The high houses nestle close to the mountain like a terrace, as if they wanted to cling to each other and form a fortress against the dangers of the sea. In the narrow, shady streets, people lived almost cut off from the outside world for centuries. Their village of Riomaggiore was only accessible by sea or via a long footpath across the mountains.
The romance that Riomaggiore exudes to its visitors today is the result of the hard work and the will to survive of the people who created thousands of kilometers of stone walls to gain a little land from the steep mountains. They use this to grow the Cinque Terre wine, which has always been highly valued.
What To Do and See In Riomaggiore?
The colorful houses rise steeply above the picturesque harbor bay of Riomaggiore, to which steep stairs lead from the broad main street. The church of San Giovanni Battista sits enthroned above the village and is also accessible by stairs.
Riomaggiore is the southernmost town of the Cinque Terre. To the south are Campiglia on the mountain and Portovenere at the top of the entrance to the Gulf of Poets.
In the heyday of the Genoa Maritime Republic, nine churches were built in the Cinque Terre.
Church San Giovanni Battista
In Riomaggiore, the Church of San Giovanni Battista in the upper part of the village was built under Bishop Fieschi of Luni from 1340.
The Gothic-style facade dates from 1820. Inside, the three naves are separated from each other by elegant pointed arches. The church houses a wooden crucifix.
Castel of Riomaggiore
The construction of the Castel began in 1260 under the Margrave Turcotti and was later continued by the Genoese Sea Republic. The castle wall is equipped with two round towers. The castle can be reached from two sides: from the center you climb Via dal Sagrato of the Church of San Giovanni Battista. Another path leads up from the station side.
Chapel San Rocco and San Sebastiano
Just a few steps from the Castello is the chapel of San Rocco and San Sebastiano from 1480. Inside there is a triptych of the Virgin and Child and Saints.
Churches in Riomaggiore
- The Sant’Antonio church is the oldest church in Riomaggiore from the 13th century.
- The 16th century Oratorio Assunta is better known as the Church of the Compagnia and is the seat of the Brotherhood of Nostra Signora Assunta in Cielo.
- The chapel of San Bernardo is in the abandoned settlement of Lemmen (Limen), one of the oldest settlements and the origin of Riomaggiore.
Sanctuary of the Madonna di Montenero
The Sanctuary of Madonna Montenero is visible from afar on the hill above Riomaggiore. The santuario probably dates from 1335, after which it was reconstructed several times. The church consists of three naves.
According to a legend, the cult of the Madonna di Montenero comes from a Byzantine icon who disappeared in a mystical way and in whose place an image of the Assumption of Mary between the Apostles and San Tommaso appeared.
The feast of the Sanctuary of the Madonna di Montenero takes place on Whit Monday.
On the night of August 14, there is a procession that leads down from the Santuario to Riomaggiore.
There is a restaurant / bar and on Sundays in the summer months large families go on a picnic to this airy place above the sea.
A converted trenino, as is normally used for the harvest, takes guests from the connecting road of the Cinque Terre to the Santuario Montenero.
A hiking trail leads from Riomaggiore through the vineyards, past the cemetery, to the pilgrimage church. The Madonna Trail connects the pilgrimage churches above the Cinque Terre villages.
History of Riomaggiore
According to stories, were Greek refugees who fled from the ruler Leone of Byzantium in the 8th century and settled the hill at Montenero. In the 11th century, the settlement shifted to the sea, where the small port is today.
The village of Riomaggiore was founded in the 13th century in the valley of the Rio Maggiore. Today about 1700 inhabitants live in Riomaggiore.
In 1251, the inhabitants of the individual settlements united and joined the Republic of Genoa in the war against Pisa.
In 1260 the construction of the Castello and other fortifications began.
Under the rule of Genoa, the economic boom began with wine growing on the steep terraced vineyards and trade, so that the Cinque Terre wine became famous in Europe.
The isolation of the five villages of the Cinque Terre only ended with the construction of the railway in the middle of the 19th century. When the railway line was built, a second district was built on the Rio Finale stream, where the Riomaggiore train station is today. The two districts are separated by the steep Campiòne rock. At the bottom of the rock is the Castello.
The access from the country with the serpentine roads was only built in the middle of the 19th century and this cleared the way for unrestricted trade and tourism.
Holidays in Riomaggiore
The best way to spend your time in Riomaggiore is to bathe in the harbor bay and enjoy the fascinating view of the place above the sea and the crystal-clear warm waters of the Mediterranean.
There is a lot to see and taste. In the Sciaccetrà Museum you can learn about the tradition and the production of this fine sweet wine.
Numerous hiking suggestions await active vacationers.
Since the origin of the first settlements was in the mountains and not by the sea, the typical dishes are not the sea dishes as one might expect, but rice cakes. This traditional dish is also served at the patron saint of Riomaggiore San Giovanni Battista.
In addition, the typical Ligurian dishes, such as trofie with pesto alla Genovese, dishes made from chestnut flour, focaccia, as well as seafood starters and salted and fried anchovies as well as stockfish, have a firm place on the menu.
Hiking around Riomaggiore
The shortest connection from Manarola to Riomaggiore is the Via dell’Amore, a path of 1.5 km length and thus the shortest path between two places on the Cinque Terre hiking trail. According to a legend, the youth of the neighboring towns visited this way.
At the moment the Via dell’Amore is closed, because the wide, walking path along the sea with railings was hit by a rock fall. Information about the Sentiero Azzurro Riomaggiore – Monterosso
From Riomaggiore you can reach the pilgrimage church of Nostra Signora di Montenero on a hiking trail. The Madonna trail begins above the houses of Riomaggiore, at the tourist information.
Several hiking trails lead to the Levanto – Portovenere high-altitude hiking trail, starting in Riomaggiore, at the train station.