This is the article series about Cinque Terre that I will keep on writing for a while to provide you with better information about this area that is recently knowing a tourist boom. So, first of all, I must state clearly that Riomaggiore is the first of the Cinque Terre towns and a kinda leader for all the others. Let’s speak about this colorful town more in the details
Some Information About Riomaggiore
Riomaggiore is embedded between the Ligurian Sea and a mountain chain, part of the Appennines. The old part of the town dates back to XIII century and was located in the valley of the river Rio Major, where the town itself takes its name from. According to a legend, not yet proved by historical sources, Riomaggiore was founded by a a group of Greek refugees that escaped the abuses of this Byzantine Emperor known as Leo III the Isaurian. They reached the top of the mountain called Montenero and there built the first settlement. The town developed towards the sea only when the Genoan Republic had the monopoly over the sea giving birth to the nowadays historical centre. The first real historical sources about the existence of the town date back to the 13th century when a group of citizens gathered and pledged fidelity to the Genoan Republic in order to fight the war against Pisa.
Riomaggiore is a town which is basically built on a hill so it is filled with stairways, up and down, and sometimes the tourists get crazy walking on here, for example once I was sitting down and a tourist was marching shouting: this is crazy, this is crazy xD Imagine that, until last century, the villagers had to go by foot down and up everyday without any buses or cars! There are some nice places to visit in Riomaggiore such as the castle located on the top of the town or Rio Marina, which is the part of Riomaggiore that overlooks the sea with a small port. But the town is those kinds of places that must be discovered slowly, unlike many tourists do. They just come for one day planning to visit the 5 towns of the Cinque Terre, trying to squeeze the time to visit every place but what they get is just much tiredness and disappointment. I heard of many tourists complaining about our territory and the public transportaion and I more than agree with them but sometimes they should understand more about the place they are visiting. Cinque Terre is a very hostile place that does not allow the use of big buses and the bus company has no interest in boosting the night service as only a few tourists would use. Cinque Terre is a very rural place, it is not a megacity like Tokyo so do not expect too much. But anyway, back to our Riomaggiore, I would suggest to just wander aimlessly around the alleyways, you could come across innumerable picturesque corners, perfect for your Instagram profile 😉
At the top of the town you can find an old castle whose construction dates back to the 13th century. The castle was, though, improved during Genoan Republic’s rules. At the time of Napoleone was, instead, used as a place to bury the dead but recently it was transformed into a cultural centre and a meeting place. In order to reach the castle, you have to walk upstairs and pass through the whole town, you will be tired for sure, but you will be awarded with the best view over the town.
Rio Marina is the part of the town located directly near the sea where you can find the most famous view of Riomaggiore. When you pass through the tunnel that links the station to the other part of the city, at the end you find other stairs that lead you down…there you can find Rio Marina. For me it is the best part of the city because there are many restaurants (mainly seafood), an ice-cream shop I like, a cute small port and some rocks where you can sit down peacefully without many people being around you and annoying you. To get a glimpse of the town, you just need to climb up the stairs packed with tourists, of course stop at the ice cream shop halfway, keep on walking until you reach the top and you will be awarded with a beautiful view over Riomaggiore (you even got your ice-cream to eat while admiring Riomaggiore, such a good life!).
Reaching the beach is very easy: once you have reached the top of the stairway I was talking about before, you just need to go ahead until the end where you will spot the beach and crystalline water. Yeah, here the water is very clear and crystalling, you usually see the bottom of the sea even if it is quite crowded. I guess this is because the beach and the bottom are made up of rocks, which do not dirty the sea like the sand would do. The beach is normally crowded with people but still, you can always find some seats around if you search well. Another interesting fact is that you can do kayaking here, just go to the diving center you will come across before reaching Rio Marina. From here, the boat for the tourists usually dock and leave in order to visit other Cinque Terre so I guess this place is good as starting point if you are interested in the boat tour.
Here there is not much to say. Riomaggiore is a town that developed on hills so this means that you ancounter many steep and narrow alleyways all around. You just need to venture into the alleyways’ maze that make up the town. You find many picturesque corners perfect for photos 😉
Moving around the alleyways towards the castle you can come across the San Giovanni Battista church located on huge square overlooking the town. The religious complex was built in the 14th century but renewed in the 19th century because of serious damages the church suffered throughout the time. The façade was rebuilt in the Neogothic style but the rose windows made by Carrara marble was conserved.
How To Move Around:
To reach Riomaggiore there are many possibilities because it is very well-connected by train with La Spezia and other Cinque Terre and by bus. If you want to take the train, you just need to head to La Spezia Central Station (of course, if you are staying in La Spezia) and buy a regional ticket. The station in summer is often packed with people and you find queues everywhere so I advide you to come a bit earlier. You can buy the ticket at the ticket office but it is often slow and the queue is very long, moreover the employees cannot always speak a good English therefore you might have difficulties to communicate. A better alternative is to buy the tickets from the machine. There are, more or less, 6 machines in the station but sometimes some are broken or some just accept credit card. There is anoher way to buy a ticket, which is going to the Tabacchino in the station and ask for a regional ticket at the counter. The ticket is 5 euros, if I remember well, and the train just takes 10 minutes to reach Riomaggiore (if it is not delayed, of course). As concerns the bus, you can take it in Biassa or in Manarola. The ticket is more or less 1.50 euros but you can pay ten tickets for 13 euros. If you want to know more about the places I wrote about, please check out my previous article Cinque Terre Tips.