Riomaggiore by Michael Doyle

Regenerating My Creative Juices In Cinque Terre

Who knew that indulging in a hiking trip through the Ligurian coastal area of Cinque Terre could re-awaken your semi-dormant creative juices?

I’m sure most of us have heard the term “Writers Block”. An author, journalist or blogger has a deadline coming up. They’re sitting in front of their word processor and a blank screen is staring back at them. No words are coming to mind. Stuck.

Well, over the years I’ve gotten the occasional “Artist’s Block”. I feel I should be painting something, anything, but nothing is inspiring me. No spark. In the past, I had many things to inspire me, especially being surrounded by some incredible urban and rural scenery.

Rome Italy
View of Rome, Italy from the Tiber River

Remembering the visual delights of Italy

As a kid, I spent a lot of time in Rome, Italy right up until my graduation from high school. I knew central Rome, pretty well inside out. My interest in working as an artist in some capacity was sparked by what the city had to offer.

Sculptures and paintings wherever you turn! I started drawing in earnest, inspired by my surroundings. But my conversations with art students I’d met pushed me over the edge. Viewing their artwork inspired mine. I loved what the Rome had to offer. Eventually, however, I moved away to start art college in Canada.

Travels to Italy still happened for a while, but eventually, I spent most of my time in Canada. I did, however, make the occasional foray into Southern Africa and areas of North America.

Returning to creativity

Europe remained elusive for years until I put my foot down and decided it was time for an encore visit to Italy. Having researched unique places to explore, particularly with the help of Rick Steves’ guide books and videos, my wife Gail and I decided one of the locations had to be Cinque Terre in the Liguria region of Italy.

This portion of the Italian Riviera is composed of the villages of Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare.

These villages seemed carved out of the Italian Riviera coast, with buildings stacked on top of buildings with a flotilla of fishing boats anchored at the villages’ waterfront.

I also needed to re-inspire myself with my art and the best way in my mind seemed to be travel. Strangely enough, as an artistic dabbler, I would go long stretches without creating any artwork at all.

I would get busy with my regular work as a graphic designer/art director and not create any art for art’s sake. Design work can be fulfilling, but sometimes you need a little more of your own personality infused in a project. Let’s do this!

Cinque Terre along the Ligurian Coast
Cinque Terre along the Ligurian Coast

Cinque Terre’s “Sentiero Azzuro”

I like sunny climes and I love the outdoors. Cinque Terre virtually forces you to be outside in the sun. All 5 villages are connected by the “Sentiero Azzurro” (the azure trail, or blue path). This mostly rugged narrow path winds among the villages amidst  the terraced grape vines and olive trees.

Because the landscape is so different from the Atlantic Canadian coastal area where I currently reside – the different sights, sounds, smells – inspiration is enhanced to paint what you are newly experiencing.

Viewing the towns hanging from cliffs was awe inspiring. Buildings seemingly are growing out of the roof of another. Narrow winding walkways between buildings offer up surprises at every turn.

Inspiring Views of Cinque Terre

We stayed at L’Eremo sul Mare, a B&B and former monastery, right on the Blue Path that connects the five towns. Just outside and above Vernazza, we had a commanding view of the Italian Riviera coastline, surrounded by vineyards, olive groves and cacti.

Cacti in Cinque Terre
Cacti in Cinque Terre

As incredible as the view from the Blue Path is, a daily shuttle boat connecting the five towns shows Cinque Terre as a whole. This offers an alternate perspective that lets you take in the vistas and buildings in an all-new light. This is the view the marauding Turks had during the 16th century, as they attempted to loot the various towns.

Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre
Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre

Seeing the various villages from the sea inspired me to paint the town of Riomaggiore. It was like this town in Cinque Terre was designed with stadium seating. Every building and inhabitant has an uninterrupted view of daily drama unfolding at sea and in the adjacent harbour.

The from-the-sea viewpoint let me re-interpret a familiar scene or activity in a totally new light and awaken the creative juices.

Riomaggiore by Michael Doyle
Riomaggiore by Michael Doyle

Re-awakening your creativity

As a result of this visit, Cinque Terre was my artistic re-awakening. When you get a chance to change your perspective, your mind and creativity are now open to endless new ideas and concepts. I suppose I don’t need to take a trans-continental trip to get inspired, but why not if the opportunity arises?

Fiat Cinquecento by Michael Doyle
Fiat Cinquecento by Michael Doyle

Watercolor Floral Art

Birds Of Prey – Raptor Art

The Art of Hitchhiking – Encountering the World!

Abstract Landscape Art – Expressing Yourself

Musical Creativity – The Long and Winding Road

Regenerating my creative juices in Cinque Terre


12 thoughts on “Regenerating my creative juices in Cinque Terre”

  1. Selenity Jade

    Hi, Mike!

    I can only imagine Italy would make one’s artistic spirit soar!!  Plus venturing to Cinque Terre and how different it is from your current home probably helped.  Thanks so much for sharing your personal story here.

    I must say, for a ‘dabbler’ you are VERY talented.  I loved your two pieces you’re sharing with us in this post.  Very very good.  I love it!

    1. Hi Selenity,

      Thanks for your kind assessment of my art. Though I also live along a coast, but Cinque Terre is a totally different experience. It lifts the spirits!

  2. I haven’t yet been to Cinque Terre, but I am an avid traveler, and I relate to your feeling that creative blocks can be broken by going to new and foreign places. I love going to Central America myself, but I have done a few European adventures and visited other parts of Italy. They always rejuvenate my zest for life and enthusiasm to create.

    I see you have newly started your blog. I look forward toseeing what other topics you will write about.

    1. Wow Marie,

      Central America has been on my bucket list for the past decade at least. That area would definitely get my creative juices flowing again as well! Perhaps before too long, I’ll blog about Costa Rica or Panama on the sketchbook I will create for that trip.

  3. Thanks for bringing us (readers) to Cinque Terre! I have been travelling Europe with my family but have not heard of this beautiful place. Through this article, I get to know Cinque Terre. You have stunning photos of the place. We will surely write Cinque Terre on our travel plan for our next family trip. 

    1. Hi Gillian,

      Our Cinque Terre trip was very enjoyable. Imagine villages with no cars allowed! A path connecting one village to the next! And of course great Italian food and pesto. Thanks for your kind comments.

  4. Aabidah Ahmed

    Well in the past I use to do sketchers, so I considered myself an artist. As time passed I had nothing that inspired or motivated me to continue drawing. I was well on my way to do paintings, but I suddenly just gave up.

    I understand “Writers Block”. I’ve gone through these many times in the past, but now things just seem to flow, because I have my baby that motivates me to do more and to do better. 

    Cinque Terre looks like a beautiful place for an artist to explore.

    I’m starting to remember back when I loved sketching. Thank you for this wonderful article.

    All the best.

    1. Hi Aabidah,

      Your sketching may well return. Now that you have a beautiful baby to sketch, you may be kept busy for years. I used my kids as models in the past. It was a lot of fun. And yes, Cinque Terre is a wonderful place to explore as an artist!

  5. Wow, that photo of Riomaggiore, simply amazing! I could see myself and my partner walk down that street and look at the sea. I also loved your paintings. This is the beautiful part of Italy I love so much. I’ve been to Italy several times, but I have never been to Cinque Terre. This is definitely a place I must visit.

    I understand about the artist block. I am a writer, but I do not suffer from much writer’s block, for which I am very grateful 😉 I also understand about going without creating art (or in my case, writing) for a longer time, although after a while the need to create something arises, and you just have to do it. I totally get that. It’s the same with me. When that story forms in me, I just have to sit down and write it down or type it, got to let it out. I can imagine it’s very similar with painting. 

    How did you end up in Cinque Terre? Are you planning on visiting more places in Italy?

    1. Hi Christine,

      Riomaggiore and all of Cinque Terre is beautiful. And it inspired me to open up my sketchbook. Actually, in the past, I had gone years without picking up a pencil or brush, but thankfully, not lately.

      I can blame Rick Steves for my going to Cinque Terre. He has a series of videos that he created on various places, mostly in Europe. He raved about the area, so I had to go! I’m always planning on more trips to Italy! But my next European jaunt will probably be through Portugal. I haven’t been there since the 1960s, so it’s time for a return.

  6. Andy Zeus Anderson

    Ah, such beautiful results from what I am sure was a historic trip. I have seen many pictures of the area and if we ever get the chance to hop across the Atlantic and embrace Europe, Italy must be among the stops. I have dabbled in art, mostly sketch for a lifetime, though decent I have never taken it as more than an occasional hobby but I am a blogger and would love to see parts of the world outside the US and Mexico. Much of my family is from Ireland for example which may be inspiring to you on a future journey.

    1. Hi Andy,

      Thanks for your kind comments! Italy would definitely be a great travel destination! You never know, you might take out that sketchbook during one of your future trips. Ireland has also been in the back of my mind. It may happen. One of my former middle school classmates has a house in Ireland and keeps telling me to go! Since many of my ancestors were Irish, I really should make the trip.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top