Cinque Terre National Park is a naturalistic oasis which preserved the features of an uncontaminated nature. The landscape, formed by rocks of different origin and age, is marked by a particular steepness and by the lack of plain stretches.
The coast, high and jagged, is linear, with a few inlets and promontories, dug by the sea in suggestive caves. There are a few sandy and pebbly beaches which are the result of the detritus of the watercourses, of landslides, or of accumulation of materials left by man.
Cinque Terre National Park is also the habitat for several faunistic species which find here the ideal conditions to live and reproduce.
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The meeting between man and nature led to an improvement of the territory of Cinque Terre National Park.
Since about one thousand years man shaped these harsh and overhanging mountains by developing cultivated areas in order to survive in places which were covered in the past by a thick wood mantle.
With the name Cinque Terre we mean the 15 km stretch of overhanging coast along the litoral of the eastern part of Liguria. The name Cinque Terre comes from the sea towns of Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore, which are situated at the same distance one from the other, clutched at the rock and hidden into narrow and steep valleys; the name of "terra" (earth) is here synonym of quarter in the medieval sense. Human activities contributed to create a unique landscape which is the expression of a culture deeply linked to the place it belongs to: a collective experience able to master the adversities of the natural environment to the needs of the population.
In about one thousand years of history man replaced the originary woods which covered the steep mountain slopes with the cultivation of vineyards in terraces, made possible through the shattering of the rock, the creation of dry-stone walls and of cultivable humus.
From the first century to the Low Middle Ages up to present days, the struggle between nature and man has been continuous and it has led to the shaping of the landscape by man through its reconstruction after every landslide caused by the rain: the good quality of the stones and the ability to build dry-stone walls guarantee a greater resistance to the falls.
Among the terraces there are very long and steep stairs built from the walls, places where to lean the materials carried on the shoulders, small canals at the side of the mule tracks.
The colossal work has been carried out thanks to the free initiative of more than one generation, and it has been handed down only through the will to make productive an area which otherwise was not possible to cultivate. The farmer of the Cinque Terre has not only been the producer of the precious wine for centuries, but above all he has been the cause of the hydrogeological stability of a landscape which has been recognized as world heritage.
The maintenance of the territory and the defense of its features are entrusted to the operations linked to the cultivation: degradation immediately follows the abandonment of the places by man.
The terracing has been carried out by the population of the Cinque Terre since the year 1000 with productive aims, and it has led to effects which overcame the originary aim, such as:
The recently changed economic and social balance influenced the territory because of the abandonment of the traditional cultivations which led to the safeguard of the area.
This process has become irreversible; the consequence will be the fast soil degradation leading to: