The ruins of the 15th – 16th century castle erected on Cerrico hill on the north-west side of the village in defence against saracens’ invasions, testify Riomaggiore’s history. Two round towers and the restored perimetrical walls are still well-visible. Starting from the centre of the village, people can reach the ruins walking along Pecunia Street. In the highest part of Riomaggiore, in a little square with a beautiful view, there’s the parish church consecrated to Saint John the Baptiste, erected thanks to the Bishop of Luni, Antonio Fieschi, and his brother-in-law, Luchino Visconti, in 1340: with this gift to the village, they helped its inhabitants who had to go to Montenero or Manarola, to pray into a church. Saint John the Baptiste’s dedication seems to come from a misterious relic that Antonio Fiechi received in Genoa. The duty of the building was entrusted to the “Magistri Antelami”, longobardic skilled workers who were always on service of Genoa, and shared in almost all the Cinque Terre’s churches. The ogival door-ways on the east side and the windows of the original structure are particularly interesting. In the chappel located on the left of the presbytery, there’s a beautiful distemper dated back to 1480, placed on a Reinassance portal. The triptych is by the Master of the Cinque Terre, an unknown 15th century painter: it rapresents the Virgin and the Infant between the Saints Rocco and Sebastiano.
The village of Manarola was founded about during the 12th century by people coming from Volastra (the “vicus oleater”: olive-trees’ village). More probable for Volastra seems to be the ethimologic origin from ligurian names such as: “Viassa” (Biassa), “Vappa” (Viapra) or Strà…In ancient times, Volastra was already the post-stage used by the Romans for thechange of horses along the coastal road, before the building of the Aurelia (109 B.C.). From the overhanging hills, groups of countrymen went down toward the sea and founded this new coastal settlement. Manarola was a feud of the marquis of Carpena, then it passed to the powerful family of the Fieschi, lords of Lavagna, when the Bishop of Luni yelded it to them, in 1252.
This village, which looks more like a rural than a seafaring village, is the only one in which houses are not directly on the sea, and rises on the top of a headland. On the surrounding hills, vines and olive trees are grown and it is normal to bump into women that go or come from the "cian" (vineyard plans) with baskets and bundles on their heads. The first part of the path that leads to Vernazza is protected by another dry masonry which shelters from the sun and the wind that often blows very strongly from the sea: the path winds around twisted olive trees and goes up again to the top of other hills covered by holm-oaks and pinasters. At half the way it is possible to go down and reach the sea by a quick hardly traced path that reveals the beautiful and isolated Guveno beach.
L'antica Vulnerla, conserva il caratteristico aspetto di borgo medievale e vanta le più remote tradizioni marinare di tutte le Cinque Terre. Le alte case incrostate sul promontorio sono raggruppate ad anfiteatro intorno a una piccola insenatura: le sovrastano le possenti mura difensive e l'antica Torre del Castello. La salita al Castello è quanto di più vario si possa immaginare: agli stretti e bui carrugi si intersecano ripidissime le "arpaie" (strette scalinate), sopra le porte delle case rosa o gialle occhieggiano piccole nicchie con statuette votive. Le barche vengono issate sulla piazzola dove si aprono vecchi portici e rustiche botteghe, davanti alla Chiesa di S. Margherita di Antiochia, dal caratteristico campanile ottagonale. A Vernazza fanno scalo i battelli che da Portovenere effettuano il servizio turistico fino a Monterosso.
Long accessible from Levanto through the carriage road, it is undoubtedly the most visited tourist resort among the Cinque Terre. From the Capuchin Monastery and, further above, from the ancient Fieschi's Castle - today a cemetery - the glance can reach a large portion of coast, enjoying a marvellous panoramic view: on one side the steep Punta Masco, featuring the S. Antonio abbey's ruins, on the other the steep coast covered with vines where you can see Vernazza, Corniglia and Manarola up to Monte Nero cape. With a nice walk, from Monterosso you can get to Madonna di Soviore, the most ancient sanctuary in Liguria. It is traced back to the 11th century when, according to the tradition, the people survived to the Rotari Longobard invasions found shelter in this place and subsequently founded Monterosso: natural origin (ask about the Maddalena Hill and the Lapau Flank). The rich underwood of Mediterranean type is mixed with elements of centre Europe and Atlantic origin.