While visiting the Cinque Terre on a Rick Steves tour, our travel group decided to include a vineyard walk during our free time as we explored the villages that make up the Cinque Terre (five lands). Our tour guide had recommended an easy trail for a scenic view of the sea and the terraced hills of Manarola. My first vineyard walk was going to become an unforgettable experience!
From our home base of Levanto, we took the local train and stopped to explore the villages. At Manarola, we made our way to the beginning of the local vineyard walk.
Manarola’s San Lorenzo Church
Our first discovery was a well-preserved, gothic design church near the start of the vineyard walk. Chiesa di San Lorenzo (Church of St. Lawrence, the patron saint of Cinque Terre) dates back to 1338, according to an engraved plaque. The church has an impressive rose window over the front door, lovely white marble columns leading to the altar, a painted ceiling, and beautiful 14th-century wooden panels above the altar depicting Madonna and the Christ Child.
I was glad to have taken a few minutes to step inside and admire the church. For a small church in a small village, it was delightful!
The church has a yellow bell tower that sits across the street. They are on the main street and the highest point in Manarola, so the tower (that has served as a defensive watchtower) is visible across the landscape.
Vineyard walk starts here! Ready-Set-Go
Just a few short steps from the church is the wooden railing at the starting point of the vineyard walk. It’s here that the hillside hike above Manarola begins!
Following the path, we began our ascent to the hillside. We immediately enjoyed the up-close view of the vegetation along the path. The grape vines were all around us, along with lemon trees and other fruit trees. Yes, we were in a vineyard!
Soon after we began the walk, I looked back to the street for an incredible view. It looked like tall, colorful buildings that were stacked like blocks on the steep slopes of the hills. The path elevated us over the rooftops for a wonderful view of Manarola’s main street and bell tower.
Continuing to follow the wooden railing, we saw balconies, rooftop gardens, narrow stairs, and lots of foot traffic. It was like a snapshot of the lives of the residents of the village. And the hills themselves are such an amazing sight with the rows and rows of dry-stone terraced vineyards.
There are pathways all throughout the hills and stairs that allow the residents to access the vineyards and their homes. It’s like a maze of grapes!
Vineyard Walk — Mediterranean View!!
As we continued along the trail on the edge of the hill, we could see beautiful views of both the village and the Mediterranean Sea. The narrow path took us closer to the sea, and we could see its bright color in the mid-day sun.
There were many stone steps on the trail–something to keep in mind. Our group navigated the steps with care and enjoyed the well-placed benches for a quick rest when needed. We were glad we had carried water bottles with us on our awesome adventure.
Where the trail ended, we turned left to follow the path that led back to Manarola. On our way back to the harbor, we passed the town cemetery where the views of the sea and this colorful little village are gorgeous.
When we reached the harbor, we were hungry from our mountain climbing (umm, hillside walk) and stopped at the (first) restaurant, Marina Piccola Ristorante. Manarola is known for its fabulous seafood, and we enjoyed both the food and the view at this location.
From our seats at the restaurant, an interesting sight was watching people jump off the rocks. I can think of several reasons NOT to do this, but we were definitely entertained.
Following lunch, we ended the day in Riomaggiore and took the ferry back for amazing views of the scenic Cinque Terre coastline from the boat.
The Cinque Terre was an incredible area to visit, and it was a delightful day spent exploring the villages. The highlight for me was the vineyard walk through the terraced hills of Manarola and the outstanding views of the sea and the village. A vineyard walk to remember!!