The legends of the Cinque Terre
The Cinque Terre are also a land of folk tales and legends, handed down by grandparents and still remembered today. Here are some:
The bells of Volastra
At the time of the Saracen raids, the bulk of the inhabitants took shelter on the heights at Volastra, or as it was called in ancient times, Oleastra.
When the pirates arrived on the coast, the inhabitants decided to hide the church bells to prevent the glitter of the metal from attracting them and they hid them. But this trick didn't work and the Saracens arrived. Finding nothing of value, they devastated Volastra by razing it to the ground.
Many years later, a strange old man arrived in the village with an oriental cadence. He said he was one of the survivors of the Saracen raid and that he wanted to find the treasure of the bells. He made arrangements with the inhabitants for the next day, but that very night he died without revealing the location of the bells. According to some, their chimes can still be heard on stormy nights.
The people of Riomaggiore steal the moon
The grandparents of Riomaggiore tell that many and many years ago, the inhabitants of the village tried to steal the moon. They piled up all the barrels where they let the precious Cinque Terre wine rest, making it a new tower of Babel. It was really high, rising above the clouds, but the moon was even higher. Maybe one barrel was missing to get to touch it, but they were all gone. So why not remove the first one and bring it up? The men would have supported the long snake. But alas, once removed, the tower collapsed like a house of cards and the inhabitants of Riomaggiore gave up on the enterprise.
The relics of Santa Margherita
Dedicated to Santa Margherita di Antiochia, the church is located right on the sea, but why so close? According to tradition, several years ago a wooden box with the bones of a finger from the hand of Santa Margherita d'Antiochia ran aground on the coast of Vernazza. The inhabitants of Vernazza interpreted this fact by deciding to build a church for the Saint where the district known as the Isolotto is located today.
But a second storm made the relic disappear, then found in the same spot where it was discovered the first time. The people then respected the signal of Santa Margherita and built her church where it is today.
The sanctuary of Soviore
Above Monterosso is the oldest Marian sanctuary in Liguria. Legend has it that the ancient town of Albereto existed nearby, invaded by the Longobards in 641 and from which the inhabitants then descended towards the sea, founding Monterosso.
Before abandoning it completely, some survivors buried under a large stone a wooden sculpture depicting the Madonna holding the body of Jesus taken down from the Cross in her arms. In 740 the sculpture was found but immediately disappeared, reappearing higher up above a chestnut tree.
The first chapel was founded there, which later gave rise to the sanctuary of Our Lady of Soviore.
The prankster rock
In Manarola, when the village was still divided in two by the stream, during a flood, a large boulder was dragged downstream. Above the inhabitants found the following words written: "blessed is he who will turn me around".
After many efforts, the strongest men managed to turn the boulder, and on the other side they found the writing: "Blessed are those who turned me because I couldn't stand being on this side anymore"...
The foundation of Riomaggiore
According to tradition, the first inhabitants of Riomaggiore were some Greek refugees who in the 8th century AD, fleeing the persecutions of Emperor Leo III the Isaurian, arrived at the tip of Montenero founding small villages: Cacinagora, Sericò, Montenero, Lemmen and Casale.
Noah's Ark in Vernazza
It is said in Vernazza that Noah's Ark passed in front of the village and was shipwrecked. The only surviving animal was a female gorilla, who was frightened and sought refuge in one of the ravines on the coast. She found shelter in a cave, the "Grotta della Maimuna". She ate fish or the remains of the dead from the cemetery, which she reached by going up a tunnel.
Some say it wasn't exactly the ark, but a vessel carrying African animals to the Marseille zoo. The fact is that Maimuna's laments can still be heard today on days of bad weather, when the sea roars against the coast.
Another version of the legend speaks of a girl from Vernazza, precisely called Maimuna, who, fleeing from Saracen pirates, hid in a cave, but never found her exit again. Since then the Maimuna has been trying to catch the sailors passing by, complaining sadly on stormy nights.