The Cinque Terre is one of the most popular attractions in Italy, alongside the likes of Venice and the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
Cinque Terre is a national park in the region of Liguria in Italy, consisting of five little villages called Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. The coastal villages are often adorned in picture postcards of pastel-coloured painted houses that sit high atop a coastal cliff.
Boasting some of the most dramatic coastal scenery on the planet, these five fishing villages were declared a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1997. Prior to the 1990s few people even visited the area.
But, just like Venice and the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Cinque Terre is at threat from mass tourism. Although cars were banned in the Cinque Terre more than a decade ago, tourists still descend upon the area in their droves by bus, by train via a 19th century railway line, and even cruise ships.
That’s hundreds of people trying to get on the trains and walking down the main streets of these tiny villages, where only a few hundred locals live.
Fraught with political upheaval and controversy, and with tourism rising at an alarming rate, the future of the Parco Nazionale delle Cinque Terre – and the Cinque Terre itself – is uncertain.
In 2010, filmmakers and friends Sharon Boeckle and Krista Lee Weller travelled to the Cinque Terre to document the changes that were occurring in the area for their own produced documentary movie, Vendemmia.
The Cinque Terre has existed for centuries as an idyllic wine-making region and paradise. But in the late 1990s, with rising tourism and challenges to sustainable growth, its future appeared uncertain. In 1999, the Parco Nazionale delle Cinque Terre was established in an effort to save this dying world.
Vendemmia tells the story of the Cinque Terre through the eyes of those who work for the Parco Nazionale and its extraordinary residents – a young 32-year old winemaker, an eighty-year-old resident, a young shop owner – all of whom are fighting to preserve their culture amid swelling tourism and challenges to sustainable development.
Vendemmia co-director, Krista Lee Weller recalls: “For years Sharon Boeckle, had been telling me that I needed to travel to Italy with her, but after she returned from the Cinque Terre in the early 2000’s, she insisted that we plan a trip.
“The Cinque Terre’s culture was changing, she told me. Maybe even dying. The winemakers were aging and the kids were leaving, looking for futures elsewhere. The tourists – a relatively new phenomenon in this area – were changing the landscape in ways no one had ever anticipated. She wanted me to see it before it was gone.”
“We hope this film sheds light on the extraordinary challenges the residents of the Cinque Terre are faced with in preserving their culture and heritage in light of the millions of tourists who, despite their good intentions, take an enormous toll on this delicate landscape – and why the Cinque Terre’s story is such an important example to communities around the world who are striving to do the same.”
You can watch the full film, Vendemmia, at Culture Unplugged, an online film archive showcasing films that aim to promote global consciousness.
Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief @rosamedea