Cinque Terre describes the Mediterranean coastline between Genoa and Tuscany, where the hills are carved into green terraces that descend toward the water. In the thirteenth century, the medieval citizens of the Levante Riviera transformed their rocky environment into arable land, creating nine miles of terraced landscape with over 1,200 miles of stone drywall buttresses. For hundreds of years, Italians cultivated grapes and other crops in the hills above the five Ligurian towns of Monterosso, Riomaggiore, Vernazza, Coriglia, and Manarola. The region became famous for the quality of its wines as well as for the verdant beauty of its sculpted topography. In the twentieth century, many of the vineyards were abandoned when the local owners found themselves unable to compete with the high production and low costs of larger commercial wineries elsewhere in Europe. In 1973, Italy’s president bestowed Cinque Terre with a Document of Controlled Origin (D.O.C.), marking it as a valuable national landscape, but his gesture did not reverse the trend of desertion.
How We Helped
At the turn of the twenty-first century, only a small section of Cinque Terre was still being used for agricultural production and the populations of the surrounding towns were shrinking. Due to the increasing lack of maintenance, the stone buttresses that supported the terraces were collapsing and causing landslides toward the towns below. World Monuments Fund included Cinque Terre on the World Monuments Watch in 2000 and 2002 in order to draw attention to the impending loss of a vibrant and valuable cultural landscape. WMF strongly believed that the solution to this problem would depend on involving the local communities and making the terraces economically viable again. WMF secured a grant to finance a study for the planning and conservation of the terraced land of Cinque Terre, which included architectural surveys and documentation, materials analysis, training of local researchers, and strategic planning for development and sustainable tourism. This study was completed in 2004 and was a crucial tool in the subsequent creation of a site management plan.
Why It Matters
Along the Mediterranean coast in northern Italy, the cultural landscape of Cinque Terre provides a powerful example of the way that humans can alter and shape their own environment. Liguria’s man-made terraces stretching between Genoa and Tuscany testify to the agricultural and engineering prowess of the medieval Italians. The wines produced from the terraced vineyards of this remarkable landscape have received international acclaim. In addition to its historical and cultural value, the landscape is simply beautiful, offering breathtaking views of the sea and a spectacular array of flora and fauna. Cinque Terre was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1997 as part of Portovenere, Cinque Terre, and Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto Islands.