The railway that today takes us to the villages and beaches of The Cinque Terre was a revolutionary construction project, that requested a refined technology for the time.
It is one of the most charming railway stretches in the world, the one connecting the five villages of the Cinque Terre. The villages used to be almost completely isolated until the end of the 19th century, despite the linear distance proximity. Today they are crossed by the railway which became almost a part of the landscape, from the trains it feels you could knock at the doors of the picturesque houses. The stations are so small that today’s trains often end up in the galleries when they stop to let people get off.
When you arrive in Riomaggiore from La Spezia through the first gallery you often hear a “oohhh” of surprise from people who see the view fro the first time. From the railway embedded in the coast you get possibly the most beautiful views of the Cinque Terre.
The project for a railway in the Cinque Terre was part of the one to connect the Ligurian city of Ventimiglia with Massa in Tuscany – and thus with the rest of the existing railways in central Italy – was decided with a special Royal Law of 27 October 1860 but its implementation, because of the rugged Ligurian coast, turned out to be much more difficult and costly for the period.
The Cinque Terre railway was the section that presented the greatest difficulties of the project. The railroad ran (and partly still does) for long stretches in contact with the sea and had to follow the twists and turns of the coast to minimize the number and length of the galleries. Between Riomaggiore and Monterosso 23 bridges with a total length of nearly one kilometer were built, and 51 tunnels were drilled covering over 28 km of the total 44 km line.
The inclement winter weather of 1872 created problems due to landslides and violent storms, which required to realize variations during the construction. Also, being long stretches of the coast inaccessible from land, transporting of construction materials by sea had to be organized.
Finally in July 22, 1874 the Cinque Terre railway line was activated
Obviously, because of penalizing orographic conditions of the territory and the realization difficulties encountered, the line had been built across a single track; doubling was completed only in early 70ies with the opening of the last section between Framura and Monterosso, stretch that included the new stations of Levanto and Bonassola.
Some stretches of the very first railway are today cycling and pedestrian tunnels. One of them is the beautiful one connecting Levanto with Framura.