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Manarola - The Ultimate Guide to the Iconic Village of Cinque Terre


The Cinque Terre (which literally translates as "Five Lands") is named after five tiny villages which may be considered as one of the most heavenly places to be found in Italy. Located on the Ligurian coast and nestled in a series of coves between steep cliffs, this part of the Italian Riviera has become internationally famous over the last decades, arousing the curiosity of tourists from all over the world, and this is no surprise! The reason to this fame: its pastel-colored houses, its clear turquoise waters and its green vineyard cliffs. In this post, we covered the best things to do in Manarola by creating a walking tour with a selection of curated tips.





GENERAL INFORMATION

The Iconic Town of the Cinque Terre. Manarola is most likely the village you have in mind when talking about the Cinque Terre. Along with Vernazza, it is often considered as the cutest village of the five. With its beautiful and colorful marina, it hits the perfect balance between all the villages, making it just “the right” combination of the Cinque Terre qualities. It is home to a lively old town along a steeping main street, a cute little marina and incredible viewpoints. Manarola is the perfect spot for people who would like to stroll around cute and colorful alleys which can take you sometimes to breathtaking views of the surrounding cliffs and mountains while also being able to find a spot for a quick dip to enjoy the mesmerising blue waters.


HOW TO GET TO MANAROLA?

GETTING THERE BY TRAIN

Located in the second most southern point of the Cinque Terre, Manarola may be reached from larger cities of the Italian Riviera, and more generally from all the major cities of Italy. Like the other villages of the Cinque Terre, Manarola is more easily accessible by rail. The train station is located really close to the old town. Manarola's main square is located not even 200 meters away from the train station. Below you will find some information on how to get there by train:

  • From Pisa: a stop in La Spezia is necessary, the trip lasts around an hour and a half and costs 15 EUR.
  • From La Spezia: direct train line to the Cinque Terre; the trip lasts around 10 minutes and costs 4 EUR.
  • From Genoa: direct train line to Manarola; the trip lasts around 1 hour and 45 minutes and costs 10 EUR.
  • From Sestri Levante: direct train line to Manarola; the trip lasts around 50 minutes and costs 7 EUR.

The Cinque Terre Train Card is the card you need! This card costs 16 EUR per day per person and includes unlimited train rides in the Cinque Terre area AND gives you access to all the hiking trails (more information here).

GETTING THERE BY BOAT

One of the best way to enjoy the Cinque Terre is to hop from one village to the other by boat. This allows you to see the villages from a different perspective, however, if you are on a rush (which we hope you are not), boat rides tend to be slow and therefore not ideal. The price for unlimited boat trips in the Cinque Terre costs 27 EUR per day per person (more information here).

GETTING THERE BY CAR

Manarola can also be reached by car, but keep in mind that cars are not allowed in the village, except for local residents. We therefore think that it is not the best option to reach these remote villages by car. Another disadvantage for travelers coming by car is the high price and limited numbers of parking spots available. One car parks is located at the top of Manarola. Below you will find some information for the adventurous travelers who decide to come to the Cinque Terre by car:

  • From Pisa: 94 km, approx. 1 hour and 25 minutes.
  • From Genoa: 122 km, approx. 2 hours and 5 minutes.
  • From La Spezia: 17 km, approx. 20 minutes.
  • From Sestri Levante: 74 km, approx. 1 hour and 15 minutes.

GETTING THERE BY PLANE

It is also important to say that the nearest airports to the Cinque Terre are located in Genoa and Pisa. It is also possible to fly to bigger cities such as Florence and Milan, however these are not the best options.

Colorful houses of Manarola's marina
Colorful houses of Manarola's marina

THE VILLAGE

1. MARINA

The village of Manarola developed from a ravine which starts in a rocky little harbor incredibly squeezed between two stony cliffs and was recently protected by a breakwater, allowing the water to be calm enough to establish a marina. However, here people and boats fight for their place in the magnificent blue waters. As the town doesn't offer sandy beaches, tourists huddle on the harbor rocks to enjoy the sunny weather. But how can we blame them? The view of the colored houses crammed against one another and the vineyards above encircle the marina and make this spot way more scenic than just a beach spot elsewhere.


Detailed shot of the colorful houses
Detailed shot of the colorful houses
Swimming spot in the marina
Swimming spot in the marina

Manarola's tiny marina
Manarola's tiny marina

2. PIAZZA CAPELLINI

This will be probably one of your first stops if you're coming by train or by walk from the Via dell'Amore. When visiting the Cinque Terre you will notice you rarely have a wide and flat space when you stroll through the narrow steeping streets. So if you are like us and enjoy taking a moment to take photos and videos from different angles without feeling you're bothering people, this square is a good place for a break. As it is a bit elevated from the main street, it is a good spot for a nice perspective on the main street below flanked by boats.

3. VIA ANTONIO DISCOVOLO

Manarola's mains street starts from Piazza Capellini and makes its uphill winding narrow path until the highway. Surrounded by pastel colored building and with colorful flags over your head, as you go up, right when the road starts turning left, you will be able to see a house made of stones on the right side of the road. Stuck to the house there is a wooden wheel used to power the local olive oil industry. This evokes the origin of the name "Manarola" which is a variation of the local dialect meaning "big wheel".

 

Finally, this street will take you to a square on the top of the village with a church dating from 1338 facing a bell tower. The church is St. Lawrence's Church (San Lorenzo) who is the patron saint of the Cinque Terre. The bell tower used to serve as a watchtower from the time when pirates attacked the town. The dome was added later once the raids were over.

Via Antonio Discovolo
Via Antonio Discovolo
Another view of this cute alley
Another view of this cute alley

4. MANAROLA VINEYARD WALK

A bit below the church square, there is a wooden pole which marks the start of the Manarola Vineyard walk. This curving (but mostly flat) path will take you through the ancient vineyards of this region while also revealing new breathtaking perspectives of the town: from the church square on top down to the marina. This is definitely a walk not to be missed since it is an easy and rewarding one. If you always keep left, the trail will take you to the town's cemetery (not a bad spot for the dead) located at Punta Bonfiglio. This rocky point offers a killing combo: a nice and quieter swimming spot and the best and most iconic viewpoint to Manarola.

The Vineyard Walk is a must-do in Manarola
The Vineyard Walk is a must-do in Manarola
Vineyard in the hills
Vineyard in the hills
View from atop
View from atop

5. SWIMMING SPOT

Further from the marina (where 90% of the tourists stay for sunbathing and swimming), there is a more remote swimming point worth checking if you're into a little adventure! Following the Via del Giovanni path which encircles the Punta Bonfiglio, you will find a couple of rocks just before the path taking to Corniglia where you can leave your stuff for a refreshing dip. Although not a big one, this swimming spot offers pristine water with a view to Corniglia and the other villages north of Manarola.

Rafael having the best time!
Rafael having the best time!

6. PUNTA BONFIGLIO VIEWPOINT

This is undoubtedly the apex of visiting Manarola! This rocky point offers compelling views of the surroundings: one from the park above and the other from the Via del Giovanni below. The park offers a more panoramic view and also benches and picnic spots for those looking for a refueling break. You can go down to the walking path through some stairs at the end of the point. For those who want to avoid climbing, the Via del Giovanni path also offers spectacular town views. Special tip: if you can, try to stay in Manarola for the sunset! The light floods the houses on the hill with a yellowish glow which makes a glorious golden background on the marina scenario.

Beautiful sunset
Beautiful sunset
Thomas enjoying the view
Thomas enjoying the view

Sunset reflecting on the village
Sunset reflecting on the village

HIKING FROM MANAROLA

As previously mentioned, the five villages of the Cinque Terre are connected by hiking trails (marked with red and white paint), also known as the "Blue Trail" (Sentierro Azzurro), which have been used for centuries. In order to have access to these hiking trails, you need to either have the Cinque Terre Train Card (16 EUR per day per person; more information here) or buy the Cinque Terre Trekking Card  (7.50 EUR per day per person; more information here).

MANAROLA TO CORNIGLIA

This scenic hike is moderately easy and lasts approximately 45 minutes. The path is located just above the train tracks and coastline but check before going whether it is open as this part is often closed due to landslide threat!

MANAROLA TO RIOMAGGIORE

This stretch of the coastal trail is one of the most famous! This path, called Via dell'Amore, is an easy romantic walk that takes only 20 minutes. We strongly advise you to walk from Manarola to Riomaggiore, especially if you are only visiting for a day! Keep in mind that this path is often closed so it is wise to check before visiting whether it is open!

One of our favorite views of Manarola
One of our favorite views of Manarola
Cute little canoes
Cute little canoes

OUR VERDICT

Manarola is the quintessence of the Cinque Terre! Although not our favorite, it manages to achieve a nice balance of what makes these five small towns unique: a special mix between traditional Italian harbor villages with a dazzling natural combination of blue waters and rocky shore. Home to one of the most iconic viewpoint of the Cinque Terre, we certainly recommend planning to watch a sunset there!

The marina also offers a swimming point
The marina also offers a swimming point

 | For more information about the Cinque Terre, check our post here |


And now it's your turn to let us know what your impressions about Manarola were. Which of the five villages is your favorite? We look forward to reading your comments.


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