It is quite sure that the origins of Riomaggiore date back to the 8th Century, when the inhabitants of the Vara valley, searching a milder climate to raise grapevines and olive-trees without the fear of pirate raids, moved towards the coast. The town climbs up along the ridges overlooking the sea and it is characterized from the typical stone houses with coloured façades and slate-roofs.
The town of Riomaggiore presents typical features reflecting its history and traditions.
The town stretches along a vertical axe where steep staircases are the only means to move around the town.
The typical houses have one or two-floor towers in order to use at best the place at disposal.
The first historical traces date back to 1239, when the inhabitants of the feudal district of Carpena entered in the Compagnia Genovese.
Only in 1343 Riomaggiore became independent as municipality and administration, and during Napoleon’s age it absorbed also the town of Manarola, whose historical roots are even older than Riomaggiore itself.
Guardiola Tower, now a natural park, once it was one of the most equipped fortresses in the area.
The church of san Giovanni Battista dates back to 1341, and its façade was rebuilt in neogothic style in 1820. Also the parish church of san Lorenzo dating back to 1338 has a gothic façade.
The castle of Riomaggiore (15th-16th Century) rises on a rocky crag dividing the most ancient part of the town from the one standing nearby the railway station.
Not far from a group of houses, on the hill of Cerricò, you can find the castle, a fortification dating back to the 13th Century e from where you can enjoy a wonderful sight over the sea.
In the highest part of the town there is the parish church of san Giovanni Battista built in 1340 by the bishop of Luni, Antonio Fieschi. Going down along the road of the Sanctuary you can reach the oratory “dei Disciplinati” (16th Century), very interesting for the paintings in its interior. About 350 metres from the sea, along the coast road connecting the Cinque Terre with La Spezia, you can find the sanctuary of Madonna di Montenero.
About Guardiola Tower, reachable through a footpath leaving from town, we can tell that is the best beauty spot overlooking the coast and the town. Very interesting is the Environmental Education Centre of Torre Guardiola, whose aim is organizing several events for nature lovers of all ages. Among them there is the “Writing Trail”, which, through some laps indicated by panels, invites the tourists to express their creativity by writing poems about the beauty of the landscape.
Castle of Riomaggiore: you can reach the fortification from the town, climbing the steep road from the railway station. It began to be built in 1260 by the Marquis Turcotti, lord of Ripalta and feudal vassal of this part of the coast, who gave up all these properties to Nicolò Fieschi who, after some years, transferred them to the Republic of Genoa, which completed the defensive system of Riomaggiore. The castle has a square base with the longest sides overlooking the sea. The boundary wall has two circular towers. The entrance is located between the towers, and a narrow external stair leads to the tower controlling the town, where a big clock is built. Not far from it there is the oratory of San Rocco, built in remembrance of a plague which stroke the community in 1480. During the times the castle suffered not only the usual wear of atmospherical agents but also a modification which changed the original setting up. In fact, until few years ago, the internal part of the fortress housed the town cemetery.
- The Natural Park
Riomaggiore is located at the interior of the Natural Park of Cinque Terre (founded by a Decree of the President of the Republic in 1999), and it is a Protected Marine Area housing several very rare animal and vegetal species. The sea of Cinque Terre is characterized by the presence of wonderful animals like dolphins and whales; in fact it is part of the Whales’ Sanctuary, a protected Marine Area. The fishing is regulated.
- Sport and Leisure
In addition to the beaches and the enchanting sea, there are lots of possibilities to do sea sports: diving (Riomaggiore has a very equipped diving centre organising guided tours to the marvellous depths), sailing and trekking.
- Food and Wine
Among the typical products we find several choices of dry white wine and of course the wine specialty of the Cinque Terre, the “Sciacchetrà”. This wine is famous all over the world and it is made by grapevines from “Bosco”, “Fermentino” and “Albarola” grapes. The Sciacchetrà is a suave wine of which we find two selections: Sweet and Strong Sweet.
You can easily recognize the wine by its golden-yellow colour with amber reflections and the scent of apricot and acacia-honey.
The origin of the word Sciacchetrà comes probably from Ligurian dialect and more precisely from the words sciac (to press the grapevines) and tra (to remove the rapes during the fermentation) but there are not certain documentation about that.
About Riomaggiore typical food, we have to tell that there are not typical dishes belonging just to this town: the tradition is common in all the five towns and you can choose among the famous Trofie al Pesto (present in the whole Riviera but in Riomaggiore you can find them made with chestnut flour), the vegetable-quiches and the fish (the most famous receipts are the bread-coated fried anchovies and the whitebait-fry).
Among the particular events in the area the Luminous Crib of Manarola, the suggestive town of Cinque Terre belonging to the municipality of Riomaggiore, is really worth seeing. This spectacular crib is prepared every year on the hill “Tre Croci” by the retired railwayman Mario Andreoli, who make tourists and inhabitants dream with his luminous statues. Very interesting is also the Celebration of Corpus Domini in Riomaggiore with the blessing of the sea taking place in May or June according to Easter.