Italy: Cinque Terre

On Italy’s western Mediterranean coast — way up north on the front and top of the “boot” – is an area called the Cinque Terre (“five lands”).  It’s a series of five colorful little villages that have been hanging on the cliffs and hillsides just above the water for a thousand years.

A 2011 flood damaged a few of the towns and the trails and vineyards between them, so I explored only Riomaggiore and Manarola.  There aren’t really roads in the towns (they were built pre-automobile, of course; I parked a mile away and walked in).  The old passageways within the towns are narrow:  one writeup said they were purposely maze-like to thwart pirates who would try to land and pillage the towns.  Hopefully, the piracy rate has dropped in recent years.

Easily the nicest accessible view was a hillside overlooking Manarola and its tiny harbor.  The late afternoon light was okay, but I could tell it would get prettier and prettier as the sun set.  So I just hung out in Manarola:  had some lasagna, climbed up and down, watched the swimmers and window-shopped — taking another picture or 20 every hour or so til it got dark.  You can see from the series of pictures how the light (and thus the pictures) changed.


I did take a few shots of other things in the towns.  The wide shot in the group below is Riomaggiore, which is just a mile or two away.


A final note for photographers:  All these shots were with the Nikon D800 and the 24-120 f4 Nikkor lens.  The second- and third-to-last (after-sunset) pictures above were taken with ISO 1600, hand-held at 1/4 or 1/5 second.  The great color and noise-free images at 1600 are a tribute to the D800 sensor, but I was more shocked and impressed by the performance of the “VR” technology in the lens that allowed me to handhold 1/4 second and still get perfectly-sharp pictures (which was handy, because my tripod was approximately 5,000 miles away).  The final picture is at ISO 3200.   I did have a railing to stabilize my elbows.  As I often say, for those of us who attempted photography 30 years ago, modern cameras are indistinguishable from magic.