LivingTravelRiomaggiore, Italy: the complete guide

Riomaggiore, Italy: the complete guide

Located on the Italian Riviera, Riomaggiore, Italy, is a charming village perched on a terraced hill above the Ligurian coast. Known for its colorful stone houses that appear to be stacked on top of one another, and its harbor filled with traditional fishing boats, Riomaggiore is part of the chain of five villages that make up Cinque Terre, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is also one of the most sought after travel destinations in all of Italy.

The town was originally founded in the 8th century by Greek refugees eager to take advantage of the rich natural soil and abundant marine life that surrounded it. The Riomaggiore that we see today, however, actually dates back to the 13th century. It sits in a valley between two steep hills and was named after the stream, Rivus Major, that flows below it.

Once under the rule of the Republic of Genoa, Riomaggiore relied heavily on the production of wine and olive oil from the surrounding vineyards and orchards. Today its main industry is tourism, with more than two million visitors coming to the city each year.

Things to do in Riomaggiore

Riomaggiore is a wonderful place to enjoy fabulous views and slow down to the pace of Italian village life. Stroll down the town’s main street that leads to the sea, where a small marina framed by beautiful pastel-colored houses is lined with brightly hued fishing boats. It is the perfect place to sit and breathe the fresh sea air.

Here are some of the things to do and see when visiting Riomaggiore:

Hike Via Dell’Amore (The Way of Love): Via dell’Amore is a trail that begins in Riomaggiore and leads to the village of Manarola. Cutting along the cliffs above the magnificent coastline, it is the shortest of all the Cinque Terre paths (an easy 15-30 minute trip). The path is decorated with nets suspended from the rocks: the lovers write their names on padlocks, hang the locks on the nets and throw the keys into the sea as a gesture of eternal devotion. At the end of the trail, you come across the Sentiero Azzurro (The Blue Trail), a 7.5-mile network of trails that stretches between the towns of the Cinque Terre.

Note: as of this writing (April 2019) the trail is closed for repairs but is expected to reopen in spring 2021. Until then you can reach the other Cinque Terre towns, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterossa. Al Mare, by train.

Admire the view from the medieval castle of Riomaggiore: Castello di Riomaggiore is located at the highest point of the village and is open to the public: its terrace offers panoramic views. The castle was built from 1260, to protect the city from barbarian and pirate attacks.

Visit the Church of San Giovanni Battista – This Gothic church was erected in 1340 and was renovated in the late 19th century after a minor collapse. Among his collection of masterpieces is Domenico Fiasella’s painting, “John the Baptist Preaching,” a wooden crucifixion by Maragliano, and a mechanical organ built in 1851.

See precious relics in the Oratorio di Santa Maria Assunta – near the castle is the 16th century Oratorio di Santa Maria Assunta (also known to the locals as Chiesa dalla Compagnia). Located in the city center on the main street, Via Colombo, it was built between the 15th and 16th centuries. The church contains a triptych (a relief carved in three panels) of Jesus, the Virgin Mary and Saint John the Baptist and, of course, a wooden statue of the Virgin.

Stroll down Via Colombo: From the Oratory of Santa Maria Assunta, walk down Via Colombo , the main street of the town. Packed with restaurants, bars and artisan shops, it connects the upper part of Riomaggiore with Piazza Vignaioli. From this square, you can easily reach the picturesque port.

What to eat and drink in Riomaggiore

Traditional Ligurian dishes are dominated by ingredients of natural origin from the surrounding terraced fields and the sea. Below are some of the typical food and drinks that you will find in the local trattoria and bars of Riomaggiore.

Anchovies ( acciughe ) are a delicacy in these parts, fished in these waters at least since Roman times. Lampare (anchovy fishermen) use lamps at night to attract fish to their nets. You’ll find restaurants serving fried anchovies with an egg layer, Parmesan cheese, and herbs, as well as dried, salted, and preserved in oil ( sott’olio ).

Pasta alla Genovese is a pasta with a classic bright green sauce made from Genoa basil, pine nuts, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and Pecorino cheese, plus garlic, salt, and olive oil. Most commonly used to season penne pasta, it is designated by the EU as a PDO (Protected Designation of Origin).

Focaccia is a Ligurian flatbread that can be seasoned or baked with just a little olive oil and salt sprinkled on top. It is served everywhere, it is even eaten for breakfast along with a cappuccino.

The white wines made in this part of the Ligurian coast are dry with herbal notes, perfect to pair with seafood. Typically made from Bosca, Albarola or Vermentino grapes, there are more than 26 local producers, so you are sure to find many varieties from the area.

Sciacchetrá is a local dessert wine made through an ancient method whereby grapes are dried in the sun to produce the highest concentration of sugar possible. You will find sweet wine served on special occasions with cheese or cake. There is even a Sciacchetrá museum in nearby Manarola.

Where to stay in Riomaggiore

If you are thinking of staying in Riomaggiore, you will need to make reservations well in advance. Hotels and B & Bs are limited in number, and it’s virtually impossible to find a room in summer when the crowds are at their peak. If you want to avoid the tourist crowds and sweltering heat of peak season, consider visiting in early or late fall, when temperatures are mild and crowds are somewhat thinner. Winter can also be a wonderful time to visit Riomaggiore, especially if you are the type of traveler who doesn’t let a little rain stop you from enjoying yourself.

Some of the top-rated hotels in Riomaggiore include La Scogliera and Hotel del Sole.

How to get to Riomaggiore

By train: Located at the southernmost point of the Cinque Terre, Riomaggiore can be reached by train from La Spezia or Levanto. From La Spezia, take the local train ( treno regionale ) in the direction of Sestri Levante and get off at the first stop. From Levanto, take the regional train in the direction of La Spezia Centrale. In five stops you have reached your destination.

If you want to save money and time, buy the Cinque Terre Card (Treno) Train, which includes use of the ecological park buses, access to all trekking trails and Wi-Fi, plus unlimited train travel in Levanto – Cinque Terre – La Spezia Line (second class regional trains only). Prices for a 1-day pass for adults vary depending on the time of year, but currently (as of April 2019) they are priced from € 13 to € 16; 2- and 3-day passes, discounted children’s passes, and family passes are also available.

By car: Riomaggiore, like all Cinque Terre towns, is closed to traffic. If you plan to drive, you will find that there are several small parking lots outside of Riomaggiore and Manarola with shuttle buses to the city. Note that the lots fill up fast, therefore we recommend that you use the parking on the seafront in Monterosso al Mare or the parking facilities in Levanto.

By plane: the closest airports are Cristoforo Colombo (GOA) in Genoa, Galileo Galilei (PSA) in Pisa and the Amerigo Vespucci Airport in Florence (FLR). The closest and largest international airport is Malpensa International (MXP) located in Milan.

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