The ruins of the 15th – 16th century castle erected on Cerrico hill on the north-west side of the village in defence against saracens’ invasions, testify Riomaggiore’s history.
Two round towers and the restored perimetrical walls are still well-visible. Starting from the centre of the village, people can reach the ruins walking along Pecunia Street.
In the highest part of Riomaggiore, in a little square with a beautiful view, there’s the parish church consecrated to Saint John the Baptiste, erected thanks to the Bishop of Luni, Antonio Fieschi, and his brother-in-law, Luchino Visconti, in 1340: with this gift to the village, they helped its inhabitants who had to go to Montenero or Manarola, to pray into a church.
Saint John the Baptiste’s dedication seems to come from a misterious relic that Antonio Fiechi received in Genoa.
The duty of the building was entrusted to the “Magistri Antelami”, longobardic skilled workers who were always on service of Genoa, and shared in almost all the Cinque Terre’s churches.
The ogival door-ways on the east side and the windows of the original structure are particularly interesting.
In the chappel located on the left of the presbytery, there’s a beautiful distemper dated back to 1480, placed on a Reinassance portal.
The triptych is by the Master of the Cinque Terre, an unknown 15th century painter: it rapresents the Virgin and the Infant between the Saints Rocco and Sebastiano.
The village of Manarola was founded about during the 12th century by people coming from Volastra (the “vicus oleater”: olive-trees’ village).
More probable for Volastra seems to be the ethimologic origin from ligurian names such as: “Viassa” (Biassa), “Vappa” (Viapra) or Strà…In ancient times, Volastra was already the post-stage used by the Romans for the change of horses along the coastal road, before the building of the Aurelia (109 B.C.).
From the overhanging hills, groups of countrymen went down toward the sea and founded this new coastal settlement.
Manarola was a feud of the marquis of Carpena, then it passed to the powerful family of the Fieschi, lords of Lavagna, when the Bishop of Luni yelded it to them, in 1252.
The village is firstly quoted into a document, in 1266. Manarola was the birthplace of Linibaldo Fieschi, the future Innocenzo IV (1243-1254), the Pope who excommunicated Federico II and arranged the 7th crusade. The village suffered many saracens’ invasions.
This village, which looks more like a rural than a seafaring village, is the only one in which houses are not directly on the sea, and rises on the top of a headland.
On the surrounding hills, vines and olive trees are grown and it is normal to bump into women that go or come from the "cian" (vineyard plans) with baskets and bundles on their heads.
The first part of the path that leads to Vernazza is protected by another dry masonry which shelters from the sun and the wind that often blows very strongly from the sea: the path winds around twisted olive trees and goes up again to the top of other hills covered by holm-oaks and pinasters.
At half the way it is possible to go down and reach the sea by a quick hardly traced path that reveals the beautiful and isolated Guvano beach.
Vernazza’s territory was already peopled during the Roman age: by the way Roman settlers obtained the lands which had been confiscated to the Ligurians.
During the 7th century Vernazza appeared into the “Anonimo Ravennate”, with the name of “Vulnetia”.
The origin of this coastal village is linked to the community who lived around the church of Reggio, the actual Sanctuary of Vernazza.
During the 11th century, Reggio’s inhabitants left their village: a group of them went inward and settled on a level ground, where they founded the village of Pignone; the other group went toward the coast and joined a pre-existent community, founding togheter the village of Vernazza.
Vernazza is already quoted into a document, in 1050. Between the 11th and 12th century the Orbetenghis ruled the territory and they ordered the building of a castle on a high storm-proof cliff.
The castle is proved by documents since 1056.
Vernazza was one of the main port of call of the Cinque Terre, thanks to its natural well-sheltered harbour.
Long accessible from Levanto through the carriage road, it is undoubtedly the most visited tourist resort among the Cinque Terre.
From the Capuchin Monastery and, further above, from the ancient Fieschi's Castle - today a cemetery - the glance can reach a large portion of coast, enjoying a marvellous panoramic view: on one side the steep Punta Masco, featuring the S. Antonio abbey's ruins, on the other the steep coast covered with vines where you can see Vernazza, Corniglia and Manarola up to Monte Nero cape.
With a nice walk, from Monterosso you can get to Madonna di Soviore, the most ancient sanctuary in Liguria.
It is traced back to the 11th century when, according to the tradition, the people survived to the Rotari Longobard invasions found shelter in this place and subsequently founded Monterosso: natural origin (ask about the Maddalena Hill and the Lapau Flank).
The rich underwood of Mediterranean type is mixed with elements of centre Europe and Atlantic origin.