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:
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.
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.
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.)
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.)
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.)