden crucifix by Maragliano and to a work representing a Preaching John Baptist allegedly created by Domenico Fiasella.

The façade which bears visible Gothic influences is part of results of the restoration works carried out in the 19th century, along with the church’s roof. The Parish Church of Saint John the Baptist is a must-visit for tourists who search out Riomaggiore in particular and Cinque Terre in general, and also one of the most important places of worship in the area. (photo and text from http://www.cinque-terre-tourism.com)

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There is an abundance of agave and aloe plants throughout all the towns, cactus and other succulents … and palm trees. Winters must be mild. Next stop: Vernazza. We will catch Manarola on the way back. Fulvia tells us there is a gorgeous view of the town in the afternoon light. And we are skipping the middle town of Corniglia. It is the only one of the five towns that is not built at sea level. The train station is at sea level. Then you have to walk 400 steps to reach the town. Not that we haven’t already walked up and down just the first town of Riomaggiore. My calves are massive now!