Riomaggiore, the village on the rooftop of the Cinque Terre
Squeezed between two valleys in a panoramic position, Riomaggiore stretches from the Ligurian coast towards the Apennines, clinging to the ridge. It is the first village in the Cinque Terre coming from La Spezia and offers splendid scenery between land and sea: crystal-clear water and cliffs, brightly coloured houses, and paths leading up towards the mountains for a total immersion in the Mediterranean vegetation of the Cinque Terre National Park.
Among the carruggi of the historic centre
Alleys and steep stairways wind around houses with pastel-coloured plaster and slate roofs, outlining a picturesque village where dazzling light and shadowy corners alternate.
The village follows the course of the stream, buried at the end, looking out to sea at the bottom and then climbing symmetrically on both sides of the rise: a perfect "V" drawn on the cliff.
In the upper part you can admire the 14th-century Church of St John the Baptist in front of a beautiful square, then climbing further you reach the Castle, a fortress from which you can enjoy a magnificent view of the coastline.
To admire the sunset, choose a spot along the wall and wait for the curtain to open on the spectacle of the sun plunging into the water.
A stroll through the old town offers pleasant breaks at outdoor tables, where each restaurant offers both land and seafood menus.
You must have the famous trofie with pesto, and try the anchovies, generously offered by the sea. When choosing gourmet souvenirs, be sure to include the fine Cinque Terre CDO white wines and TGI reds from the vines cultivated on the terraces, preserved anchovies and fragrant lemon jams.
Experiencing the Sea
The Riomaggiore beach is in a small inlet, only pebbles and lapped by a perfectly clear sea. There is an organised, and licensed, diving centre in the village: here, in the Marine Protected Area, snorkelling and diving are an authentic experience. You will come across a surprising amount of fish, from groupers to bream and sea bream; further out to sea whales swim.
You will discover the varied vegetation on the seabed near the reefs and in some places you will see veritable sea gardens of lush algae species.
For a sea trip, boats can be hired, even for large groups, and solo canoes and kayaks can be hired.
A walk of less than an hour leads to the Sanctuary of the Madonna del Montenero via a forest path and a sequence of steps. And that is the only way to get there, there is no road that can be travelled by car. You are at an altitude of 350 metres at a point where the vegetation thickens and the green stands out against the blue sky in a poetic contrast. The view is one you won't forget.
The entire area of the Cinque Terre opens up from up there, including the three islands of Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto, and on clear days the view flies as far as Corsica.
For the more experienced, the Sanctuary of the Madonna del Montenero can be the first stop on a long scenic trek. Just take the Sentiero dell'Infinito from here, which connects Riomaggiore to Portovenere in 12 km.
In the Cinque Terre National Park, the territory presents itself in all its magnificence, with ever-changing views. As you walk above the sea, you encounter ancient terraces for the cultivation of vines and olive trees, pleasant vegetable gardens and dense forests: the best of the Mediterranean landscape, which UNESCO has honoured by declaring it a World Heritage Site.
Even more challenging is the Monesteroli Steps to reach the tiny village of the same name, which can also be admired from the sea. But it is the 1,200 steps that provide a unique thrill. The coastline follows you in parallel, on what was an old mule track used by farmers to reach the vineyards.
A dizzying ascent towards the sky, breathing in the fragrant air: a bouquet of flowers, essences and saltiness.