The Manarola to Corniglia trail passing by Volastra, in the Cinque Terre heart

TECHNICAL DATA OF THE CORNIGLIA TO MANAROLA TRAIL

Difficulty: medium
Elevation gain: 335 meters
Trail number: 506, then 586, 587
Recommended period: all year round (not recommended in case of bad weather)
Duration: 2 and a half hours
Suggestions: the trail has a steep climb in the first part (1200 steps!), which the laziest can avoid by taking the shuttle bus from Manarola to Volastra, which usually runs every hour. Alternatively, you can start along the path from Corniglia; the climb will be less steep but more prolonged. This path, unlike the Blue Trail, is entirely free.


Vineyards and terraces all along the trail

In 1997, the Cinque Terre became a “cultural landscape” UNESCO World Heritage Site. In particular, walking along the Manarola Volastra Corniglia path allows you to experience the history and traditions that have made these villages so renowned.

Path 506, the first part of the Manarola to Corniglia trail

This path, marked with the numbers 506; 586; 587, allows you to see the spectacular terraces supported by dry stone walls from the hills to the sea. Men began to modify this territory more than 1000 years ago to make it cultivable.

Manarola, the most photographed village of the Cinque Terre

Everyone has come across images of Manarola at least once on social media, in newspapers, or on postcards. The most striking thing is the colored tower houses mirrored in the sea. But in person, it is even better! You breathe in the scents of the sea, the breeze caresses you, and you walk through the narrow carugi, permeated by the smell of freshly baked focaccia. Manarola, founded shortly after the year 1000 by the inhabitants of Volastra, develops around the Groppo stream, now covered. The first documents mentioning Manarola date back to 1266, under the dominion of the Fieschis Genoan family. A few years later, Genoa conquered this stretch of coast and, under Oberto Doria’s leadership, destroyed Manarola’s castle and the city walls.

Levanto to Monterosso path with a guide

Trekking from Vernazza to Monterosso

Trekking Riomaggiore Manarola

Trekking on the Infinite Path

How to reach the Manarola to Corniglia Trail: 

Driving to the Cinque Terre is never recommended. Instead, take the Cinque Terre Express or the “treno regionale” (pay attention where the train calls, not all “regional trains” stop in Manarola!) from Levanto or La Spezia. The line is very well served in the high season (from April to the end of October), with trains running approximately every 15-20 minutes. The service is slightly slower in the low season, with no “Cinque Terre Express” trains. Leaving Manarola station through the tunnel, turn right and continue for about 150 meters. The path begins on the left, in the form of narrow climbing stairs between two houses. 

P.S.: if you prefer walking along the Manarola seafront to see the most photographed landscape of the Cinque Terre, go towards the small port. Turn right and climb towards the upper part of town. This road will rejoin the path.

First part: Manarola to Volastra (sent. 506)

The Manarola view from the Manarola to Corniglia path.

The first part of the path is a steep climb on Manarola hill, known for hosting one of the most famous cribs in Italy at Christmas time. Let yourself fall in love with the landscape more and more; the slate roofs of the houses overlook the landscape and the famous Cinque Terre Bianco DOC and Sciacchetrà vineyards. The higher you go on the path overlooking the sea, the more you stun; on the right, you begin to see the coast of the Cinque Terre. After about 20 minutes of climbing, you reach the hill’s highest point. From here, continue to the right for a flat stretch until you reach the crossroads to Volastra, and start the climb again, with less steep steps. This section of the path derives from an ancient mule track, used for centuries to reach the sea and the railway with heavy loads of wine. Olive trees and the vine symbolize the peasant culture of the Cinque Terre and dominate the landscape in this section. It is no coincidence that the ancient Latin name of this village is Vicolus Oliv

Volastra: in search of the Saracen treasure

The Shrine of Our Lady of Health in Volastra

Volastra extends circularly on the top of the Manarola plateau. It’s a perfect refreshing stop. So fill your water bottlesat the fountain, and enjoy a touch of fugassa you can buy at the local grocery store with a breathtaking view. In this town, with an even more ancient history than Manarola, you can visit the sanctuary of Nostra Signora della Salute, built in sandstone in the 12th century. Volastra is also where people can’t forget their lost bells. 

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

The typical trail sign is a red and white line on trees along the way.

Leaving the sanctuary of Nostra Signora della Salute on the right, take the central section of the Manarola-Volastra-Corniglia path. A pleasant flat walk begins from here, with the most beautiful view of the Cinque Terre coast

Advice: the path is narrow and sometimes has some very steep steps. It is essential not to lose your head for the breathtaking view but to be careful where you walk! 

First, you cross terraces supported by dry stone walls for vine cultivation. A unique feature is the monorail farmers use to navigate this steep terrain. Next, you leave the vineyards behind and enter a slightly denser wood with the typical tones of the Mediterranean maquis. Finally, you cross (literally, as the path passes through the garden of a house!) the tiny town of Porciana. After about an hour’s walk on this path that takes us back in time, we immediately find the crossroads for Corniglia after the scattered Pianca houses.

The signs of the Cinque Terre

The third and last section of the Manarola Volastra Corniglia path begins right from the trail’s crossroads 586-587, marking the way down to Corniglia. The small village appears at your feet among the Mediterranean vegetation, perched on a steep promontory, dominating the landscape. The descent takes about half an hour, with sections of stony and dirt paths and others with low steps that can be slippery, be careful where you step! Finally, the course comes out in the upper part of Corniglia, behind the church of San Pietro, dating back to 1334, with its gray stone facade and Carrara marble rose window.

Corniglia

Corniglia is the only village in the Cinque Terre without direct sea access. Therefore, to reach the sea and the railway station, one must descend the 377 steps and 33 flights of the Lardarina stairway. Alternatively, a small shuttle bus runs between the center and Corniglia station. 

Precisely this lifted position makes Corniglia unique and special. First, it is the village of the Cinque Terre, furthest from the masses of tourists. Its location makes it an avoidable stop for those visiting the area in one day. Another peculiarity of Corniglia is its spectacular view. Its position perched on the slope allows for a beautiful coast view. A highly recommended stop is the Belvedere Santa Maria, a panoramic terrace. You can see the nearby villages overlooking the sea to reach along the main alleyway (Via Fieschi). 

According to some sources, the village has Roman origins and owes its name to the gens, Cornelia. As evidence, some vases found in Pompeii allegedly had the ancient name of the town, “Cornelia,” impressed on them. However, these sources are only partially sure, but we like to think it’s true. After that, in line with the surrounding villages, it passed under the dominion of the counts of Lavagna, subsequently under the Carpena di Luni lords, and then ended up under the protectorate of Genoa.

The rail used by the Cinque Terre winegrowers to transport the grapes is a typical encounter on the Cinque Terre paths
  • TIPS:
  • Take with you:
  • Sports or trekking shoes because the path is steep and narrow, with steep sections on slopes, and without suitable footwear, you risk hurting yourself
  • Water bottle
  • Cap with visor, the path is mainly in the sun 
  • Anorak in the autumn and winter months 
  • Sunscreen 
  • A snack 

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