Perched on a rocky promontory, riddled with caves, and lapped by startlingly blue waters, Cinque Terre’s village of Manarola is the epitome of romantic. Its charms include sea-view restaurants serving ultra-fresh anchovies, a picturesque waterfront promenade, and a rugged Italian Riviera shore dotted with swimming holes—all this and small enough to explore in a single morning.
Manarola makes a good base for for sailing and boat tours along northern Italy’s Mediterranean coast, as well as hiking and mountain biking excursions in Cinque Terre National Park, which encompasses all five Cinque Terre towns. Day tours to Manarola run from La Spezia, Siena, Florence, and Milan, and generally also visit Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, and Riomaggiore, plus nearby Portovenere.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Manarola can get busy in peak summer season, so book tours and accommodations in advance.
- Bring comfortable, sturdy walking shoes, as the village roads are steep and often uneven.
- While many hotels and tourist attractions in Manarola are wheelchair and stroller accessible, the village’s steep and narrow lanes can be challenging for those with mobility issues to navigate.
How to Get There
Located in Cinque Terre National Park, just north of Riomaggiore along the Italian Riviera, Manarola is a two-hour drive from Florence or a 30-minute drive from La Spezia. Parking is limited in Manarola, so unless you are staying in town overnight, it’s best to join a tour or arrive by train from La Spezia (a 10-minute ride). Alternatively, from mid-April through October, ferries connect Manarola with La Spezia, Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, and Riomaggiore.
When to Get There
Manarola sees the most visitors and the highest temperatures—upwards of 100°F (40°C)—during the summer. Hikers may want to visit in May or September to avoid the heat, while those on a budget should note that hotel prices rise in August. It’s possible to visit in winter, but some trails may be inaccessible in inclement weather. Year-round, overnight guests can enjoy relatively quiet evenings once the day-trippers depart.
Celebrating the Holidays in Manarola
Manarola’s most unique claim to fame is its magnificent Christmas nativity—the largest in the world, according to Guinness World Records. Every year from December to mid-January, the hills above Manarola are illuminated with more than 15,000 lights that comprise a mesmerizing nativity scene of over 250 characters. Best of all, the entire display is eco-friendly, built using recycled materials and powered by a sustainable photovoltaic system.