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Manarola, Italy
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Manarola, Cinque Terre

 

Photo by Nicoletta Marconi

Manarola is a great base for exploring the Cinque Terre. It's the least touristy of the five lands. It boasts a number of short, easy walking trails. What's more, it's characteristic. Manarola is perched on a steep, black promontory. It's bordered on three sides by a terraced hillside and sits facing the sea. Founded in the 12th century, Manarola is a typical Genovese hamlet. Its multi-colored tower houses are accessible from more than one level. The narrow streets called carruggi are more step than road. The one drawback? There's no beach in Manarola, not even a small one.
Getting There
 
Manarola is the second of Italy's Cinque Terre when approached from La Spezia. The nearest airports are located in Genoa and Pisa. The car isn't the best form of transport for reaching Manarola as parking is a true nightmare. Local trains on the Genoa - La Spezia rail line stop in Manarola. The train trip from Genova is roughly 90 minutes. The journey from Pisa, also 90 minutes, requires a change of trains. Manarola is reachable by boat from coastal villages in Liguria and beach resorts in Tuscany from May through September. Of note, routes vary with the day of the week and some routes are operative for a limited period - mid-July to mid-September. Inquire before making plans. For Manarola, exit the A12 or A15 motorway at La Spezia. Follow the signs for the city center and, once on the coast, follow the signs for the Cinque Terre. Manarola is 14 km or 8.5 miles past La Spezia on the SS370. Parking is roadside or in the small car park.
Getting Around
 
Manarola is situated between the two easiest legs of the coastal pathway and only sections of the trail that are walkable with a stroller. The paved 30-minute Via dell'Amore between Riomaggiore and Manarola is a flat, easy stroll. The 45-minute hike between Manarola and the Corniglia train station may lack the charm of the Via dell'Amore and the terraced landscape that characterizes the trail between Corniglia and Monterosso but it is flat and accessible to all. The 15-minute hike from the train station to Corniglia is straight up, 377 stairs or a series of ramps. Family Travel Tips: A trail fee, currently €5.00 per day for adults and €2.5 per day for children aged 4 -12, is charged to all walkers accessing the Sentiero Azzurro or path N2. All other trails are free of charge. The park service rents mountain bikes.
When to Travel
 
Spring (April and May) and fall (September and October) are the best times of year for a Cinque Terre holiday. The weather is generally warm and sunny and the throngs have yet to arrive or long since departed. Summer (June through August) is hot and crowded. Winter (November through February) is cold and rainy.
Things to Keep in Mind
 
A life-sized nativity scene is lighted on the hillside from December 8 to late January. While Manarola doesn't have a beach it's possible to swim near the port.
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