Meet the Cinque Terre

For years, I’ve gotten a kick out of this quintessentially Rick Steves line in our Italy guidebook: “If you think of the Cinque Terre as the Beatles, Corniglia is Ringo.”

The Cinque Terre is — as its name (“five lands”) implies — a string of five little villages on the Italian Riviera. But they’re more than just variations on a theme. Each one has its own strong personality — and the more you get to know them, the more different they seem.

Inspired by Rick’s throwaway joke, I have long pondered which Beatle each of the other Cinque Terre towns would be.  Here’s my take:

cameron-italy-monterosso

Monterosso = Paul

Glitzy and crowd-pleasing. A beach resort with something for everyone. But perhaps lacking some of the artsy romance of the others: More practical. Mainstream. “Safe.” And the most commercially viable on its own.

cameron-italy-vernazza-1

cameron-italy-vernazza-2

Vernazza = John

Probably the most poetic…and, perhaps, the most troubled. Has its peppy, fun-loving side and its brooding, soulful side. While people may have more easy enjoyment in Monterosso, at the end of the day, Vernazza is the one that really sticks with them.

cameron-italy-corniglia

Corniglia = Ringo

Small. Scruffy. A bit less pretty. And the only one not on the water. Let’s be honest: It’s really just a hill town. A perfectly nice hill town…but a hill town. Can it be a true Cinque Terre town without a real harbor? (Side note: A case could be made that Corniglia is actually Yoko. But I’m not buying it.)

cameron-italy-manarola

Manarola = George

Mellow. Under the radar. But, if you’re patient with it, it’s every bit as beautiful as the others…if not more so. It has real substance, and very little drama. (Side note: Manarola is secretly my favorite Cinque Terre town, but George is not necessarily my favorite Beatle. Very strange.)

cameron-italy-riomaggiore

Riomaggiore = ???

This one’s tricky, and not just because there were only four Beatles. Riomaggiore sits out on the edge of things, the closest thing to a “normal ” city (that happens to have a colorful Cinque Terre harbor). The real world looms just beyond — and in a sense, Riomaggiore is the bridge to gritty reality. It’s more concerned with business than fun. So, is Riomaggiore Pete Best? Stuart Sutcliffe? Yoko Ono? No, my vote is for superproducer George Martin, who shaped the Beatles’ sound more than some full-on members (ahem, Ringo) and served as a liaison between the Beatles’ talent and the music biz.

That’s my take. Yours may differ, based on your feelings about the Cinque Terre towns…and the Beatles. Feel free to weigh in with your choices in the comments. (And if you are one of those people who believes that Ringo is an underappreciated genius, and that Shining Time Station was a stealth masterpiece of postmodern media…I’ve already had that conversation, and frankly, I don’t intend to have it again.)

4 Replies to “Meet the Cinque Terre”

  1. Love this post! I am big Rick Steves and Beatles fan so I appreciate your obscure references to Meet the Beatles, Pete Best, and Stuart Sutcliffe! My wife and I are going to Switzerland on a RS tour this July and can’t wait. We hope to go to Italy and the Cinque Terre on our next tour so your blog has increased the anticipation!

  2. The images of the villages are enough to peak my interest! How very unusual is the construction and layout of these communities! One day I hope to make my way there. Thank you for sharing your experience with us!

  3. That looks like a beautiful village built on and around a mountain side. At the right time of day, the colors must standout beautifully.

  4. Hi Cameron,

    We are ready for another season with your blog! Thanks for the photos of the cinque terre. I especially like the angles since I don’t remember them from Rick’s videos and they are ‘fresh’ as well as being informative. I, too, was thinking (Sir)’George Martin’ for Riomaggiore. I remain delighted that these towns were able to come back from the disaster of a few years ago.

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