The five seaside towns that make up the Cinque Terre used to only be accessible on foot or by sea. The towns are built into beautiful, almost sheer mountainsides that rise steep above the sea for 700-800m. Nature and the patient work of man over the centuries have combined to create a beautiful ecosystem of terraced hills over the sea.
The Cinque Terre of Riviera di Levante are a Unesco world heritage site and have parks both on the land and underwater. On land you’ll find typical Mediterranean shrubs like euphorbia, samphire, myrtle, mastic trees, cistus and heather. Taller trees are Mediterranean oak that you’ll see alongside olive groves and other crops, umbrella pines and Aleppo pines. In some areas you’ll find chestnut and cork trees. The steep cliffs over the water and the sandy beaches beneath them make this Marine Protected Area especially rich and diversified.
Beneath Punta Mesco’s rocky cliffs there is a series of underwater terraces that go to 60m depth. The first few meters of these terraces are covered with photophilic algae; at 15-20m you’ll start to find rare species like violescent sea-whip (Leptogorgia sarmentosa, Eunicella verrucosa, Paramuricea clavata), yellow cluster anemones (Parazoanthus axinellae) and rare false black coral (Gerardia savaglia).
Near the small sandy beaches you can find rare fan mussels (Pinna nobilis). Meadows of Posidonia oceanica grow along the shallow terraces up to the Fegina beach, while around Corniglia there is a small meadow of Cymodocea nodosa.
In the waters of the Marine Protected Area there are lots of fish species like colourful
ornate wrasse (Thalassoma pavo), groupers, thrush fish, drum fish, croaker fish, Mediterranean perch, red fish, mullet, red conger fish, moray eels, octopus and spiny lobsters.
The best places to go diving are “Il Panettone”, along the inlets around Punta di Montenero, “La via dell’Amore” in the waters off Batteria Racchia near Capo di Monte Negro and “La
franata di Corniglia” just outside the Marina di Corniglia. Nearby Monterosso there is an underwater route expressly created for the handicapped.
The Marine Area Protected
The Marine Protected Area was created in 1997 and covers 4.591 hectares, of which 104 are a zone A integral reserve. The Cinque Terre Marine Protected Area runs from the Riviera Ligure di Levante, to Punta Mesco and the promontory south of Seno di Canneto in the province of La Spezia.
The coastline is dotted with beaches and cliffs: Punta Corona is followed by Monterosso, the Punta Mesco promontory, the Guvano beach and the pebbly beach that’s over 1km long at
Corniglia, the high Capo Monte Negro promontory and finally the beaches and cliffs at
Tramonti, between Portovenere and Riomaggiore.
The zone A integral reserves and zone B general reserves are signalled with yellow buoys with signal lights and topmarks on shore. There are CCTV cameras monitoring the areas both above and below the water in the Marine Protected Area and they are monitored through the TV channel and the website run by the Parco delle Cinque Terre.
The Marine Protected Area has a mooring area for recreational boaters and there are special telematics buoys.
The Marine Protected Area’s mission is being updated and there will be new rules in place shortly.
Ente Parco Nazionale delle Cinque Terre
via Telemaco Signorini, 118
19017 Riomaggiore (SP)
Centro visite Riomaggiore 0187/920633
Centro visite Manarola 0187/760511
Centro visite Corniglia 0187/812523
Centro visite Vernazza 0187/812533
Centro visite Monterosso 0187/817059
Capitaneria di Porto di La Spezia
tel. 0187/778015 – 0187/258101
numero verde 899.100.001
The town of Levanto, located in the green hills of the Ligurian Appenines, is at the western end of the Marine Protected Area. You may stop there only for the time that you declare and if the weather is taking a turn for the worse it’s a good idea to set off for Lavagna, to the west, or for the La Spezia gulf to the east. Both are about 15nm away.
Entering the bay you have to be careful of the Secca della Perla, a sandbar covered by just 1m water, that is about 400m off the northern coast. The best place to drop anchor is in the northern part of the bay, off the rocks that protect the fishing fleet. The seabed is rock and sand and holds well. The small port itself is always full and quite busy.
About 5nm away you’ll find Punta Mesco, a scuba diver’s paradise, that is in a zone A integral reserve. Nearby you’ll find the Monterosso bay. The two small ports there are just 2m deep at most and are mostly filled with small, locally owned boats. The Ponente port is private. The entry to the port faces southeast and doesn’t have lighted buoys. The eastern port is just a small dock with a large square tower above it protected by a rocky outcrop that runs from east to west in front of the beach. Between Monterosso and Riomaggiore you’ll find the lovely village of Vernazza; you can spot its tall bell tower from the water. The small port there is formed by a breakwater that runs from north to northwest and by a dock. Both are exposed to winds from the south-southwest and north-northwest. There are about 100 berths there.
The northern side of the port has low waters and sandbars so it’s important to stay close to the breakwater and be very careful when manoeuvring. The water goes from 1 to 4m deep. On the outer part of the pier you can dock bow-to and the water is 2m deep. There is a crane, a travel lift and a launching slip.
Riomaggiore is at the base of a narrow valley and is the southernmost part of the Marine Protected Area. You may not sail or drop anchor at Possaitara or east of Cala Monte Negro from 320 to 100m from the shore because of risk of falling rocks and landslides. In bad weather you can take cover in lovely Portovenere, or in the nearby and fully equipped Porto Lotti in the La Spezia Gulf.