Manarola: The Complete Guide

Manarola, known as Manaea in the local dialect, is a small town located in the province of La Spezia, Liguria, northern Italy. It is a frazione of the municipality of Riomaggiore and is renowned as one of the famous Cinque Terre towns frequented by tourists. Despite being the second-smallest town in the area, it has a population of 353.

The village’s name may have originated from a large wheel, which is believed to be the source of its name. Manarola is considered to be the oldest among the Cinque Terre towns, with the church of San Lorenzo dating back to 1338. The local dialect spoken in Manarola, called Manarolese, differs slightly from the dialects spoken in the surrounding region. The name “Manarola” likely evolved from the Latin term “Magna rota,” which means “large wheel.” In the Manarolese dialect, it transformed into “Magna roea,” referring to the mill wheel in the town.

Fishing and wine-making have been the primary industries in Manarola throughout its history. The region is particularly famous for its local wine, Sciacchetrà, which has garnered praise even in ancient Roman writings for its exceptional quality. In recent years, Manarola and the neighboring towns have become popular tourist destinations, especially during the summer months. The area offers various tourist attractions, including the renowned walking trail known as Via dell’Amore (“Love’s Trail”) connecting Manarola and Riomaggiore, as well as hiking trails in the hills and vineyards surrounding the town. Manarola is one of the five villages comprising the Cinque Terre. The houses in Manarola are known for their vibrant and colorful appearances. Notably, Antonio Discovolo (1874–1956) immortalized Manarola in his paintings.

Visiting Manarola for the first time and wondering what are the top places to see in the city? In this complete guide, I share the best things to do in Manarola on the first visit. Top help you plan your trip, I have also included an interactive map and practical tips for visiting!

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History of Manarola

The village’s origins trace back to Roman times, with its oldest nucleus established on the hill of S. Cristoforo gaining prominence as a protective stronghold during Longobard attacks in the 7th century. Throughout the Middle Ages, various noble families contended for control over the area, ultimately falling under the rule of the Republic of Genoa.

Spanning two bays, the historical core occupies the Bruanco River’s bay to the East (old town), while the settlement in the Fegina inlet to the West, housing the railway station, has more recent development.

In 1870, the Italian government constructed a railroad line, connecting the village to the outside world and becoming the primary gateway for visitors. The population stands at 2000 residents, and in recent years, tourism has surpassed agricultural activities as the predominant economic driver.

4 Best places to See in Manarola

This complete guide to Manarola not only tells you about the very best sights and tourist attractions for first-time visitors to the city but also provide insights into a few of our personal favorite things to do.

This is a practical guide to visiting the best places to see in Manarola and is filled with tips and info that should answer all your questions!

Oratory of the Disciplinati of Manarola

Oratoire Manarola
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Chabe01
Dating back to the fourteenth century, the Disciplinanti congregation was dedicated to safeguarding the vulnerable. Situated in Manarola, this oratory is located in the upper area of the town’s square, where the San Lorenzo parish church also stands. Originating in the fifteenth century, it is alternatively referred to as the oratory of the Santissima Annunziata […]
Location: Via Rocca, 15, 19017 Manarola SP, Italy | Distance: 0.10km
Visiting Oratory of the Disciplinati of Manarola

Bastion of Manarola

Manarola Bastion
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Elisavans
During the medieval era, the entirety of the Ligurian coastline was vulnerable to the threat of pirate raids, and Manarola was certainly not exempt from these challenges. In response to these incursions, a sea-facing castle was erected, a location now occupied by the iconic pastel-coloured houses that define the town’s aesthetic. Although the castle itself […]
Visiting Bastion of Manarola

San Lorenzo Manarola

San Lorenzo Manarola
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Groume
The parish church known as the Nativity of the Virgin Mary is commonly addressed as the church of San Lorenzo, the town’s patron saint, whose celebration takes place every 10th of August. Erected in 1338, a fact commemorated by a plaque on the right side of the facade, the church represents an exemplar of Ligurian […]
Location: Chiesa di San Lorenzo, Via Rocca, Manarola, SP, Italy | Distance: 0.20km
Visiting San Lorenzo Manarola

Santuario di Nostra Signora della Salute, Cinque Terre

Santuario Di Nostra Signora Della Salute, Cinque Terre
CC BY-SA 3.0 / avide Papalini
The Santuario di Nostra Signora della Salute or Sanctuary of Our Lady of Health is a Catholic place of worship located in the hamlet of Volastra within the municipality of Riomaggiore, in the province of La Spezia. This sanctuary is associated with the parish church of San Lorenzo di Manarola and serves as the seat of […]
Visiting Santuario di Nostra Signora della Salute, Cinque Terre

Best Time to Visit Manarola

Throughout the year, Manarola and Cinque Terre offer a range of unique experiences, making it a destination suitable for year-round visits. Here’s a breakdown of the best times to plan your visit:

Spring (March to May): During spring, the area enjoys mild and pleasant temperatures, with nature coming to life as flowers bloom. Hiking trails become accessible, and the sea offers a calm environment for swimming. This season allows you to explore the charming villages before the summer crowds descend.

Summer (June to August): The summer months bring extended sunny days, providing the perfect backdrop for swimming and beach relaxation. However, this is also the peak tourist season, characterized by substantial crowds, particularly in July and August. To escape the heat and the masses, consider scheduling your visits for early mornings or late afternoons.

Autumn (September to November): Autumn is a splendid time to discover Manarola. It offers mild temperatures, reduced rainfall, and a vibrant local vineyard scene with full harvests. This is an opportunity to savour new wines and take part in local festivals. Hiking trails of Cinque Terre remain open, although daylight hours gradually decrease.

Winter (December to February): The winter season is the most tranquil period in Manarola. The villages exude a peaceful ambiance, and accommodation prices are at their lowest. However, temperatures can be quite chilly. This season is ideal for those seeking a serene experience, even though some hiking trails may be closed for maintenance.

Manarola caters to various preferences and activities throughout the year, whether you’re looking for warm beach days, serene hiking adventures, or cultural festivals.

Average Temperatures in Manarola

  • January 12°C 17
  • February 13°C 19
  • March 15°C 15
  • April 18°C 12
  • May 21°C 12
  • June 26°C 8
  • July 30°C 4
  • August 29°C 7
  • September 25°C 13
  • October 21°C 24
  • November 16°C 28
  • December 13°C 22

How to get to Manarola

Flying to Manarola: If travelling by plane, the closest airport is Pisa, approximately 100 km away. From Pisa, you can take the train or rent a car following the earlier directions. Genoa airport, around 130 km from Manarola, is a two-hour drive via A10 Genoa-Ventimiglia, A7 Milan-Genoa, and A12 Genoa-Livorno, following the provided directions. For those arriving from a greater distance, Milan Malpensa, approximately 300 km away, offers options. A bus service or Malpensa Express train takes you to the central station if traveling by train.

Driving to Manarola: Manarola, the second of the Cinque Terre from La Spezia, is accessible by car, though parking can be challenging. Take the La Spezia-Santo Stefano Magra exit from the motorway, where A12 Genoa-Livorno meets A15 Parma-La Spezia. Follow signs toward La Spezia on SS 370, enter Via Carducci, turn left onto Viale Italia, and follow brown signs for Cinque Terre. Viale Italia leads to the arsenal, where you turn right onto Viale Amendola. At the traffic light, turn left onto Via Fieschi (SP530), pass the football stadium, and continue uphill on Via delle Cinque Terre for just over 14 km to reach Manarola, passing Riomaggiore.

Travelling to Manarola by Train: For a hassle-free journey, the train is the preferred means of transport in Cinque Terre. The village has a station connected by a tunnel to the centre. The Genoa-La Spezia line offers a ticket price of 5 euros (2023) and 2.5 euros for children.

 

Tours and Activities from Manarola