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.
The Iconic Town of the Cinque Terre. Manarola is often the first village that comes to mind when people talk about the Cinque Terre. Along with Vernazza, it is widely regarded as one of the most picturesque and charming villages of the five. The village boasts a stunningly beautiful and colorful marina that makes for an ideal spot to take some unforgettable photos. It has just the right balance of all the qualities that make the Cinque Terre so special, including a lively old town, picturesque alleys that lead to breathtaking views of the surrounding cliffs and mountains, and inviting spots for a quick dip in the clear waters.
Manarola is the perfect place for travelers who want to soak up the charm and laid-back ambiance of a quintessential Italian village. The colorful houses and winding streets of the old town are a delight to explore, while the marina is a hub of activity with fishing boats coming and going and locals chatting animatedly. Manarola is also a great base for hiking enthusiasts who want to explore the surrounding hills and vineyards that are renowned for producing some of the best wines in the region. With its perfect blend of scenic beauty and character, Manarola is truly an iconic gem of the Cinque Terre that captures the hearts of visitors from all over the world.
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
While it is possible to reach Manarola by car, it is important to note that cars are not allowed in the village. Due to this restriction, traveling by car may not be the best option to reach these remote villages. In addition, the limited number of parking spots available can be a disadvantage for travelers coming by car, and the cost of parking is relatively high (about 2.50 EUR per hour and 25 EUR per day). However, for adventurous travelers who still decide to come to the Cinque Terre by car, below are some distances and approximate travel times from nearby cities: 114 km and approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes from Pisa, 94 km and approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes from Genoa, 34 km and approximately 45 minutes from La Spezia, and 45 km and approximately 55 minutes from Sestri Levante.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
OUR FINAL THOUGHTS
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!
| 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.