At the top of the village
Relatively few visitors seemed to take the trouble to climb the main street, Via Discovolo, to the church and piazza at the top. This is a shame, as not only are they missing a chance to see the large and ancient mill wheel or magna roea, thought to have given the village its name, on the way up, but also a number of worthwhile sights at journey’s end.
The road widens into a piazza, a sizeable one given the small scale of the village. This is the Piazzale Papa Innocenzo IV, at the centre of which is the church of San Lorenzo (St. Lawrence), built in 1338. We weren’t able to go inside as it was Sunday and a Mass was in progress, and unfortunately I haven’t been able to find a description of the interior, but I imagine it is similar the others in the region – certainly the exterior is. Unusually though for this region, the church’s bell tower, or campanile is detached and sits opposite it on the other side of the piazza (photo 3). The likely reason for this is that in the past this tower was used not only for its religious purposes but also as a post to watch for potential pirate raids.
Walk behind the tower to the edge of the piazza for a wonderful view of the rooftops of Manarola and the vineyards and sea beyond (see photo 2, which is a panorama so needs to be opened up if the view is to be properly appreciated).
At the top of the square the road continues, past an old water pump, to a stretch where the River Groppo, which once ran right through the town, can still be seen. You will probably have heard this river as you walk, but until now not been able to see it. Long ago this river would have been at the heart of village life – a place to fetch water, wash clothes and gossip with the neighbours. Indeed, this would have been the case in Riomaggiore too, but whereas there the river has been covered up and made into the road, in Manarola a little of that past scene can still be imagined here in the upper part of the village where the Groppo still flows.
If you are lucky enough to be there in November you might get to watch the locals harvesting the olives. As you walk along the paths (or hike or climb as the case may be) you can stop and talk to the men picking olives. We asked an old guy at about 4 in the afternoon how long it had taken him to pick the bag of olives he was carrying. It was about the size of a duffel bag, he replied "all day."Related to:
- Hiking and Walking
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
More then a must see activity this would more likely be a cannot miss activity. You would have to be pretty unobservant to miss this giant nativity scene on the side of the mountain in town. It is very much part of Manarolas charm, there is a story as to why its there, but I might not get it quite accurate and its more fun to ask the locals anyway.Related to:
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
- Religious Travel
- Arts and Culture
Via de Mezza
Below the Piazza Capellini, Via Discovolo becomes Via de Mezza and continues its descent to the harbour. This has to be one of the most unusual village streets I have seen. Not in terms of its buildings, which are, as you would expect in such a picturesque tourist destination, a mix of restaurants, gift shops and a few more practical shops too. No, I refer to the parking in front of these premises – not cars as you might suppose, but boats. The harbour here is too small for the number of local boat owners and fishermen, so many boats have to be hauled up the main street to be “parked” on either side of it in front of these restaurants and shops. With the brightly painted buildings and clothes hanging from every balcony, it makes for an unusual and colourful scene, especially when viewed from the Piazza Capellini just above.
The harbour in Manarola is, like Riomaggiore’s to the south, a small and rocky cleft between two spurs of hill. There is no beach, and little space for traditional seaside activities such as sun-bathing and swimming, but that doesn’t stop people doing either. The slipway when we visited was packed with sun-worshippers, seemingly undeterred by its hard surface and unbothered by the stares of ourselves and others peering down from the path above them (see photo 2). For swimmers, a ladder provides access to the sea, and although we didn’t join them, I have to say the water looked very tempting – clear, clean and a beautiful shade of deep blue-green.
The ferry leaves from a jetty on the south side (left as you arrive here from the village) and tickets are sold from a small booth nearby. Or if you’re leaving on foot for Corniglia, the path climbs up to the north, past the bougainvillea you can just see in my photo. A little way up this path we saw an intriguing pink arch (photo 3) but I’ve not been able to find out anything about this.
Walk the small alleys and climb the steps!
What I enjoyed most about Manarola were those small alleys and staircases that leed you from one hidden gem to the next. There are fabulous lookouts, charming little houses or little piazze opening up when you turn around the next corner!
Manorola's sunsets are fabulous. There are quite a few spots to take them in. The three best spots are from directly in front of the church, the roof-top terrace of the hostel, and along the seafront. They all provide spectacular backdrops to the setting sun.
Just below the turning that leads to the station and to the Via del’Amore the main street is interrupted by another piazza, the Piazza Capellini. This was built in 2004 and provides a lovely spot for that age-old pastime of people watching. The older locals sit on the benches here while children play and tourists pause to take in the view. At its furthest side you can lean on the railings to look down on the continuation of the main street drawing you on to the harbour beyond. But before you continue your walk spend a little time here admiring the colourful mosaic of fish, gulls and other ocean motifs set into the centre of the square (photo 2), and the unusual modern fountain (photo 3) on one side. I also liked the cheerful sun on one of the nearby buildings (photo 4).
Not a "Must-see". A "Must Hear"!!!
When you are walking around the city, give a listen for the sound of rushing water. Generally, it can be heard anywhere along Via de Mezza, the main road leading up to the church and hostel. Not long ago, the river was uncovered, but was concreted for modern-day ease. You can follow the sound, and still catch glimpses of the water in town, but can easily find the stream, in full view, at the upper-most end of the city.
San Lorenzo Church
San Lorenzo Church dates from 1338 and it is patron of the village. It was built in Gothic style by the Maestri Antelami. The pointed arch portal is decorated with a bas-relief representing the martyrdom of Saint Lawrence. In the XIV century squared bell tower was an ancient defensive building.Related to:
Walking from Riomaggiore to Manarola
along the Via dell'amore (street of love)
can be covered with sippers or high heels.
The walk takes you about 15 minutes.
You have to pay a small price to walk along the path.
I am sorry can't remember how much it costs, but it wasn t very expensive.
The Via dell’Amore stretches over a kilometre of rocky coastline from Riomaggiore to Manarola.
It is a promenade that connects two fo the villages comprising the five known as the cinque Terre.Related to:
- Family Travel
- Hiking and Walking
Discover the charming details....
More than in the other four villages of the Cinque Terre I found Manarola to be especially charming! When strolling around town you will be able to discover lots of wonderful little details, like little madonna statues, lanterns, letterboxes or just decors - you might get an idea by looking at my photos!
Manarola's Main Street
Manarola's main street is also the village's main attraction. The drag hosts many of Manarola's restaurants and shops, as well as a large crowd of tourists. Start at the village's small harbor, watching the waves crash over the breakwater, and ascend up the steep hill, absorbing the sights and sounds around you. Notice the brilliant blue fishing boats pulled up along the street side restaurants. Watch the older women call after mischievous children and hang laundry out on long lines under the bright green windows. Pick out your favorite flavor of gelato at the gelateria and climb to the small church at the top of the hill. From here, you can spy over the action below and capture a wonderful view of the entire village.
Ever since the 5th and 6th century, when Romans had conquered this region, there have been watermills recorded to be here. I do not know how old this specific mill is, but it sure is a landmark of Manarola.
These mills were used to grind grains and cereals and to press a certain amount of olive oil for private use only!
Corniglia to Manarola Hike
From the parking lot at the top of Corniglia, take the long and winding road indicating the direction of Manarola. The paved road passed small vineyards and crumbling dwellings before giving way to a dirt path at the bottom of the hill. The path provides stunning sea view below and a peak at the village of Volastra, located in the hills high above. Those who do not wish to test their endurance will find this path to be less rugged and exhausting than those connecting Corniglia to Vernazza and Vernazza to Monterosso. Allow approximately 45 minutes to one hour to complete the hike, which terminates at Punta Bonfiglio, a picture-perfect point across the harbor from Manarola.Related to:
- Hiking and Walking
- National/State Park
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