Eastern gateway to the Cinque Terre, the first seaside village coming from La Spezia, Riomaggiore extends from the coast of the Ligurian Sea to the Apennine mountains along two valleys, crossed by the Rio Maggiore and Rio Finale streams and separated by the coast of Campione. The first is dominated by Mount Verugola, whose three peaks also represent the town in the municipal coat of arms, the second developed after the arrival of the railway, in the second half of the nineteenth century.
According to legend, Riomaggiore, Rivus Maior, was founded in the eighth century by a group of Greek refugees fleeing the iconoclastic persecution of Leo III Isaurico, who settled along the ridge founding the villages of Cacinagora, Sericò, Montenero, Limen and Casale. After the year 1000, protected by the power of Genoa, the inhabitants began to leave the primitive settlements in favor of the coast, thus constituting the first nucleus of Riomaggiore, now corresponding to the Marina district. Mentioned starting from 1251, the village followed the events of the Republic of Genoa, with brief parentheses of local lords.
What to see
The structure of Riomaggiore has changed little over the centuries, as evidenced by the paintings of Telemaco Signorini, famous italian painter who immortalized many views and scenes of the village from the mid-nineteenth century onwards. The houses follow the course of the stream, buried in its final part, with several parallel orders of houses, painted with the typical pastel colors, developed in height on three or four floors, linked to each other by alleys and steep stairways. The main street that descends towards the sea is via Santuario, which then becomes Via Colombo, changing its name again after Piazza Vignaioli and arriving at the Marina after the short tunnel towards the sea, Via San Giacomo. The highest part of the village is located near Via Pecunia, where the main monuments are located: the church of San Giovanni Battista, the oratory of Saints Rocco and Sebastiano and the castle of Riomaggiore.
The parish church dates back to 1340, with a beautiful neo-Gothic façade restored in 1820 after an earthquake, retaining the rose window in white Carrara marble. The remodeling involved the entire structure, with the extension of the building, while the single lancet windows and the two Gothic entrances decorated with zoomorphic and anthropomorphic elements remain of the original plan. Inside, typically characterized by the alternation of black and white, there is a triptych by maestro Benedetto Antelami, a canvas by Domenico Fiasella with the Preaching of John the Baptist and a wooden crucifix by del Maragliano. The castle instead, located on the hill of Cerricò, was initially built by the Marquises Turcotti in the thirteenth century, then completed by the Republic of Genoa in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Today it retains only the external part, with the walls and two large circular towers. During the Napoleonic period it was adapted as a cemetery and today converted into a cultural space for events. Next to it stands the small oratory of San Rocco, with its white 15th-century façade and inside the triptych depicting the Virgin with Child and Saints. The oratory was perhaps built as thanks for the end of the plague epidemic. In the upper part of the town there is also the town hall, with the mural by the Argentine artist Silvio Benedetto, who also decorated the railway stations of the Cinque Terre. In the main alley, along Via Colombo, there is instead the oratory of Santa Maria Assunta or church of the Company, from the sixteenth century, with the beautiful fifteenth-century triptych in tempera of the Madonna and Child, between San Giovanni and San Domenico and a wooden statue of the Madonna delle Catene, symbol of the sufferings due to the Saracen raids in the Middle Ages. The last monument to remember in Riomaggiore, located on the heights towards the Telegraph hill, is the sanctuary of Our Lady of Montenero, documented since 1335 and built on the spot where the inhabitants hid an image of the Madonna to steal it from the Lombards. With three naves, from the square in front you can enjoy a wonderful view of the Gulf of Poets.
Here are all the monuments of Riomaggiore in detail: what to see in Riomaggiore.
Where to sleep (updated 2021)
Riomaggiore concentrates its offer of accommodation facilities within the village on the sea, although accommodation can be found in the hinterland, along the coast and in Groppo. There are hotels, b&b, rooms for rent and a farmhouse.
Where to eat (update 2021)
Here too, you are spoiled for choice, among the many restaurants in Riomaggiore, in addition to the many bars where to stop for a break while visiting the village.
The trekking trails
Not included among the works of art to be seen in the village, but perhaps its main attraction is the Via dell’Amore (Walk of Love), which leads from the village to Manarola. The pedestrian street carved into the rock during the construction of the railway tunnel in 1928 is unfortunately closed after a landslide in 2012 until a date to be determined. There are also numerous other paths that pass through the village, allowing you to reach Manarola along the Via Beccara, the ancient path that connected the two villages; the ring of Riomaggiore towards the sanctuary of Montenero; the long and panoramic path to Portovenere, 12 km in 5 hours or the ridge towards the Val di Vara.
To refresh yourself after visiting the borgo, a nice dip in the sea. From the port area, to the left, many spread their towels on the large breakwater rocks that protect the coast up to the beach of Riomaggiore, of medium size, completely characterized by large stones. For those who want some shade, it is best to stay next to the Cliff early in the afternoon, the rest is completely in the sun. The clear sea is ideal for swimming in the direction of Portovenere, where there is also a suggestive cave. Here you will find all the information about beaches in Riomaggiore
Finally, the typical dishes of the village are mainly of peasant and non-maritime roots. First of all the savory rice cake, traditionally prepared for the patronal feast of St. John the Baptist on June 24, then the field soup, with wild herbs, potatoes and olive oil. Among the seafood dishes, however, the most typical is stockfish, together with salted anchovies and stuffed muscles. Naturally the terraces around the town produce excellent wines, especially white: IGT Cinque Terre wines and schiacchetrà.
How to get
The most convenient means of transport to reach Riomaggiore is the train, along the La Spezia-Levanto line. From the train station, a tunnel reaches the center of the village. For those wishing to go by car, the problem is not so much the road, up to Riomaggiore the coast road is very convenient, but the impossibility in summer to go down to the village due to lack of parking. The only paid parking at the beginning of the village is available only in low season. One option is to leave the car along the coast and walk down a long suggestive staircase.
A last option is the ferry, from La Spezia, Portovenere or other lands (except Corniglia).