This picture is of the slopes surrounding the town of Manarola. The hills are home to a terraced vineyard. We hiked through this vineyard as we made our way from Manarola to Riomaggiore. Because of the steep slope of the hill, the vineyard would not be able to exist without the use of terracing. The terracing of the hills mitigates runoff and soil erosion and makes the vineyard more accessible to workers. Terraces can be found throughout Italy due to the hilly terrain that is so prevalent in this country.
Although terracing facilitates agriculture on steeply graded land, it is not without its challenges. One such challenge is irrigation. Note the black tube in the far right of the picture. This appeared to be a part of an irrigation system for the vineyard. The tube ran all the way up to the top of the hill (about a 30 minute hike). This system was certainly difficult to install, and its maintenance is made less convenient by the precarious slope on which it is situated. And, depending on the local water pressure, mechanical work might need to be added to cause the water to reach the top of the slope.
Another challenge that comes with terraced agriculture is the lack of automation. Terracing precludes machinery from being used to harvest. Instead, fruits must be harvested by hand. Manual harvesting is less efficient and, in the case of olives, more dangerous than harvesting with machinery. Terracing is not without its drawbacks, but it makes agriculture possible in areas that would not yield crops without it.