Cinque Terre, Italy, is a seaside mountainous area of Italy on the boot’s upper west side, south of Genoa and north of Rome. I recently went there to discover the villages (officially five), the landscape, the sea, and wine. I went in search of inspiration and new writing ideas to take a break from the business end of creative writing, and I was not disappointed.
Riomaggiore. Note the foamy waters from the rough seas – and this is in the enclosed harbour! (Photo: Liam Dooley)
I did not know at the time that the Cinque Terre made its own wine – a good mix of reds and whites. They are not like my preferred Bourgogne, which use pinot noir almost exclusively, but use a local Italian grape. The wines have a heavier, new taste compared to Bordeaux, yet are much less fruity than Bourgogne.
One fine bottle of wine I drank was in La Spezia – the nearest city to the Cinque Terre with a good number of affordable – and available – hotels. This Ombra bottle was served at an outdoor terrace on the main city square. La Spezia itself is an unremarkable city, but practical to go to the Cinque Terre by train or boat.
Ombra Cinque Terre wine. (Photo: Liam H Dooley)
Here are some more red wines from the area – these on sale at the Cinque Terre tourism office of La Spezia Central Station (or La Spezia Centrale).
In a paragraph or so, what is Cinque Terre like? It’s composed older looking villages with colorful trim and shudders, sometimes bright facades – though shades of cream are the predominate palette – built into the mountains that rise steeply from the sea. The buildings and their vineyards are terraced, some of both rising from sea level up to over a hundred meters in a short distance where stairs sometimes reminiscent of Frodo and Sam’s ascent into Mordor become much more efficient than roads. During my visit the seas were so rough that boats could not run between the villages, and not without reason. The waves crashed into the dock areas and along the rocks, thundering and foaming beneath these beautiful villages. Each village had its disproportionate share of restaurants and cafes, as well as scenic overlooks, churches, and in some case forts. I’d like to say that in my travels I’ve seen some of everything, but the Cinque Terre was truly a remarkable and unique site.
Vernazza, Cinque Terre. (Photo: Liam H Dooley)
The next question is…was it inspiring? The quick answer is…. Yes!
How so? Well, with the steep mountains lush with green trees, bushes, and grape vines; with colored, Renaissance buildings pressed between water and rock; with the smell of deep fried sardines mixing with sea salt: how could one not be inspired? A dozen stories could leap to my mind: an alien invasion from the sea, a shipwreck in the age of the Barbary pirates, a crime thriller, a World War Two adventure, or yes… even a backpacking adventure! But time will tell what I come up with, if anything. But in the meantime, the wine will always be there.