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Corniglia, Manarola, Riomaggiore

The most panoramic path of Cinque Terre
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Trekking at Cinque Terre, admiring the Ligurian sea, the picturesque villages and the vineyards, is a wonderful experience. The path halfway up the hilly coast from Corniglia and Manarola is perhaps the most impressive for landscapes and panoramas.

Corniglia, Cinque Terre
Corniglia, the third village of Cinque Terre
There are in fact several itineraries linking the Cinque Terre (from west to east: Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, Riomaggiore), some of which are closed due to old landslides. In a somewhat inaccurate way, it can be said that at the bottom there is the coastal path ("Sentiero Azzurro", or Blue Path, with an entrance fee), then halfway up the hill there is the path of the sanctuaries and at the top you find the "Alta Via" (High Route). There are also various itineraries that link the different paths. Between Monterosso and Corniglia we have described here a mix between the low and middle paths, but in this page we talk about the middle path from Corniglia to Manarola (and then Riomaggiore), which concides with the itinerary of the sanctuaries (btw, here the coastal path at the end of 2018 was closed and will still be closed for long).
Corniglia, Cinque Terre
The path above Corniglia, towards Volastra and Manarola
From the beautiful village of Corniglia, perched on a cape in the middle of the sea, you have to take the signs for route 7a towards Case Pianca and Volastra. This path starts behind the ancient church of San Pietro, a typical Ligurian building. As on the other trails in the area, you climb quickly into the woods, coming soon to enjoy spectacular views.

Punta Mesco from the path above Corniglia
Punta Mesco viewed from the path 7a over Corniglia
Corniglia from path 7a
Corniglia from path 7a
The views are even wider when, at a crossroads, the signs indicate the path 6d (ex 586) and Volastra on the right (while the 7a continues to climb towards Case Pianca). We take the route 6d to Volastra and we are soon to walk along ancient terraces overlooking the sea.
Terraces between Corniglia and Manarola Terraces between Corniglia and Manarola
Terraces along the path between Corniglia and Manarola, with views over Monterosso and Punta Mesco
These terraces, besides having a long history and showing how hard it was to cultivate in the Cinque Terre, are used to produce vermentino and sciacchetrà, the local white wines of the Riviera di Levante.
The scenic 6d trail continues to Volastra, with remarkable views over Manarola. Volastra is a village perched at 330 meters above sea level, with an ancient church and houses where life runs slow. Right in front of the church, a path descends towards the sea and Manarola.
You lose altitude quickly and, at a certain point, a deviation indicates Manarola via the panoramic path: take it to admire the whole village.
Cemetery of Manarola
The cemetery of Manarola and the surrounding nice park
From here you arrive at the cemetery of Manarola and especially at the park that surrounds it, from which you can admire the hamlet in all its splendor (and from this area starts also the coastal path to Corniglia, which is closed for the various landslides of the past years). To get to Manarola from Corniglia it took us about two and a half hours, without running (but also without going in slow motion, crawling, creeping or bouncing backwards on one foot, things that would have lengthened the time of travel).

Waves at Manarola Waves at Manarola
Wonderful Manarola and rough seas
In the park there are tables where you can have a picnic (in December they are almost empty, but in high season you will find them crowded!). In the village, you can then go in search of the path that continues towards Riomaggiore. While a tunnel leads to the station and the Via dell'Amore (closed until 2021), if you keep walking up inside Manarola you get to the starting point of the itinerary Manarola Riomaggiore via Beccara. (to find this starting point, you can either use your intuition or look for Via Rollandi 34 on Google Maps: the path 531 starts just in front of this house with a staircase.).
Crib of Manarola
Crib of Manarola
Going up, you leave behind Manarola, but in December it is worth watching back to admire the famous Nativity of Manarola, built on the terraces of a hill. It is one of the largest Nativity scenes in the world and it reaches its maximum charm when it is illuminated.
The staircase soon becomes a steep and friable path, rather challenging. Even if it is not December, it is worth turning to admire the panorama of the Ligurian Sea and the coast of Cinque Terre, including Corniglia.
Crib of Manarola
Crib of Manarola and Cinque Terre
The path from Manarola to Riomaggiore climbs really steep, almost without horizontal development, towards the 202 meters of the ridge of Costa Corniolo. As the crows flies, Manarola and Riomaggiore would be really close, but this path is hard. The sea views pay off the fatigue.
Path from Manarola to Riomaggiore via Beccara
The steep path from Manarola to Riomaggiore via Beccara
Even the descent is steep. The houses of Riomaggiore that can be seen from the trail 531 are the least beautiful of Cinque Terre (unfortunately behind the historical village they built too much). On the other hand, you can admire the promontory of Montenero that at the top boasts the homonymous sanctuary (as described here in regard to the wonderful hiking itinerary Riomaggiore-Portovenere).

Path to Riomaggiore
Path from Costa Corniolo to Riomaggiore
One of the problems of Cinque Terre is that certain paths are closed, others are reported as closed but then they are open, others still seem open but then they are closed (and sometimes this also applies to the roads!). In fact, once arrived in Riomaggiore after an hour's walk from Manarola, we found the road barred by a gate. We climbed over, but it wasn't easy. The alternative was to go back for about 20 minutes and take a detour. However, once in Riomaggiore we were able to admire the wonderful fishing village.
Riomaggiore Riomaggiore
The quaint village of Riomaggiore
From here, in addition to continuing towards Portovenere for the most wild walkers, you can take the train and return to Corniglia (off season, you can also use your car to reach one of the towns of Cinque Terre, if you do not mind driving along narrow and twisty roads immersed in nature; then, however, to move between the villages, the train is the only sensible mean of transport... In addition to the trails!).
In short, the route Corniglia-Manarola via Volastra is really amazing, and also Manarola-Riomaggiore via Beccara is recommended for experienced hikers. Have fun!!

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