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  • Italy’s Riviera: Cinque Terre

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    Watch at: 00:00 / 00:00:20Hi, I'm Rick Steves, back with more of the best of Europe.This time, we're rebuilding medieval terraceshere on the most beautiful stretchof the Mediterranean coastline,Italy's Cinque Terre.Watch at: 00:20 / 00:40The Cinque Terre is five little towns like this,Watch at: 00:40 / 01:00beautifully isolated in the most seductive stretchof the Italian Riviera.For me, the best bits of Italy are traffic-free,and in this unique mix of Italian culture and nature,there's not a Fiat in sight.Watch at: 01:00 / 01:20We'll explore five rugged, little port towns,ride a wine train high into the vineyards,make pesto in its birthplace,dive from spectacular cliffs...Whoo!Buy flowers from a singing florist...[Singing in Italian]And hike, soaking up more sun and sceneryWatch at: 01:20 / 01:40than you can imagine.In the south of Europe is Italy,and between Florence and Genoa lies the Cinque Terre.We'll see all five towns,starting in Vernazza.Then we hike to Corniglia,Manarola, and Riomaggiorebefore catching the boatWatch at: 01:40 / 02:00to Monterosso al Mare.The Cinque Terre, which means "Five Lands,"was originally described in medieval timesas "the five castles."Tiny communities like this grew upin the protective shadows of their castles,their people ready to run for refugeat the first hint of a Turkish pirate raid.As the threat of pirates faded, the communities grew,Watch at: 02:00 / 02:20with economies based on fish, olives, and grapes.Today, the big employer is tourism.Each rugged little town is a variation on the same theme --a well-whittled pastel jumble of homes filling its ravine.Watch at: 02:20 / 02:40These days, the castles,which used to protect the towns from marauding pirates,guard only glorious views.This 10-kilometer stretch of the Italian Rivierais the rugged alternativeto the more glitzy Riviera resorts nearby.The traffic-free charmis a happy result of its natural isolation.Watch at: 02:40 / 03:00Just sun, sea, sand -- well, pebbles -- and people.For me, this is Italy at its most relaxed.For a home base, choose among the five villages.Each has a distinct personality,gently and steadily carving a good lifeout of the difficult terrain.Watch at: 03:00 / 03:20You approach the Cinque Terre by trainthrough long, dark tunnels.Explosions of Mediterranean brightnesshint at the wonders to come.Milk-run trains tie the villages to each otherand to the outside world.The first train line cutting throughthis tough, mountainous coastlinewas an engineering marvel for its day.Watch at: 03:20 / 03:40It was carved out of these mountainsjust after the unification of Italy back in the 1870s.Built with the same determined spirit that united Italy,this train line literally helped tie togetherthe newborn country's diverse regions.Watch at: 03:40 / 04:00We start in Vernazza, where the big newsis the hourly arrival of the train,bringing an almost rhythmic surge of visitors into town.There's one main street.It runs from its train stationdown to the sea.Of the five towns,Vernazza has the closest thing to a natural harbor.Watch at: 04:00 / 04:20The old castle no longer says "stay away."Instead, it seems to welcome people-packed excursion boats.Settle into a comfy spot on the breakwater.Study the arrangement man and nature have carved out hereover the last 15 centuries.Crumpled hills come with topographical lines,Watch at: 04:20 / 04:40a terraced, green bouquetof cactus, grapevines, and olive treesblanketing the surrounding hills.Each town is honeycombed with a range of roomsapartments, and small hotels.Rentable private rooms, called "camere",Watch at: 04:40 / 05:00are the best values throughout the Cinque Terre.This gang rented a place with a homey living roomand a small but fully equipped kitchen.This couple chose a perch right above the piazza.[Bell ringing]The adjacent church bells chime through the day,but thanks to an agreeable town priest,Watch at: 05:00 / 05:20they're silent through the night.In Vernazza, the action is at the harbor,where you'll finda kids' beach, plenty of sunning rocks,and a wealth of cafes and restaurants.Like a breakwater keeps outthe waves at the bottom of town,a gate stops traffic at the top.No cars enter this village of 600 residents,Watch at: 05:20 / 05:40except early on Tuesdays when trucks and vans roll infor the weekly tailgate-party street market.While most tourists are still in their rooms,villagers, some who've never set foot in a modern mall,do their shopping.The mobile market serves a different town each day.Watch at: 05:40 / 06:00The flower stand is a family affair.For 20 years of Tuesdays,the Lombardo family has set up right here.And the son, Eros, florist by day and opera singer by night,sells flowers with a dramatic flair.[Singing in Italian]Watch at: 06:00 / 06:20[Applause]Watch at: 06:20 / 06:40The people of these towns are proud of their heritage.They brag that, while big-time Riviera resorts nearby sold out,the Cinque Terre is still locally owned.The families remain tight, and they go back centuries.Until the coming of the train and tourism,Watch at: 06:40 / 07:00these towns were very remoteand heavily dependent upon the sea.Even today, traditions survive,While nothing like past generations,small-scale fishermen still earn their livingworking their nets while the tourists play.Watch at: 07:00 / 07:20And each day, restaurateurs count on these mento keep their diners smacking their lips.And each of the five villages actually retainsa distinct dialect.Every village have a different dialect.What's an example?Example, for talk about "married,"in Vernazza is "sposato."Watch at: 07:20 / 07:40"Sposato."And if you're married in Riomaggiore?"Accompagnato."Very different.So when you hear somebody, you know what village they live in.Yes, sure.From the main street, you can pop into a series of narrow-stepped lanes, called "carrugi".These zigzag every which way.Watch at: 07:40 / 08:00In the densest parts of town,these lanes became interior passages.If you keep climbing, eventually,you'll pop out up at the top near the castle,handy for fleeing attacks.The castle is nicknamed Belforte,"the place of loud screams," for the warnings shoutedWatch at: 08:00 / 08:20from its tower back in pirating days,A tower has stood guard here for a thousand years.Visitors climb to the top for the viewand to imagine past raids.Watch at: 08:20 / 08:40Today, the castle functions as a tourist lookout,a perch from which local daredevils dive...[Cheering]And a restaurant.And the fort's lowest deck is perfectfor a romantic meal.For a sweet dessert wine, sip the local "Sciacchetrà".Watch at: 08:40 / 09:00It's served with biscotti, ideal for dunking.Savor the view and the unforgettable setting.But this submarine-strength doorhints that the weather's not always so calm.Mammoth waves can slam into this wall.Watch at: 09:00 / 09:20And as photos inside attest,winter storms can engulf the entire tower in waves.Life here is subject to the dictates of the weather,and the people of the Cinque Terreknow the weather by the wind.-"Bellissima giornata. " -Una bellissima giornata.It is nice.Yes, but I think that the weather will be changed.Watch at: 09:20 / 09:40Yeah, why?Because we have now a wind from Syria, called "scirocco".Normally, the seas will be too rough.Then, after "scirocco", we have a wind from Libya,called "libeccio".And that storm come in from the sea.-So, from Libya, "libeccio". -Yes.-From Syria... -"Scirocco".STEVES:"Scirocco". Bad news.Watch at: 09:40 / 10:00Yes, yes.And, normally, we have, after "libeccio",the wind from the north, called "tramontana".STEVES:"Tramontana".This wind coming down from the north and cleaning the sky.You'd be, again, "una bellissima giornata."-Good for the tourists. -Yes, for us.Watch at: 10:00 / 10:20So if you know the wind...In Cinque Terre, if you know the wind,you don't need the weatherman.But the weatherman was no helpwhen a freak rainstorm hit the region in October, 2011.Like many towns built in a ravine,Vernazza paved over the stream that once divided the townin order to build this people-friendly main drag.The city was buried in an angry torrent of mud 10 feet deep.Watch at: 10:20 / 10:40With the steep hillside serving as a giant funnel,the flash flood overwhelmed the tunnelcontaining the town's stream.While every street-level business in town was destroyed,the townsfolk have rebuiltand are careful to keep their expanded drainage system readyWatch at: 10:40 / 11:00for the next episode of violent weather.Vernazza has recovered,and its main square has some of the region'sfinest restaurants.And we're settling down for the classic dishes of the region --pasta with pesto and anchovies.MAN: "Gnocchi con pesto".Watch at: 11:00 / 11:20The pesto is a local sauce, it's come from Liguria,the region where we are now.When you come here, you must try pesto.Basil, which loves this temperate Ligurian climate,awaits its fate in the mortar.Fresh garlic, sea salt,and toasted pine nuts get mashed into a fine paste first.Watch at: 11:20 / 11:40Then the basil is added.Gradually, the chef works it allinto a rich, green sauce.Like so many Italian dishes,virgin olive oil is mixed in.The pesto is finished with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.Watch at: 11:40 / 12:00And then it's poured over the pasta.Tonight, we're enjoying it on gnocchi.[Laughs]The most typical main course here -- fish."Acciughe", or anchovies, are a regional specialty,served the day they're caught.If you've always hated anchovies --Watch at: 12:00 / 12:20the harsh, cured-in-salt American kind --try them here,fresh and cooked in a variety of ways.-"Acciughe". "Grazie". -Enjoy.From each town stretches steep terraced hills.The ingenious monorail wine train, called a "trenino",Watch at: 12:20 / 12:40carries workers high above the villageswhere small family vineyards are tended with knowing care.The Cinque Terre takes pride in its white wine.Traditional farming techniques are complementedwith modern know-how,as the delicate vines are preppedin anticipation of a hot growing season.Watch at: 12:40 / 13:00Historically, each family has its own small vineyard.With the lure of the modern world,it's not easy to keepthese labor-intensive traditions alive,but those who appreciate the heritage of their landseem determined to keep things going.These hillsides have been terraced for centuries.Someone,Watch at: 13:00 / 13:20perhaps after drinking a bit too much of the local wine,calculated that the Cinque Terrehas over 4,000 miles of dry stone walls,Built without mortar,they require regular maintenance.The dry stone masons of the Cinque Terreare famed for their skill at artfully buildingand preserving the trails and terraces.Watch at: 13:20 / 13:40And the craft survives to this day,with skilled artisans like Giuliano Basso.[Bell ringing distantly]All five villages are connected by scenic trails,Watch at: 13:40 / 14:00much enjoyed by visitors.From Vernazza, the trail leads dramaticallyalong the coast and through the vineyards.One of the essential Cinque Terre experiencesis to get out and hike.The trails are rough but manageable.Sure, there are plenty of ups and downs,but with these views, it's well worth it.Watch at: 14:00 / 14:20The village of Corniglia, perched on a ridge,sparkles in the distance.Corniglia, the one town not on the water,feels more remote than its sisters.With a church overlooking its intimate main square,A couple of restaurants,Watch at: 14:20 / 14:40and a handful of private rooms for rent,it has a relaxing vibe.Since Roman times,Corniglia has been noted for its wine-making.To this day, many families still makea little wine in their cellar,and if you manage to get invited in,you'll enjoy an education and, of course, a taste.Watch at: 14:40 / 15:00"-Quanti litri qui? -Cinquantaquattro."54 liters, that's a lot."Vino della Cinque Terre.""No, vino della Corniglia.""-Corniglia o Cinque Terre. " -That's better. [Laughs][Speaking Italian]STEVES: At the windy end of town is a belvedere,a breathtaking lookout perched high above the sea.Watch at: 15:00 / 15:20From here, you can scout the rest of your trekand see your next stop,Manarola.There's one main path, so you won't get lost.Trails can be congested.Minimize crowds and heatby hiking early or late.As the area is a national park,you'll pay a nominal admission feeWatch at: 15:20 / 15:40and enjoy better-maintained trailsand a more pristine countryside.Whether strolling through shady olive groves,enjoying wide-open vistas,or pausing for a little sunbathingon your own private rock,the hike is a delight.Watch at: 15:40 / 16:00Manarola is petite and picturesque,a tumble of buildings filling its ravineabove a craggy port.The tiny harbor, with its modern breakwater,does double duty,serving both fishermen and fun seekers.Whoo!Cliff-diving for beginners is popular here.Watch at: 16:00 / 16:19In the Cinque Terre, everyone enjoys great views,and that includes the dead.I'm joining my friend Monica on one of her visitsto the cemetery perched high above her town.Ever since Napoleon,who crowned himself king of Italy in the early 1800s,declared cemeteries are health risks,Watch at: 16:19 / 16:40people in these villageshave buried their loved ones outside the towns.The result --dramatically situated cemeteries high in the hills.With evocative photosand finely carved memorial reliefs,any are worth a visit.In cemeteries like these, some are buried in a graveyard,Watch at: 16:40 / 17:00while most are in niches called "loculi."The sanctuary is quietly busywith locals remembering lost loved ones.When you come to the cemetery, it's like visiting your family.MONICA: Yes, my family, my friends.I know everyone here.STEVES: So, do you have relatives here in this wall?Watch at: 17:00 / 17:20MONICA: Yes, here I have my grandparents.STEVES: Ah, Licardi.Armando.MONICA: My grandfather and my grandmother.STEVES: Each one is a little bit different.It has a personality.MONICA: Exactly.Every one, want the people, have something like before.And people are coming every month, every year?Watch at: 17:20 / 17:40-No, every week. -Every week.Every week, and it's not necessaryto cry when you are here.You are happy because you are togetherwith the people of your family, with your friends.Lina is the first bed and breakfast in Vernazza.She rent room, for the first time, to American people.Watch at: 17:40 / 18:00Here is an American boy.STEVES: Look at that, with his rolling suitcase.MONICA: Exactly, exactly.And Lina is waiting in the main road for someone arrive.Here I have Massimo grandparents.STEVES: This is your husband's grandparents.Exactly.They died, both, in one week.Within one week.Watch at: 18:00 / 18:20And here I have my cousin,Sauro.STEVES: Oh. The flood came and took him away.MONICA: Exactly.And they found Sauro in France.In France.Watch at: 18:20 / 18:40Manarola is connected to the next townby the Via Dell'amore, or "Walkway of Love."It's the easiest stretch of the hikeand a good place from which to savoryour own private piece of Mediterranean coastline.Enjoying this stroll, it's easy to understand whyso many artists and romantics are drawn to this region.Watch at: 18:40 / 19:00The next town hides just around the corner.Riomaggiore,while bigger than the towns we've seen so far,is another cozy collection of homes nestled in a valley.The tangle of pastel houses lean on each otheras if someone stole their crutches.Watch at: 19:00 / 19:20The colors of these villages are regulatedby a commissioner of good taste from the community government.For those hiking the trails,an ideal snack is a slice of focaccia.Focaccia originates here,in the region of Liguria.The baker stretches dough to fit the pan,Watch at: 19:20 / 19:40roughs it up with finger holes,adds a few simple ingredients, perhaps tomatoes and olives,drizzles olive oil,and splashes it with salty water,Hot out of the oven,the focaccia comes in several varietiesWatch at: 19:40 / 20:00and is a local favoritefor a quick snack to go."-Grazie. " -Grazie.-Ciao. -Bye.While you can hike or ride the train between towns,you can also catch the boat.If the weather's calm,hourly boats link the Cinque Terre towns.After a hike, it's fun to survey what you've explored.Watch at: 20:00 / 20:20There's Manarola.And Corniglia, safely on its hilltop.And from my boat, I can almost see our apartment in Vernazza.Last stop for this boat, the "numero cinque"of our Cinque Terre tour is Monterosso al Mare.Watch at: 20:20 / 20:40This is the most resorty town of the group.With cars, larger hotels, rentable umbrellas,and the best beach around.If you want the kind of beach scene that leaps to mindwhen you hear the word "Riviera,"you'll find it here.Warm water, colorful umbrellas,Watch at: 20:40 / 21:00plenty of bodies soaking up that Mediterranean sun,and an inviting promenade.Complimenting Monterosso's happy beach sceneis Restaurant Miky.And my son, Andy, is joining usfor the region's most elegant dining experience.While tourism has brought a new affluence here,Watch at: 21:00 / 21:20even high-end places are still family run.The father, Miky, runs the kitchenwith an impressive mix of artistry and precision.Meanwhile, the mother and daughterhelp wait tables and charm their guests.Miky's pasta is cooked with a unique twist,Watch at: 21:20 / 21:40capped with pizza doughand finished in a wood-fried oven.Sara is bringing us the house specialtiesand making sure we know what we're eating.-It's delicious. "-Buon appetito."When our pasta arrives and the crust is broken,Watch at: 21:40 / 22:00the steamy aroma heralds a taste treat to come.[Laughs]And to cap a great meal,chef Miky drops by as we're enjoyingour traditional "sciacchetrà" and biscotti."Complimenti. " Tutti delicioso.Watch at: 22:00 / 22:20From the beach resort half of Monterosso,a tunnel leads under the castle and into the old town.Here you'll find more restaurants,characteristic shops,and a world of colorful lanes.Sure, it's touristy, and virtually every storefrontWatch at: 22:20 / 22:40caters to visitors' needs,but there's a low-key ambience where you're remindedthat we're all in this life together,so let's enjoy the moment.It's "aperitivo" time,and as everywhere in Italy right about now,families are out, kids and parents,children enlivening main squares.Watch at: 22:40 / 23:00One tradition that thrives oblivious to all the tourismis that special time when people are out, socializing,enjoying the cool of the early evening.Back in Vernazza,I'm enjoying the "passeggiata" with Irene.Watch at: 23:00 / 23:20-"Buonasera". -Ciao. Ciao, Maria, ciao.STEVES: A stroll here,especially with a local friend who knows everyone in town,gives a good insight into this close-knit Italian community,a community that I've been visitingsince all of us were a lot younger."Mi scusi!"Watch at: 23:20 / 23:40Ciao, Antonio.[Laughs] There's my friend.Does this bench have her name on it?-Uh, yes. -This is your bench.[Speaking Italian][Laughter]Italy's Cinque Terre is an irresistible mixof nature, culture, and human activity.Watch at: 23:40 / 24:00Well-worn locals, sunburned travelers,and inviting, family-friendly piazzas.Sure, the place is now well-discovered,but I have never seen happier, more laid-back tourists.While the Cinque Terre now enduresthe storms of the modern world,the region's charms are as endearingWatch at: 24:00 / 24:20as its people are resilient.[Bell ringing]And even today, when the church bells ring,the fishermen at seaand the grape pickers up in the hillslook back at their village,and they know Italy is still Italy.Thanks for joining us.I'm Rick Steves.Until next time, keep on travelin'.Watch at: 24:20 / 24:40"Ciao."If you know the wind...If you know the wind in Cinque Terre,you don't need a weatherman.[Laughing]Sorry. No.That's perfect! No, it's great!CAMERAMAN: All right, I'm rolling.STEVES: ♪ I'm going where the water tastes like wine ♪Watch at: 24:40 / 25:00♪ Stay drunk all the time ♪In Cinque Terre, you don't need a weatherman.[Laughing]