The first coastal town west of Portovenere is Riomaggiore, the first of the Cinque Terre. The name derives from “rivus major”, which is today crossed by the steep main road lined on both sides with houses that slope down in the direction of the sea. Originating in the fourteenth century, it separated from the community of Biassa in 1343.

The landscape is dominated by Mediterranean maquis, from the steep cliffs to the paths that climb up to Monte Parodi, beyond which you can see the Gulf of La Spezia: one of these paths leaves the town and rises rapidly up to the 400-metre altitude where the sanctuary of the Madonna di Montenero is situated. This is the first that you come to on the “road of sanctuaries”, which runs along the upper parts of the Cinque Terre.
The church of San Giovanni Battista dates from 1341. All that is left of the thirteenth-century castle is the outer wall and the ruins of the two towers, which can be visited in the panoramic location of Colle Cerricò. On the promontory of Torre Guardiola, where a fortress once stood, there is now a nature path for birdwatching enthusiasts. There is also an original open-air workshop for creative writing.
Manarola forms part of the same municipality and is very similar to Riomaggiore, to which it is connected by the famous Via dell’Amore that is carved into the hillside and by a short railway tunnel. This town, however, is older and is referred to in documents dating from the thirteenth century. The parish church of San Lorenzo, with a Gothic façade and rosace, dates back to 1338. Volastra, a town founded in Roman times, stands on the road to Corniglia and preserves its original layout.
Riomaggiore forms part of the Cinque Terre National Park, which is also a marine reservation: the many rare plant and animal species are protected and fishing is strictly regulated. All sea sports can be practised here, from diving (there is a special diving centre) to sailing.
The superior quality wine of the Cinque Terre is a white wine of world renown: it is a raisin wine similar to “sciacchetrà” and is very hard to find.


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