Riomaggiore is the first of the Cinque Terre's five seaside villages coming from Tuscany, but it's the last one for those - like us - that see the world from the side of Genoa. Discover with us how to get there, what to do and about its beach. We will not forget to give you the best suggestions on the best hotels and places to stay to enjoy an unforgettable vacation in front of its multicolor facades so typical of Liguria.

Riomaggiore, from above has a bit of a banana shape. And as you approach it from the top you cannot wait to get a bite. One step after another, going down the main little street pointing down to the sea, you sink deeper in its sweet magic atmosphere. Its picturesque stairways and well kept small squares are all to explore on foot, there are no cars here to go around the narrow alleys, but many nice little shops where to buy the best of the local production: wine, anchovies and lemon marmalade.

Riomaggiore Cinque Terre

This is easily one of the most beautiful towns in Italy and in Italy the bar is set pretty high when it comes to idyllic villages: we understand even more the beauty of a place like Riomaggiore through the eyes of people that come here for the first time. As they emerge from the underpass to cross the railway, finally the marina appears in front of them and the spell by this point is cast by the buildings rising out of the water in a theater like semi circle. This is where you need to be at sunset: with a glass of wine, sitting on the rugged walls listening to rhythm of the waves as the sun go down below the horizon. The perfect aperitivo.

Riomaggiore beach

Riomaggiore Beach it's an ode to stubbornness. It's really about finding at all cost a place to swim, a tiny bit of land to leave your things and from which to dive into the water. There will be time in Monterosso to live the Riviera life sunbathing all day on the beach, maybe not here.

At the marina of Riomaggiore swimming is not allowed for your own safety, boats come and go all the time. To find the beach you need to go around the point and you will find the rocky landing called Spiaggia La Fossola. Yes, there is definitely no sand here. It's all stones, and pretty big ones actually (at least as big as tennis balls..), they may be nicely rounded by the endless work of the waves but, any way you put it, this is not recommended for kids. For everyone else you could consider buying rock water shoes or be prepared to look goofy when you are going in and out of the water as you try to find your footing. Now that we warned you about the cons, we still feel it is worth all the trouble especially at sunset when most of the crowd is gone and only the sun rests on the horizon looking you in the eyes.

riomaggiore beach

Things to see in Riomaggiore

There is no place in Riomaggiore that doesn't deserve to be visited, actually even the mountain villages of Groppo and Volastra should be included: hardly ever mentioned, they could easily bring the number of Cinque Terre to seven. Riomaggiore it's a gigantic monument per se, to be discovered stone after stone, alley by alley, learning to call them with their proper Ligurian name carruggio. Take things slowly, without haste, without expectations. Try to imagine the people that have lived here and built with basic tools this mosaic of walls, windows and houses perched high on the cliffs. This would save the inhabitants and their houses from the rough seas of the winter and sometimes from enemies, but still leave them close enough to the water to be ready to go out for their livelihoods and trade with the rest of the world.

If we need to point out some specific places of interest, the first to be seen is the Castle of Riomaggiore, with its cylindrical tower and the mighty walls. Next to it there is the Oratory of San Rocco: it was built to thank God for the end of the plague of 1480... this caught our attention: probably we would have dismissed this fact with a shrug just some months ago, now all of a sudden it seems to make sense that back in those days they would do something like this..

The Church of San Lorenzo, it's important because it is the one who is named after the patron Saint, while at the Church of San Giovanni Battista is where you can leave a prayer for good fortune. It is impossible to miss its central rose window in Carrara marble, the wooden crucifix of Maragliano (a master that has worked on countless churches in Liguria), and the beautiful churchyard, actually one of the most harmonious little squares of the town. Few, usually, take the time to get to know the Parish of Our Lady of Health, because it is located slightly outside the town of Riomaggiore, more precisely in Borgo Vittoria. It dates back as far as 1240 and the time dedicated to climb there will not be wasted.

The most spectacular church of Riomaggiore, however, is not be found here, indeed, it is well above Riomaggiore. We are talking about the Santuario della Madonna del Montenero, at an altitude of 350 meters which means about 45 minutes up steep trails and steps. This is also the first stop of the hiking itinerary that leads to Portovenere, and the view... well, ok you know were we are going... From here you can see all the Cinque Terre in a bird's eye view, the gaze goes as far as to reach Punta Mesco near Sestri Levante, on some very clear mornings sometimes the islands of Tuscany and Corsica may show up. You cannot miss it, even if you may get a bit out of breath to get up there. By the way, it's better to avoid the hottest hours, even if part for part of the route you will be protected by the shade of trees.

Cinque Terre Riomaggiore

Riomaggiore hotel

What a great idea it is to stay overnight and to book your hotel in Riomaggiore! It is one thing to share Riomaggiore with all the day trippers, but it is way better to have the town much more to yourself when the crowd slowly leave in the evening. At times it is true it can get very crowded: after this paradise became an Instagram and Pinterest staple more people of course wanted to see it. Especially in the high season (June to August) it is highly advisable to sleep here to experience a more private version of Riomaggiore.

Apartments are the way to go in Riomaggiore. Andrea & Katerina highly recommend those near the marina where they have enjoyed the gentle sound of the waves and a few more options with other perks.

Riomaggiore mappa

Riomaggiore Manarola: la via dell’amore (The way of love)

The via dell’Amore (Way of Love) is the Cinque Terre's best known trail, probably because it's the most easily accessible, plus it's flat and well paved. Perched on the cliffs it is a truly unique promenade above the water. It connects Riomaggiore with Manarola in just 1 km (0,6 miles). Unfortunately mudslides have damaged this path and it is now closed. It is possible to just walk a small portion of it from both side, a bit more from the side of Manarola, but unfortunately you cannot reach the next town. There are anyway other trails that you can hike higher up, certainly not as direct and with a lot more climbing to do.

When will it be fixed? We are really looking forward to the day we can modify this part, but to rebuild, it it's no joke. The works will cost no less than 2 million euros as it will be necessary to dig a new tunnel and to build a cable way to bring the building materials. All this has to be done on steep cliffs over the water. Hopefully the trail will be open again in 2023.

Riomaggiore Portovenere

There are two "touristic" ways to move between Riomaggiore and Portovenere: by ferry or following the trail. A different way of enjoying and seeing things, yet... they follow the same trajectory. From the boat, comfortably seated, your gaze goes upward to the magical stretch of coastline as it moves away from you. From the path, you will always be looking out towards the sea as the wake of the motorboats, 500 meters below, make you guess where you are actually going. It goes without saying that they are complementary: in fact, the best thing to do is to go on foot, and relive the adventure comfortably seated on the way back to the parking lot where you left your car or to the most convenient train station.

The path between Portovenere and Riomaggiore, leave us at this point running a bit short of hyperboles. It is a one-day excursion, about 15 km long and with almost 700 meters of net uphill climbing. We recently hiked it, with Katerina that at the time was pregnant but in great shape, and it took us 6 hours, including stops. The path is perfectly marked and at regular intervals you will find refreshment and rest stops. Halfway there is also the village of Campiglia, (oh delightful!), where you can take the bus to La Spezia, in case you realize you are too tired to complete the entire route or if the kids have become too.. uncooperative.

sentiero portovenere riomaggiore

For the most part, the path between Riomaggiore and Portovenere cuts across the Mediterranean scrub with the sea almost always in full sight below. It is never dizzying, but there are a couple of slightly exposed points that require to be careful. The first part, between Riomaggiore and the telegraph hill, among vineyards, steep "creuze", panoramic little churches, is the most charming of all places.

Riomaggiore parking

Parking your car in Riomaggiore is no easy feat. Actually it is almost impossible in the peak season! We will never get tired of suggesting to try to get here by train or ferry, at most by bus from La Spezia. But anyway, especially out of season, you are certainly allowed to get here by car and in this case, you could park on the road in the last kilometer before town. The access to Riomaggiore is restricted to authorized vehicles only and it is gated. Beware of the ZTL (Limited traffic zone), most parking spots on the road are marked with these letters which means they are reserved the locals. Park there and you will be fined and probably even scolded.

Another solution could be to park your car at the indoor parking lot where the road ends. But if you don't get there quite early (how early it depends on the season), it will have already run out places.

Riomaggiore how to get there

There are many options to reach Riomaggiore: so isolated over the centuries, it has become relatively easy to visit since the train line was built.

To get to Riomaggiore by car, you simply have to drive along the provincial road 370 for about 15 km. In a little less than half an hour, you will have reached your destination.

We warmly recommend to go to Riomaggiore by train, you will conveniently and quickly just get off at its station carved in the rock, right in the heart of the old town. Riomaggiore by train is so close to La Spezia: it is not even a 10-minute journey. Remember that not all the trains will stop in Riomaggiore, only the locals ("regionali") and the Cinque Terre Express (more about this service below) . For this reason if you want to get to Riomaggiore by train from Genoa, Milan, Turin, Pisa, Florence, Rome and all the other big cities, you will have to change trains in La Spezia, or sometimes in Sestri Levante.

The Cinque Terre Express is the local train of Trenitalia that runs between La Spezia and Levanto, and makes all the stops. The train stops, following this order, in Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, Monterosso, and Levanto. This is a spectacular service because you will have a train every 15 minutes in high season, the cost is €4, which allows you to use it to visit all the Cinque Terre easily in a single day.

In addition to the Cinque Terre Express, you can get to Riomaggiore by train directly from Genoa: but in this case have with you a snack, a book, some good music and maybe a conversation partner, because the - not so fast - regional train that makes all the stops takes about 1 hour and a half to reach Riomaggiore from Genova Brignole. The views of our coast (when you are not inside tunnels) will also provide a great distraction

The other way to get to Riomaggiore is by ferry. There are many boats that dock in Riomaggiore, most of them on the Portovenere (sometimes also La Spezia) - Monterosso - Levanto route. It is a seasonal service, from March to November. In the peak season from June to September there even more options: you can get to Riomaggiore by ferry also from Genoa and Versilia (Viareggio, and Marina di Massa and Marina di Carrara) and also from the beautiful Moneglia and Deiva Marina.

Riomaggiore scale

Riomaggiore events

Riomaggiore is a community of almost 1500 souls, with its cultural life and many things to do throughout the year. The main events in Riomaggiore, however, are traditionally linked to religious holidays and there are three dates to mark on the calendar. It all begins with with the festa della Madonna del Montenero, usually the second weekend of June. June 24, then, is the turn of the procession in honor of St. John the Baptist while in Ferragosto, the celebrations of the Confraternita dell'Assunta take place on the most important day of the summer. For lovers of festivals, you will find more in the page dedicated to Monterosso, it is here that most events of the Cinque Terre happen. Be sure lemons and anchovies will feature prominently in all food shows and not only!

Riomaggiore history

Maybe this is also why we like Riomaggiore so much: its origins are Greek, or so the story goes. It was in fact Greek refugees, fleeing from the persecutions of Leo the Third the iconoclast, who were the first to find shelter among these rocks.

In the middle ages for this stretch of sea countless battles were fought by the navies of Genoa and Pisa. Riomaggiore, became part of the Republic of Genoa and swore allegiance to the city. Commerce took off and the the territory developed.

From 1300 onwards the heroic viticulture on the terraces became a major staple. This land is so beautiful, but nature can be harsh here and the human cost to build and maintain the terraced hills was (and still is) enormous. Nonetheless the Sciacchetrà wine became, already at that time, an export product that made it to the cellars of the most important European courts.

The history of Riomaggiore, from then on will follow that of the Republic of Genoa. First Napoleon, then the Kingdom of Sardinia, then the Kingdom of Italy and today the Italian Republic.

Riomaggiore panorama

Riomaggiore boat rental

There is no better way to visit the Cinque Terre than to take advantage of a boat rental service in Riomaggiore. There are a few operators who offer the possibility to rent boats for half a day or for a full day, depending on the budget.

Usually, you can get a good choice of small motor boats and kayaks. Motor boats rental, depending on the number of passengers they can carry, will cost you between 500€ and 800€ for the whole day, while the cost for canoes or kayaks is only around €15 per hour, less for longer periods.

On This is Liguria we only recommend the best local boat rentals: they will be able to guide you, take you or direct you to the best places with tips that only those who really know the coast of the Cinque Terre will be able to give.

The opinions of Andrea and Katerina

As it always happen when we write about Greece, we end up with the usual question: "what is the most beautiful Greek island?". Now that we are talking about Liguria, it's the time to ask ourselves the same question for the Cinque Terre. Is Riomaggiore the most beautiful of the Cinque Terre? Yes, it could be. For us us it is the most impressive: once you are down at the marina, and you feel almost crushed by the weight of the houses that surround you in a semicircle, it seems that the towers and palaces of Riomaggiore fall on you and the world seems to end there, in that tiny inlet that gives shelter to a few boats and a winch to put them into the sea. Maybe in the end we will never be able to give a definitive answer, but for sure we know that walking here on the way that leads to the pier, and the only beach, Riomaggiore seems unique and unrepeatable. Its facades of raspberry red, the main street that looks like a river of colors and people, will never cease to charm us.