Favorite thing: When you stayed in Italian Hotel you will get usually some slice of bread and croissant, butter jam and coffee. Orange juice and cappuccino if you are lucky. This is typical breakfast. If you are used to eat more, best way is to book a room without breakfast and head down to the nearest cafe where there is a better choice.
Right next to the railway station you will find the largish Tourist Information Office. This is the place to come to buy your Cinque Terre card (see my other general tip), find accommodation if you haven’t pre-booked and get any other information you need to plan your time in the area. We found the staff pleasant and helpful on the couple of occasions we visited – once to buy those essential cards and once to enquire about the train strike and ferry timetables.
There is also a small selection of books and souvenirs for sale, and (upstairs) computers for internet access. We didn’t use the latter as we were only in Riomaggiore for a few days, but the prices looked reasonable and they were clearly attracting regular users, suggesting that access speeds are OK.
For any visitor who plans to do more in this region than simply sit in one place, the Cinque Terre card is a necessity. You will need one to access any of the footpaths – not only the well-known one that leads between each village but also the inland hikes within the National Park. It also gives you unlimited use of the trains between the five villages, and of the lifts and little green buses if you would like to use these to give you a break from the steep hills. And as well as giving access to the footpaths and free travel on the trains, your Cinque Terre card gives you free entry to three museums in the region – the Museo delle Cinque Terre Anticha in Riomaggiore (see my Things to Do tip), the Museo dello Sciacchetra in Manarola (telling the story of the local speciality, a desert wine), and the Anticho Frantoio (old olive press and mill) in Groppo, as well as the Centro do Salagione delle Acciughe, anchovy-salting centre, in Monterosso.
You can buy a card for one, two, three or seven days – our three day ones cost €19.50. There are also family cards, and senior citizens ones (for those over 70). Before you can use your card you will need to validate it in one of the yellow machines in the railway station.
There is anecdotal evidence that inhabitation of the Cinque Terre region began as early as the 8th century, when groups of Greek settlers, looking for a milder climate where they could grow vines and olive-trees without the fear of pirate raids, moved towards the coast. But it was only several hundred years later, when the expansion of Genoa’s territory led to greater safety at sea, that the inhabitants of the primitive hill settlements could gradually descend towards the sea. They were the first founders of Riomaggiore, a village clustered around the tiny harbour. Since then it has expanded, firstly following the narrow valley of the Riomaior river (which is today buried beneath the main street, Via Colombo) and later branching out into the neighbouring valley to the north.
The first historical mention of Riomaggiore as a village was in 1251, when its inhabitants swore allegiance to the Republic of Genoa in the war against Pisa. But it was only in 1343 that Riomaggiore became independent as a municipality, and later, in the 18th century, also absorbed it even older neighbour, Manarola.
Today the economy is focused to a large extent on tourism (some may say too large an extent), but there are still plenty of signs of the past, and the earlier occupations of farming and fishing are still important to its inhabitants.
Favorite thing: If your planning to be in Cinque Terre for at least 3 days I would recommend buying the 3 day Cinque Terre Pass that includes access to all the trails and also unlimited use of the commuter train that runs between all five villages. In Feb. 2008 I paid roughly 20 euro for my pass, it was well worth it. You can buy the pass at any of the train stations, the pass also comes with a map and train schedule.
Favorite thing: Throughout Riomaggiore there are several mini markets that offer produce and deli options at local prices. You can buy snacks and Coke's for around a euro. Much cheaper than what you will get at the tourist traps!
The Cinque Terre Card is your entrance card for the hiking path #2 from Monterosso al Mare to Riomaggiore (and/or vice versa). It also includes all trainrides between La Spezia and Levanto for the period of validity, which is either 1, 3 or 7 days.
In 2006 the rates were as follows:
- Eur 5.20 (1 day )
- Eur 12.40 (3 days)
- Eur 19.50 (7 days)
The tickets can be obtained at the entrances of the hiking paths or at the local tourist offices or train stations. You get some very useful information along with it!
Favorite thing: Riomaggiore definitely is a tourist destination - and it usually is crowded!! Still you will find places to just enjoy the colors and atmosphere of this fabulous Cinque Terre village! Sometimes it means looking up instead of down or left or right - you will find the remote corners and places to enjoy and love.....
Here are some links that might help you planning your vacation:
Aerial view of Riomaggiore
The Cinque Terre is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been.
The villages are gorgeous, the views breathtaking and the energetic hikes give you a great excuse to eat plenty of gelato!!
Fondest memory: Make time in your next trip to Italy to visit this magical place.
Riomaggiore is a very steep walk from the train station into and up through the town. This means there are many beautiful views and vistas of the Ligurian sea as you trek up from the harbor all the way to the top of the town.
Riomaggiore also appears to be a little less "touristed" (though not much) than Vernazza.
Fondest memory: I chose Hotel Villa Argentina as a mild splurge for a hotel in the Cinque Terre, and was not disappointed. In fact, I was blown away at what a great choice it turned out to be.
When I was handed my key to lucky room 13, here is the view that awaited me on my terrace.
After recovering from "vista-shock", I ran downstairs to thank the desk clerk for giving me the best view in the hotel.
He returned the compliment with a bottle of the local wine (a naturally carbonated white somewhere between a good Asti Spumanti and a champagne) and some local cheese.
I spent the next 3 hours (see picture) lounging on the balcony with snacks, wine & my camera, gaping at the view and occasionally snapping pictures until the sun went down.
What a fabulous introduction to Riomaggiore!
I have some sunset pics in a travelouge.
If you are heading off on a hike from Riomaggiore towards Manarola and beyond, you will start you walk from the train station.
There is a convenient cafe/bar/shop just opposite the station where you can buy cool drinks, snacks, or top up your caffeine levels before you head off.
This is how I would describe Riomaggiore... squeezed.. squeezed in a triangle of land: two mountains on the top and sides, the sea at the front. It's a really tiny charming place... sadly, but understandable, overrun by tourists.
Fondest memory: The fact that it's traffic-free... I found it very people friendly. Another fond memory is the people we met: lovely people that always had a kind word and were ready to share a laugh with us.
There is little to do, yet so much to enjoy.
I actually get sad when I read travelogues that say they hit all 5 towns in the Cinque Terre in one day and then left.
With 5 great little towns (Monterosso's a little more resort/"riviera-touristy") and some of the best hiking, the food, and most of all, the laid back "do-nothing" temptation to really relax and unwind, I cannot imagine staying in Riomaggiore or Vernazza less than at least 3 days. I never wanted to leave.
Fondest memory: Sunsets, hiking, fruiti de mare and pesto-pasta.
The parish church of Riomaggiore, San Giovanni Battista (St.John the Baptist), situated in the upper part of the village. The main construction is from the fourteenth century, the facade was added during the second half of the nineteenth century.