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Technical data

Difficulty: medium
Difference in altitude: 335 meters (1099 feet)
Trail number: 506, then 586, then 587

Recommended period: all year round (not recommended in case of bad weather)Length: 2 ours and 30 minutesSuggestions: the first part of the hiking trail has a very steep climb (1200 steps!) which the lazy ones can skip taking the bus from Manarola to Volastra. Normally there’s a bus every hour. Alternatively it’s possible to start the hiking trail from Corniglia, the climb will be much less steep but a bit longer. This hiking trail, unlike “The blue trail”, is completely free.

Vineyards and terraces: the characteristic feature of Manarola Volastra Corniglia hiking trail.

In 1997 Cinque Terre became part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site as “cultural landscape”. In particular in Manarola Volastra Corniglia hiking trail you can breathe the popular history and the traditions that made these villages famous. This hiking trail, marked with the numbers 506, 586, 587 allows you to see with your eyest the spectacular terraces with vineyards supported by dry stone walls, that strech from the hills to the sea. In fact men, to make this territory arable, began to make changes about 1000 years ago.

Manarola: the most photographed village in Cinque Terre.

Everyone has come across, at least once, on social media or web, in newspapers or postcards in pictures of Manarola. The most amazing thing in this villages are the colorful tower houses face fronting the sea. But in real live is even better! You breathe the scents of the sea, you are caressed by the sea breeze, you can walk trough the narrow streets called “carugi” by the locals, pervaded by the parfume of fresh baked focaccia.

Manarola, founded around the year 1000 by the inhabitants of Volastra, develops around the now covered Groppo stream. The first documents that mention Manarola date back to 1266, when the village was under the dominion of the Fieschi. A few years later it was conquered by Genoa who, under the guidance of Oberto Doria, destroyed the castle together with the walls.

How to reach the trail

The easiest way to get to Manarola is by train. Car is not recommended because parking pleces are limited and very expensive. Leaving from La Spezia Centrale train station, or from the one in Levanto, you can take the Cinque Terre Express or the regional train( be careful, not all the trains stop in Manarola!). In hight season (april-october) there’s a train every 15-20 minutes.

Leaving the Manarola train station there’ll be a tunnel that’ll bring you to the village centre. Going out from the tunnel turn right and walk for 150 metres (490 feet). On your left side, beetween 2 houses, you’ll see narrow stairs going up: that’s the beginning of the hiking trail.
PS: if you prefer to take a walk along the seafront of Manarola, to see the most photographed landscape of the Cinque Terre with your own eyes, just head towards the marina, continue right and go up to the upper part of the town. This road will rejon the hiking trail. First part: Manarola Volastra (trail 506) 

The first part of the path is a steep climb on the promontory of Manarola, known for hosting one of the most famous nativity scenes in Italy during the Christmas holiday, it’s called Presepe Illuminato by Mario Andreoli, consisting of 300 characters made with recycled materials with more than 1000 light bulbs reflecting on the winter sea.
As you go up you fall in love with the landscape more and more: the slate roofs of the houses of Manarola dominate the landscape together with the vineyards where the famous Cinque Terre Bianco DOC and Sciacchetrà wines are produced.
Going up you are amazed by this hiking trail overlooking the sea, on the right you begin to see the coast of the Cinque Terre. After about 20 minutes of climbing you reach the highest point of the hill, continue on the right for a small flat stretch until you reach the junction for Volastra and start the climb again, this time with less steep steps.
This section of trail derives from an ancient mule track, used for centuries to reach the sea and then the railway with heavy loads of wine and olives. The olive tree, which together with the vine is the symbolic plant of the Cinque Terre rural culture, dominates the landscape in this section. It is no coincidence that the ancient Latin name of this village is Vicolus Olivastre, the village of olive trees. In about 20 minutes you get to Volastra.

Volastra: searching for the pirates treasure

Volastra develops in a circular way on the top of the hill behind Manarola. It is a perfect stop to refresh yourself, fill your water bottles, enjoy a piece of Focaccia that can be purchased in the local grocery store, with a breathtaking view. In this town, with an even older history than Manarola, you can visit the 12th century sanctuary of Nostra Signora della Salute, made of sandstone.  To learn more about Volastra, its history the legend it contains, read here.

Second part: from Volastra to the junction for Corniglia (sent. 586)

Leaving the sanctuary of Nostra Signora della Salute on the right, you start the central section of the Manarola Volastra Corniglia hiking trail. It’s pleasant flat walk, with the best view on the Cinque Terre coast. Tip: the path is very narrow and sometimes has very steep steps, it is important not to lose your head for the breathtaking view but be careful where you step! You cross terraces supported by dry stone walls, dedicated to the cultivation of  vines. A unique feature is the presence of the monorail, used by farmers to juggle this steep area. Going on, we leave the vineyards behind and get inside a slightly denser wood with the typical tones of Mediterranean vegetation.Walking through this hiking trail you cross (literally, because the path goes through a house garden!) the very small village of Porciana. After about an hour of walking along this path that takes us back in time, immediately after the small inhabitated center of Pianca, there is the junction for Corniglia.

Third part: from the junction to Corniglia (trail 587)

The third and last section of the Manarola Volastra Corniglia path begins right from the junction 586-587, where  the descent to Corniglia starts. Among the Mediterranean vegetation, the small village appears at our feet, perched on a steep promontory, dominating the landscape. The descent takes about half an hour. There are sections on stony path and sections with low steps that can become slippery, be careful where you put your feet! The hiking trail’ll finish in the upper part of Corniglia, behind the church of San Pietro, built in1334 with its gray stone facade and the rose window in Carrara marble.

Corniglia

Corniglia is the only village in  Cinque Terre that has no direct access to the sea. To reach the sea from the town it is necessary to go down the 377 steps as well as 33 flights of the Lardarina staircase, which connects the village to the railway station and to the beaches. Alternatively there is a small bus that runs between the center and the Corniglia station.
The raised position makes Corniglia unique and special. First of all, it is the village of the Cinque Terre farthest from the masses of tourists, its location is the avoidable stop for those who visit the area in a day. Another peculiarity of Corniglia is its amazing view. Its position perched on the slope let you enjoy a wonderful view of the coast. A highly recommended stop is the Belvedere Santa Maria, a panoramic terrace from which you can see the neighboring villages overlooking the sea. You can get there walking along the main carugio untill the end (it’s the central road called Via Fieschi).
The village has Roman origins and its name came from the gens Cornelia, in fact vases were found in Pompeii where “Cornelia”, the ancient name of the town, appears for the first time. Later, in line with the surrounding villages, it passed under the dominion of the counts of Lavagna, then under the Carpena di Luni lords and then ended up under the protectorate of Genoa.

Tips:

sneakers or better trekking shoes because the hiking trail is steep and narrow, with steep stretches on slopes, without suitable footwear you risk getting hurt- water flask because in each village there’ll be a fountain with drinkable wather to recharge it and to avoid the plastic waste-cap, especially in the summer months, because the hiking trail is mostly exposed to the sun wind jacket or kway in the autumn and winter months because in these months it’s a windy areasunscreen because in some sections there is no shade a snack to prevent sugar drops and rebalance the supply of mineral salts: I usually carry a banana and some candy with me