UNESCO World Heritage Site is a landmark which recognizes areas that the European Union identifies as important to humanity. I can see how Cinque Terre is one of these landmarks! Cinque Terre consists of five towns. From furthest north to south the towns are Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. Originally, the main source of income was from selling fish, olives and figs. These are still profitable, however; the area is most known for its beautiful tourist destinations with incredible beaches, hiking trails, restaurants, and shops.
Yesterday, I hiked from the small, 11th century fishing town of Vernazza to Corniglia. From Vernazza, the trail known as Sentiero Azzurro leads directly up the terrace covered mountains and overlooks the sea. With such close proximity to the salty Mediterranean and the number of visitors that hike the trails each year, I imagined I would see drier, deader plants with less variety. However, I saw beautiful, blossoming cacti, cypress trees, cherry trees, lemon trees, olive trees, lavender, thyme, and many colorful wildflowers such as: poppies, geraniums, and star jasmine. The land is protected by the Parco Nazionale delle Cinque Terre to preserve the landscape which I feel is so important. Not only from an ecological standpoint, but in order to allow more visitors to come and appreciate the breathtaking views.
As foreign as the area was to me, I could not help but notice how similar the cacti were to the Texas Prickly Pear. The Texas Prickly Pear is the state plant of Texas and can be found all over Texas and in parts of New Mexico and Louisiana. It was interesting to compare Texas landscapes with Cinque Terre because most cacti I have seen are in more rugged, desert-like areas while Cinque Terre was the opposite with high plant diversity and lush, green trees. Not to mention the plant life overlooks a vast ocean which just seems so different than the cacti placement I have seen in the states. I cannot wait to return home and compare more plants from Italy with what I have seen in the United States and learn how plants vary in different environments.
-MadSwag (maddy stripling)