For such a romantic trail, known world wide, it may be surprising to learn that the Via dell’ Amore did not have such a romantic beginning….rather an explosive one!
The whole area of the Cinque Terre remained quite isolated until the construction of the road in 1875 and the railway line at the beginning of the 1900’s. Until then the villages were only accessible from the sea and between each other via the (now) hiking trails.
For the railway line Genoa- la Spezia a tunnel was needed between Riomaggiore and Manarola, explosive powder to mine it, and a safe storage area for the powder while construction took place. Hence two paths were built overlooking the sea for access and storage area, joining the two villages in less than 1 kilometre path. After the completion of the tunnel locals saw great value in maintaining the link, renovating it to make it easier to access and it became the major thoroughfare. As tourists came to appreciate the area and this path in particular for it’s romantic atmosphere, it was renamed the Via dell’ Amore.
Despite major funds being spent on the path, to widen it and place netting to secure it against rock slides, it has had major difficulties. The last accident was on the 23rd Sept 2012 when 4 Australian tourists were knocked off the path by rock falls and very lucky to survive. Two suffered severe injuries with broken bones and head injuries and one had to have her spleen removed.
Costs to repair, stabilise and monitor were estimated at € 2m and €300,000 to repair from Manarola up to the kiosk of which €500,000 was funded from the Liguria region and the rest from the State railways. A further € 8 – 12m is required to complete the repair work and monitor up to Riomaggiore, and it seems likely that the rest of the trail will remain closed for some years.
It’s very disheartening, as it is a wonderful path hugging the coastline, with gorgeous views, clear blue seas below and very romantic! I don’t know how many times I have walked along it since 1985, I only wish I had more photos to keep as memories until it reopens.
The territory of the Cinque Terre is a fragile one and as the years pass even more so with climatic changes and concerns about the mass tourism now overcrowding the villages and trails creating a further stress on resources.
But it’s still fabulous to me!