When you come in Riomaggiore from train station you have to go right and go through the tunnel to exit in the main Riomaggiore street Via Columbo. Going through the tunnel you can not skip mosaics. They are very colorful and lively. The mosaics are mostly images of sunshine, sea and love which are symbols of the whole area.
A lengthy pedestrian tunnel links the newer part of Riomaggiore where the railway station and start of the Via dell’Amore are to be found, with the older part with its restaurants, accommodation and harbour. You will probably find yourself passing through here many times, as we did, but don’t be in too much of a hurry. On one of its walls is a striking mural that runs the whole length. This is “Sequence of Memory: Sky levels and Sea levels”, created by local artist Silvio Benedetto. It is really lovely: loads of tiny pieces of mirrored and ceramic tiles used to conjure up images of the sea and sky in this region. You will find fish, octopi, starfish and jellyfish; the sun and the moon and stars; stony outcrops in three dimensions, and the rock strata that distinguish this coast. Do take the time to check it out.
Directions: Turn right out of the station
The most southerly stretch of the footpath that links the five Cinque Terre villages is known as the Via dell' Amore, linking Riomaggiore with Manarola. It is the shortest, and the easiest to walk, being paved and level for all of its length apart from the steps up to it (and there is a lift available for those unable to climb these). We didn’t intend that this would be the only part we walked, but the heat, lack of time and vagaries of local transport got the better of us. So in the end, this was the only stretch we explored, and while we loved it and enjoyed the views, its popularity and relative ease of access have their downsides in the numbers of other people you will encounter (including a gaggle of bored American teenagers in our case) and some rather ugly graffiti. Please don’t let these deter you though, as this is still a lovely walk. It’s about a kilometre in length, and the leaflet suggests that it will take about 20 minutes, but we took longer as we stopped often for photos and also once for a drink (see below).
As well as the views, we especially liked the local custom of couples here, who lock a padlock to the railings to represent the strength of their own union (see photo 4). Some are engraved with names or mottos, others are just as they came from the hardware shop, and together they present a wonderful record of so many people’s love for each other.
We also liked the little café towards the Manarola end of the path. OK we didn’t really need a rest or a drink on such an easy walk, but the views here have to be among the best from any café we have visited, so we just had to stop for a coffee in order to really make the most of them. You can see the cliffs and the deep blue sea immediately below where you sit, and round the next headland Manarola perches precariously on its hillside, luring you on. The little shop here also sells some nice postcards by the way.
Despite a button that says “English” the website below is only in Italian, but it has some wonderful images that transcend any linguistics difficulties.
Directions: From Riomaggiore station, climb the steps that you will see just to your left. After a few metres you will pass a wooden hut where you need to show (or buy) your Cinque Terre card.
By the way, I’ve seen many descriptions that refer to the whole of the path from Riomaggiore to Monterosso as the “Via dell’Amore”, but it is only this stretch that officially has that title so this can be a little confusing.
It seemed to us that almost all of the many tourists visiting Riomaggiore stayed on the main street, Via Colombo, or in the area around the harbour. The latter is unquestionably lovely, and the former has all the necessities of tourist life (shops, restaurants, bars) but it would be a real shame to come here and not explore the other streets “Off the beaten path”. Only on these will you get a sense of the Riomaggiore that the locals know, and start to understand their way of life. And only on these will you discover the complexities of building here, where the houses are shaped to fit the contours of the hillsides, with back entrances several floors higher than the front one and narrow alleyways running between and even beneath them.
These streets too will take you to wonderful vistas, such as that from beneath the Castello, and introduce you to pretty corners, such as this beautiful passion flower (photo 3), and to interesting building details, such as the old letter box (photo 2), and shrines and other religious monuments (main photo, taken near the church of San Giovanni Batista).
By the sea, on the harbour's tiny pier, look at the rocks.
See how the strata, originally horizontal, are now near-enough vertical.
Imagine the huge upheaval in the earth's surface which caused that to happen.Long before people were around, of course, but still an incredible thought.
There is a long pedestrian tunnel from the station to the village of Riomaggiore.
And all along one side of it is an excellent mosaic, which repays closer attention. Don't just whizz past: walk a little more slowly and see what you can see.
The artist, Silvio Benedetto, created 'Sequence of Memory:Sky levels and Sea levels' with the help of some fiends between 2004 and 2007. There are suns and moons, starfish and jellyfish, thousands of bits of tile and mirror........lovely.
Purchase a national park ticket and hike through the five villages making up Cinque Terre. The hike varies from beginner to intermediate and is about 18 km long. The easiest beginning at Riomaggiore. As you progress, the distance between towns becomes larger, so be prepared for the walk to get harder as you go further.
Stop as often as you like along the way for a swim or a bite to eat. You'll get great views of the coves along the cliffs and the crystal blue water.
You don't have to look hard to find the exact location of "off the beaten path" in the Cinque Terre, because the whole place, being a protected UNESCO site for the most part only accessable by local train, kind of qualifies by default under the definition.
If you hike some of the steep trails in the Cinque Terre and are determined to get "off the beaten path," you will probably fall off the cliff and roll&tumble into the harbor.
Go hikin' there, and see what I mean.