CINQUE TERRE — Manarola

The medieval town of Manarola is the oldest town in the Cinque Terre and the dialect spoken here is slightly different from the other villages in the area. It has a long tradition of producing wine and olive oil which come from the terraces on the hills above Manarola. The area is renowned for its dry, white wine called Sciacchetrà. There is a small museum dedicated to wine found in the village. Manarola was built at the mouth of the River Volastra, on a high rock 70 metres above sea level. It is charming and picturesque with its brightly coloured tower-houses and steep, narrow alleyways leading to the seafront.

The sights found here are:
Piazza Papa Innocenzo IV
Church of St Lawrence
Manarola Castle
The Sanctuary of our Lady of Health
Via dell’Amore
Manarola Harbour

Piazza Papa Innocenzo IV
Few visitors to Manarola take the time and trouble to climb the main street Via Discovolo to Piazza Papa Innocenzo IV which is a square found at the top of the village. If you do this you will be rewarded along the way with the sight of the large ancient mill wheel (magna roea) after which Manarola is supposedly named. Found on the square are several buildings including the Church of St Lawrence and its detached bell tower as well as the 15th century Disciplinati of the Santissima Annunziata and the ancient hospital of St Rocco. If you walk behind the bell tower to the edge of the square there is a lovely view over Manarola and out to the sea beyond. At the top of the square the road continues past an old water pump to the River Groppo.

Church of St Lawrence

Church of St Lawrence
This church found on Piazza Papa Innocenzo IV was built in 1338. It has a plain facade built in the Gothic Ligurian style with a beautiful rose window. The Church of St Lawrence is dedicated to the Nativity of the Virgin Mary but it is also known as the Church of St Lawrence who was the patron saint of the village. There is a bas-relief of his martyrdom on the pointed arch portal. Inside the church which has undergone numerous renovations you will see three barrel-vaulted aisles. On the main altar is a 14th century triptych with the Madonna and Child, St Lawrence and St Catherine. There is a second triptych of St Lawrence, St Dominic and St John the Baptist. Behind the church is a 14th century bell tower that was once used as a watchtower.

Traveller's Tip

From December 8 until the end of January a magical nativity scene is set up here using 200 figures and 12,000 illuminated lamps making it possibly the largest illuminated nativity scene in the world. It was created by one of the local residents.
Manarola Castle

Manarola Castle
The ruins of this former 13th century castle are now the foundations of some of the houses in the village that look out to sea. The ancient castle was built on the rocky spur that juts out into the sea which was strategically important to the leaders of the time. Over the centuries and after many invasions from pirates the castle was all but destroyed except for the small part remaining. At the front of one of these houses which is now a B&B are the remains of the old Porta Superiore which was the main entrance to the castle.

The Sanctuary of our Lady of Health

The Sanctuary of our Lady of Health
The Sanctuary of our Lady of Health is found in Volastra which is a small village between Manarola and Corniglia. To get to the Sanctuary you will need to take a paved mule track from the car park and it will take around an hour. The sanctuary dates back to 1240 but the present facade is due to a renovation in the 17th century. There is a pointed arch in sandstone at the entrance with a gothic double lancet window. Inside the sanctuary there is a single rectangular aisle covered by a barrel vault.

Via dell’Amore

Via dell’Amore
This is the relatively easy 30 minute walk that you can take between Manarola and Riomaggiore. The walk starts at a small flight of steps next to the railway station that lead up to the start of the path. This walk is probably the most famous of all the walks in the Cinque Terre and because it is short and mostly flat everyone should try and do it if they can. The view that you get when you do this walk is stunning. The path winds along the coast and there are several benches you can use to rest along the way. The history of this pathway is connected to the construction of the railway between Genoa and La Spezia back in the 1920s. A tunnel between Manarola and Riomaggiore had to be built for the railway and to do this it was necessary to build two paths, one from Riomaggiore and the other from Manarola on the rocks overhanging the sea. It was decided after this to improve these paths to make them more accessible so it was possible to get from one village to the other. In the middle of this walk is ‘The Lover’s Lock’ which is a place to seal your eternal love. Here you will find a concrete throne in the shape of a male and female locked in a kiss. Many people take their photo here so if it is a busy time you may have to wait if you want to take a photo.

Traveller's Tip

Many people attach small padlocks to the gates and rails along this path so if you want to do the same just remember to bring one with you.
Manarola Harbour

Manarola Harbour
Manarola’s tiny harbour is located between two rocky outcrops with a terraced promenade. There is a small square found here where you can sit and watch the world go by while you eat some lovely seafood. Manarola is a fishing village so you will often see boats pulled up out of the water onto dry land when the sea gets too rough. There isn’t a proper beach in Manarola but you can swim around here and a lot of people dive off the rocks into the deep water found near the harbour. For swimmers there is a ladder that provides access to the water. The ferry that you can take to the other villages in the Cinque Terre leaves from a jetty on the southside of the harbour. There is a ticket booth near to it. If you want to walk to the next village of Corniglia the path is found on the north side of the harbour.