Manarola, the second town in the Cinque Terre arriving from La Spezia, is perhaps, among others, the most picturesque village, composed of the characteristic colorful perched tower-houses that overlook the carruggi and the main street.
Manarola looks like a village in miniature: The village develops around the main road that retraces the course of the Groppo stream, which is now covered and no longer visible. Numerous alleyways and stone alleys branch off from the main street, all to be discovered, to reach the sides of the promontory and the houses higher up.
The main square of the village is curiously higher than the rest of the town. A white pyramid is visible between the houses that stand out at the top of the village, which, historically, has always served as a signal for ships.
The first historical records on Manarola belong to the second half of the thirteenth century, related to the affairs of the Fieschi family of Lavagna. Having come under the rule of Genoa, the town experienced progressive development, becoming a major producer of oil and wine.
It is to this agricultural vocation that Manarola probably owes the origin of its name: derived from a dialectal Manaraea, it dates back to an ancient magna Roea, that is to say magna rota, or ‘big wheel’ from a water mill.
Today this town is known not only for its beauty, but also for the wines that are produced in the surrounding area, such as sciacchetrà.
From the Manarola railway station it is possible to take the via dell’amore, the scenic path to reach Riomaggiore .
What to see in Manarola
Manarola is small but has many things to see and many views to photograph. Here is the complete list of the points of interest of this wonderful Borgo.
Church of San Lorenzo
Located in the heart of the picturesque village of Manarola, the Church of San Lorenzo is a work of art that encompasses centuries of history and beauty. This place of worship, dedicated to Saint Lawrence the Martyr, holds artistic, architectural and spiritual wonders.
Built in 1338 at the behest of the local community, the Church of San Lorenzo is an important historical landmark for Manarola. Its construction initiated the split of the village from that of Groppo, leading to the formation of two independent parishes.
The Church of St. Lawrence is a brilliant example of Gothic-Ligurian art. The facade, made of local stone, is dominated by a magnificent 14th-century rose window, surrounded by white marble that contrasts beautifully with the dark stone. The three entrance portals are embellished with pointed arches that reveal strong Gothic influences.
The interior of the church is divided into three naves separated by sandstone columns. The major apse, in the center, holds a valuable wooden crucifix from the 15th century.
Rising 36 meters, the bell tower of the Church of San Lorenzo is one of the tallest buildings in Manarola. Rebuilt in 1375 after a collapse, its style deviates from that of the church, offering typical Romanesque elements, with single-, double-, and triple-lancet windows.
Probably one of the most fascinating peculiarities of this bell tower is its position: instead of acting as a single body with the church, it is separate and sits higher than the rest of the structure.
The Way of Love
La Via dell’Amore è uno dei sentieri più famosi ed emblematici delle Cinque Terre, che offre panorami da favola sulla costa ligure tra Manarola e Riomaggiore. Il suo nome romantico riflette le splendide viste e l’atmosfera emozionante che si respira lungo il percorso.
Nonostante il nome romantico e la fama di meta preferita per gli innamorati, la creazione della Via dell’Amore è stata tutt’altro che romantica. Essa è nata per necessità pratiche all’inizio degli anni ’20 per collegare i due villaggi di Manarola e Riomaggiore. La costruzione del sentiero ha permesso di facilitare lo spostamento tra le comunità e ha segnato l’inizio dell’ammodernamento di questa area della costa ligure.
La Via dell’Amore è un sentiero di facile accesso che si snoda lungo la costa per poco più di un chilometro. La passeggiata regala spettacolari viste sul Mar Mediterraneo, con le scogliere a picco sul mare, la vegetazione lussureggiante e, nei giorni limpidi, è possibile vedere fino alla costa della Corsica.
Il sentiero è costeggiato da numerose panchine dove è possibile fare una sosta e godere del panorama. In numerose zone, i visitatori hanno lasciato i loro lucchetti d’amore, simbolo del loro affetto eterno, rendendo la Via dell’Amore un simbolo di romanticismo a livello globale.
La Via dell’Amore è famosa per i “lucchetti dell’amore” che gli innamorati agganciano alle ringhiere lungo il sentiero. Questa tradizione, iniziata nel 2000, prevede che le coppie scrivano le loro iniziali su un lucchetto, lo aggancino e poi gettino la chiave nel mare come simbolo del loro amore eterno.
Ruins of the fortress
The fortress of Manarola was built in the twelfth century to defend the village from the raids of Saracen pirates. Later it represented the real nucleus of the ancient country.
Today some parts are still well preserved and visible, others have been incorporated by the houses perched on the sea.
There are no visible parts, however, of the ancient castle, which was built together with the bastion.
The Manarola nativity scene
The Nativity in Manarola, Cinque Terre, is one of the region’s most beloved and popular traditions during the Christmas season.
In 1961, a local resident named Mario Andreoli, a State Railway employee, transformed the hill overlooking Manarola into a luminous nativity scene. After his retirement, Mario devoted more time to the creation of the nativity figures, which were constructed mainly from recycled materials. Over the years, the Christmas play has gained more and more importance, until it has become one of Manarola’s most beloved attractions.
The Manarola Nativity scene is distinguished by its size and brightness. It occupies an area of about 4,000 square meters on the hill and includes more than 300 life-size figures, all illuminated.
The figures represent not only classic nativity characters, such as the Holy Family, the Three Kings, and shepherds, but also scenes of daily life, from fishing to farming. This makes the nativity scene not only a religious representation, but also a tribute to the life and traditions of the Cinque Terre.
The illuminated nativity scene can be visited throughout the Christmas season, from December to January. The lighting of the nativity scene usually takes place on Immaculate Conception Day, December 8, and remains lit until the end of January. The view of the nativity scene from above, with the lights shining in the night, is a breathtaking sight that attracts visitors from all over the world.
Via Belvedere in Manarola is one of the most striking routes to take in this charming village in the Cinque Terre. It is a scenic route that runs along the sea, offering spectacular views that make it clear why “Belvedere” in Italian means “beautiful view.”
Via Belvedere winds along the sheer seaward slope of the village of Manarola. It offers a number of unique views of the bay, the surrounding vineyards, and the colorful houses of the village. The route is dotted with small characteristic corners, such as sea-view balconies, terraces and lush gardens.
Although partly paved, the street retains a rustic atmosphere befitting the simple and authentic character of Manarola. The quietness of the place, away from noise and crowds, makes Via Belvedere ideal for a relaxing stroll or a romantic sunset stroll.
Along Belvedere Street are a number of places of interest that are worth a visit. One of these is the Church of St. Lawrence, with its stone facade and distinctive bell tower.
Another point of interest is the Pope Innocent IV Square, a small green space that offers a panoramic view of Manarola and the entire coast. There is also a belvedere here, from which one can enjoy a breathtaking view of the sea and the surrounding landscape.
Shrine of Our Lady of Health
The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Health in Manarola is a hidden gem along the Cinque Terre scenic road. This place of worship, nestled between terraced vineyards and the crystal clear sea, offers visitors surprising quiet and breathtaking views of the Ligurian coast.
The Shrine of Our Lady of Health is a small chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Health. While the exact date of its construction is not known with certainty, it is believed that the chapel was built around the 17th century. Since then, the shrine has been a place of prayer and reflection for local residents and pilgrims visiting Manarola.
The shrine is located on a rocky promontory overlooking the village of Manarola, offering a panoramic view of the entire bay. Built of local stone, the sanctuary is a simple but fascinating example of Ligurian religious architecture.
The entrance is open to a small courtyard with an altar, with the shrine janitor’s dwelling next to it. The interior of the shrine, although small, is decorated with a fresco depicting the Madonna and Child.
A visit to the Shrine of Our Lady of Health offers a unique experience. Far from the tourist hustle and bustle of the village center, this place offers surprising peace and tranquility.
The route to the shrine starts from the center of Manarola and follows a scenic road through the vineyards. The walk offers an opportunity to appreciate both the natural landscape of the Cinque Terre and numerous testimonies of folk devotion.
Port of Manarola
The Porticciolo di Manarola is one of the most characteristic and photographed places in this small village in the Cinque Terre. Located right in the heart of the country, this small port is a real gem in terms of beauty and natural charm.
The small port of Manarola is a small inlet enclosed by rocky cliffs that offers boats protection from winds and sea waves. The colorful fishing boats found here give the marina a picturesque and lively appearance.
The rocks around the charming bay create small natural pools, a special place beloved by bathers during the summer. The small port is, in addition, the starting point for several boat excursions along the Cinque Terre coast.
Several noteworthy attractions are located in the vicinity of the marina. A short distance away is the Church of San Lorenzo, a charming and historic place of worship. In addition, right on the rocks overlooking the small harbor is a path leading to the Cape of Manarola, from which there is a breathtaking panoramic view of the sea and the village.
Whether by day, with its vibrant colors and lively atmosphere, or by night, when the lights of the village are reflected in the calm waters, Manarola’s small port offers an enchanting spectacle. This place captures the essence of the Cinque Terre, perfectly combining natural beauty, fishing traditions, and an atmosphere of peace and tranquility.
Oratory of the Disciplinati
Located in the heart of the village of Manarola, the Oratorio dei Disciplinati is a small place of worship linked to the traditional religious brotherhood of the Disciplinati themselves.
The Oratory of the Disciplinati in Manarola dates back to the 15th century and was created as a place of prayer and meeting for the brotherhood of the Disciplinati. These brotherhoods, found mainly in northern Italy, were known for their devotion and ascetic practices, including self-discipline.
The Oratory is distinguished by its architectural simplicity. Externally, the building has a linear facade, adorned only by a modest portal and a circular window.
Volastra is a charming village located in the heart of the Cinque Terre National Park. Nestled in a scenic location among terraces of vineyards and olive groves, Volastra offers its visitors a quiet respite from the hustle and bustle of the more crowded nearby coastal villages.
Located 350 meters above sea level, Volastra is an ancient village whose origins date back to Roman times. Despite its proximity to the better-known Cinque Terre, Volastra has retained its authentic charm and is distinguished by its narrow cobblestone streets, stone houses, and vineyard terraces.
Volastra is surrounded by a series of vineyard terraces, which are one of the hallmarks of the Cinque Terre landscape. The village’s vineyards are known for producing Sciacchetrà wine, a renowned dessert wine in the area.
Volastra is an ideal starting point for exploring the region’s many hiking trails. In particular, the village is connected to trails number 6, 6D, and 7 in the Cinque Terre area, which offer breathtaking views of the Ligurian coast and surrounding hills.
Beaches of Manarola
Contrary to what one would expect, Manarola has no real beaches. However, this feature has not deterred the lively locals, who over time have skillfully transformed the rocky coast into a beach area.
The brave and adventurous can follow the example of the locals and dive directly from the rocky terraces into the sea. One of the Manarolese’s favorite places for a refreshing swim is the breakwater reef located below the picturesque old town center.
For visitors seeking a more conventional seaside experience, Manarola also offers two equipped slipways. The former is hidden just below the charming old town, while the latter can be reached on foot via a pleasant walk along the cliff. These places offer the opportunity to lie in the sun on flat surfaces and enjoy the soothing sound of the waves.
For the more adventurous visitor, a walk of about 3 km along a picturesque path starting near the local cemetery leads to the Spiaggione di Corniglia. This unique beach consists of large pebbles and stretches for 700 meters while remaining relatively narrow.
Finally, for those who are able to navigate the waters, Manarola hides some small bays along its coast, accessible only by sea. These little hidden gems offer a truly unique bathing experience, away from the crowds and immersed in the pristine coastal landscape.
Paths of Manarola
Manarola is an ideal starting point for hiking enthusiasts, thanks to the presence of numerous trails that wind through the picturesque landscape of the Cinque Terre.
Blue Trail – from Manarola to Riomaggiore (Via dell’Amore)
One of the most famous trails is undoubtedly the section of the Blue Trail (or Via dell’Amore) that connects Manarola to Riomaggiore. This short trail, about a kilometer long, is famous for its spectacular views of the coast and the sea and for being one of the most accessible trails in the Cinque Terre. Along the way, you can enjoy the breathtaking views of the Mediterranean, take unforgettable photographs and, if lucky, spot some dolphins.
Manarola – Corniglia Trail
Another worthy path is the one leading from Manarola to Corniglia. This trail, slightly more challenging in terms of difficulty and length (about 5 km), winds through terraced vineyards and olive groves, offering breathtaking views of the coast. Along the way, you will have the opportunity to admire local wildlife, visit wineries, and savor the authentic life of the Cinque Terre.
Manarola – Volastra Trail
Manarola is also the starting point for the trail to Volastra, an ancient village situated in a panoramic position among terraces of vineyards and olive groves. This trail, about 4 km long, is quite steep, but the panoramic views of Cinque Terre are absolutely rewarding. In addition, you can stop in Volastra and visit the Church of San Lorenzo or take a break while enjoying a glass of local wine.
Where sleeping in Manarola
Manarola is a very popular destination for tourists from all over the world but it is not very big. Even if over the years the choice of solutions for staying in this splendid village has expanded a lot, still today it cannot be said that there is an abundance of beds.
For this reason it is advisable to plan your stay well in advance by booking as soon as possible. In this way it will be possible to choose the ideal solution for your trip, be it a hotel, an apartment or a B&B.
To choose the right accommodation you can also not check the map: all the accommodations are in the historic center, very close to each other. The quality / price ratio of the structures in Manarola is quite good even if it cannot be said that they are cheap.
How to get to Manarola
Those who want to reach Manarola by train can do so with the Genoa-La Spezia line. The train is undoubtedly the most recommended way. There are trains approximately every 20 minutes. Once you arrive at the station, go through the short tunnel that leads right to the center of the Borgo.
If you want to reach Manarola by car you have to take the coastal road of the Cinque Terre that unites Monterosso in Riomaggiore following the signs for the town.
Reaching the Borgo by boat is also a very fun and suggestive option during the summer. Boats connecting the Cinque Terre, operating from April 1 to November 1, depart from La Spezia, Portovenere, Levanto and Portofino.
Localities in the surroundings
ACCOMMODATION A MANAROLA
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