If you’re coming from La Spezia or Portovenere, Riomaggiore is the first town you’ll reach in the Cinque Terra. Part of the Cinque Terra National Park – which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site – Riomaggiore is picture-postcard pretty with pastel-colored houses clinging to terraced clifftops and an aquamarine harbor.
It’s best known for the Via dell’Amore or Lover’s Path, a coastal walk with unforgettable views of the sea.
Since Riomaggiore is easily reached by train, ferry, and car, it’s not really off the beaten path anymore. And unlike some of the other Cinque Terre villages, there are a couple of real hotels here with amenities like Internet access, satellite TV, and mini bars.
A few of the Riomaggiore hotels are new construction. Others occupy old buildings that have been modernized and updated. The best have balconies or terraces overlooking the sea.
If you drive, there’s a parking lot above the town. You can catch the shuttle down, or take the elevator.
Other than hiking the beautiful trails, there’s not a lot to do in Riomaggiore. There’s a rocky little beach a few minutes from the harbor. The slabs of marble and alabaster there are good spots for sunbathers. A path from the beach takes you to the Torre Guardiola, the local castle, which is worth visiting for the views.
You can see the Cinque Terre from the other side by renting a kayak from Mar Mar or taking a tour aboard one of the charter boats in the harbor.
Via Columbo is the main drag and you’ll find a market, a pharmacy, a bakery, a bar, and an art gallery there. There are also several cafes with outdoor terraces near the harbor. La Laterna, in the marina, is one of the best for fresh seafood.
Locanda Ca dei Duxi has 16 rooms in a building that dates from the 18th century and in an annex across the street that opened in 2001. Rooms in the older part have more character with exposed beams, tile floors, and views of the castle. All have Internet access, mini bars, satellite TV, and direct-dial telephones. There are also three apartments with kitchenettes and terraces. Because these sleep up to seven, they’re a good choice for families. Dei Duxi is a five-minute walk from the train station or the beach.
Several of the 15 rooms at Villa Argentina have some of the best views in town from their balconies. It’s about a five-minute uphill hike from town. And if your room doesn’t have a balcony, you can enjoy the vistas from the pretty terrace. The bar off the lobby is a pleasant spot for a drink, and rooms have TVs and small safes. If you don’t feel like walking to dinner, room service is available. And you can also rent watersports equipment for a day at the beach.
La Baia di Rio has five rooms in the old family home of the Benacis, and staying here helps support the Val di Serra dei Benaci Vineyard. The property overlooks the village and the sea, and the terraces here have absolutely breathtaking views. The Marco Polo Suite has a fully furnished terrace, a refrigerator, and the use of a kitchen. James Cook has the same features, with kitchen facilities on request. Christopher Columbus is a triple with two large windows with ocean views. Amerigo Vespucci is a double. And Abel Tasman is a double with a furnished terrace. Parking is available on request. La Baia di Rio is very popular, so make reservations here well in advance.
Hotel La Zorza has nine rooms in a 17th-century building that combines modern amenities like satellite TV and mini fridges with beamed ceilings and stone walls. Breakfast is served in a pretty area that has Internet access, and there’s a bar where you can enjoy a glass of wine before dinner.
Cinque Terra Residence Locanda offers accommodations in several little, adjoining houses with separate entrances. All have private bathrooms and many have kitchenettes. The terrace is surrounded by vineyards and lemon trees.
Housed in a building that was once the meeting place of the Holy Virgins Brotherhood and then the local cinema, La Locanda della Compagnia has five modern rooms with air conditioning and satellite TV. It’s beneath Riomaggiore’s parking lot, about a five-minute walk from the beach.
Locanda del Sole is a new complex with ten double rooms that have private baths, mini bars, and satellite TV. It’s built on several levels in the terraced style that’s typical in Riomaggiore. The furnished terrace is a great place to enjoy breakfast or just relax. And there’s a spacious parking lot, making it extremely convenient for drivers.