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Five perfect little Italian towns all perched atop cliffhangers of mountain rock facing the Mediterranean Sea on the coast of Liguria - all setting the stage for an unusual vacation destination in Italy. One of them is Manarola, so charming of a town, it begs for a moment on your time just to make you stop, relax, and rejuvenate your soul, but before you arrive there let’s talk about the journey to get there. Often times in life, the journey is every bit as important as the destination. For the journey, is all about not rushing through life, and savoring every moment of every day, especially on vacations. Manarola can teach you about that mindset.
The five Cinque Terre Italian villages traveling South to North are: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso. So as you see the journey, as far as Manarola is relatively short journey, even though the expectation is that Manarola is just the second stop in a five village vacation hop around this part of Italy.
One way to begin this journey is by car, but forewarned doing so is only for the very brave, rich, and those highly skilled in driving narrow, cliff-hanging roads. Even if you are a daredevil adrenaline junkie, you’ll pay a price, just for parking. And at some point you’ll need to be aware that you’ll still want to ditch the car when you reach La Spezia train station. Taking the train is in Dream Travel Today’s opinion -- the only way to go.
Manarola, is the second smallest and the second town hop. It may be the oldest of the world famous Cinque Terre small towns in the province of La Spezia, Liguria, in Northern Italy. It’s been a destination for at least 700 years. And like, most small Italian towns, at the heart of it was a mill wheel, which probably explains the name “Manarola.” The name likely comes from the Latin “magna rota” which morphed into “magna roea” in the local dialect, but either way means a “large wheel.” That large mill wheel was important in Roman times, because one of the things this little town is famous for, is wine-making. The vineyards above the town are a testament to the wine making that continues today.
One of the first things you’ll notice about Manarola is the quaint old world charm of the brightly buildings and houses, many decorated even further with geranium hanging baskets from their balconies. The streets are steep little alleys often of cobblestone, framed at the tops with Medieval watchtowers. The center of the town overlooks a waterfront promenade where small fishing boats and pleasure boats that dot the main street. You’ll also want to regale in the beauty of the steep terraces, lemon tree groves, and the nearby vineyards.
You should plan to stay at least a few days, so you can walk the epic Via dell ‘Amore coastal cliff which links Manarola and Riomaggiore, spend a day at Parco Nazionale delle Cinque Terre, at least peek inside Chiesa di San Lorenzo Catholic church, take a selfie at Manarola Scenic Viewpoint, and be sure to not miss the Presepe di Manarola.
At night, perhaps from Punta Bonfiglio (a short uphill hike - as everything is uphill), you’ll likely partake in incredible sunset views enveloped in a playground with a bar. Or maybe it’s the other way around, a bar with a playground -- either way it’s at the top of “must do” while in Manarola. One thing is for certain, it’s there that many of us will sip sweet local Sciacchetra or Vernazza wine, in the romance of this Northern Italian Riviera region gazing at the fishing boats docking while wishing you could stay there forever. However, you’ll soon be toasting to the “continued journey” to see the other three Cinque Terre towns, of that I’d bet on.
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