One of the most popular excursions in Tuscany is a day trip from Florence to the Cinque Terre. The five towns that perch precariously on the rugged cliffs that hang above the Ligurian coastline are today a UNESCO World Heritage site. Known as the Italian Riviera, the towns are linked by a breathtaking hiking trail that many visitors enjoy when they come on a day trip from Florence to the Cinque Terre. The less energetic tourists have the option of taking the train or a leisurely boat ride to get from town to town.
Riomaggiore is one of the stand out spots on the Cinque Terre and we feel it deserves more than a fleeting glance, which is why we have dedicated this post to letting you into some of its secrets. Don’t forget that Walkabout Florence does a fabulous day trip from Florence to the Cinque Terre and we include plenty of time to explore this village too.
Like the neighbouring villages, Riomaggiore was founded in the eighth century by Greek refugees. These people were attracted by the fertile soils and rich pickings from the coastal waters. The modern day village, however, was established in the thirteenth century and is nestled between two steep hills in a small valley. The stream known as the Rivus Major flows beneath and gives the village its name.
From the off, this area was reliant on its production of wine and olive oil. The terraces you see all the way along the Cinque Terre are still tended and continue to produce their fruits as they have done for centuries. Today, however, the main industry is most definitely tourism.
What to Do in Riomaggiore
The beauty of visiting this pretty spot is that you don’t really need to have an agenda. Simply wandering the winding streets and soaking up the charming atmosphere gives you an authentic feel for what this place is all about. The pace is slow and the locals go about their business despite the heavy footfall of visitors. The main street leads down to the glittering waters of the Mediterranean, which are bordered in Riomaggiore by a picture postcard marina and pastel hued houses that appear to have come straight out of a painting. Salty air swirls gently round every corner and the more time you spend here the easier it is to relax and feel the stresses and strains of everyday life melt away.
Despite its modest size, there are a few attractions of note in the village. All are within an easy walk of the station or main hiking trail.
Church of San Giovanni Battista
This Gothic church built in 1340 was given a makeover in the late nineteenth century, after it collapsed. Inside is a collection of exceptional art work, with the highlights including the painting by Domenico Fiasella, known as the “Preaching of John the Baptist”, and a wooden crucifixion by Maragliano. There is also an interesting mechanical organ that was constructed in 1851.
Oratorio di Santa Maria Assunta
Built in the sixteenth century, the Oratorio di Santa Maria Assunta is close to the centre of town in the main street, Via Colombo. Inside the church you can see a wooden statue of the Madonna and a triptych that includes carvings of Jesus, the Virgin Mary and Saint John the Baptist.
For anyone who enjoys a good view, the short walk up to the Castello di Riomaggiore at the highest point of the village is worth the small effort. From its terrace the views are truly panoramic, and you can see why the protective structure was built here in 1260 as a lookout and defence from barbarians and pirates.
Stroll Along Via Colombo
The village’s main street is as you would expect: full of cafes, restaurants, artisan shops, bars and more. It is frequented by locals and visitors alike and is a wonderful spot to grab a cappuccino and do a spot of people watching.
Hike Via Dell’Amore (The Path of Love)
This famous footpath that starts in Riomaggiore leads to Manarola and is a short, flat and easy to navigate part of the hiking trail. Cutting through the cliffs, it is the shortest of all of the hiking sections. Lovers traditionally bring padlocks inscribed with their names, hang them on the nets that adorn the walkway and throw away the keys in a gesture of eternal devotion.
Top Tip: Via dell’Amore is still closed for restoration and an alternative trail to reach Manarola is the Trail 531. It takes 1 hour and an half to do the full trail with proper hiking, but you will be rewarded by amazing views and by passing through some terraced vineyards.
What to Eat and Drink
Just as with other regions in Italy, the traditional recipes of this part of Liguria are made from ingredients naturally sourced from the surroundings. Below are some of our favourite dishes that you can expect to find in the restaurants of Riomaggiore.
The simple things are the best and this Ligurian flatbread is no exception. Sometimes flavoured but more often than not just seasoned with sea salt and olive oil, it is eaten at breakfast or alongside a morning coffee.
Abundant in these waters, the anchovy has been fished here since Roman times. Traditionally they are caught at night by the ‘lampare’, the anchovy fishermen, who take lamps out to lead the fish into their nets. The delicate morsels can be eaten fried with a coating of egg, Parmesan and herbs, or simply marinated in olive oil. If you want to take some home to add to your pasta sauces you can buy them dried and preserved.
Pasta al Pesto
Every region in Italy is proud of its local pasta dish and Cinque Terre’s offering doesn’t disappoint. This delicious and vibrant plate of food is made with a bright green sauce that combines basil from Genoa, pine nuts, Parmesan, Pecorino, garlic, salt and olive oil. Served with Trenette or Trofie pasta, boiled green beans and potatoes, it has now earned a Protected Designation of Origin (DOP) to honour its authenticity.
What to Drink
The white wines of this coastal haven are sublime. Dry but accentuated with herbal notes, they make the perfect pairing for seafood. The 26 producers making the wines today use any combination of the Bosca, Albarola or Vermentino grapes, and there are several varieties to choose from.
For anyone with a sweet tooth, the local dessert wine, known as Sciacchetrá, is worth investigating. Made using the traditional method of drying the grapes in the sun to bring out their sweetness, the resultant liquid is a distinctive wine that matches beautifully with cheese or cake. If you are really interested in Sciacchetrá, you can pop to Manarola and visit the little museum.
We really hope that we have inspired you to consider taking a day trip from Florence to the Cinque Terre. There is so much to discover in this wonderful part of Italy, not least the charming village of Riomaggiore.
We Are Walkabout Florence
Here at Walkabout Florence, we make it our business to offer every one of our clients the very best of this beautiful part of Italy. Whatever your hopes for your trip, be it history, culture, food or wine, we want your experience to be the best it can be. A day trip from Florence to the Cinque Terre is one of our most popular and it allows you to enjoy a full day exploring the towns before returning to the city in time for dinner in the evening. Why not get in touch and let one of our expert team advise on the best tour for you.