Riomaggiore ★★

The port of Riomaggiore, Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre, Italy (Photo by Bert Kaufmann)
The port of Riomaggiore

The southernmost Cinque Terre town makes a great base

Riomaggiore is among the best bases for exploring the Cinque Terre—conveniently at the southern end of the famous Cinque Terre trail, with several hotels and a trio of excellent rental agencies representing loads of apartments and rental rooms around town.

It is bustling but compact, with a single main drag lined with shops, grocers, and restaurants, surrounded by the narrow, stair-stepped streets typical of towns in the region.

Riomaggiore sights

Exiting the train station (if coming from La Spezia, keep walking in the direction the train was traveling, then head downstairs and and the tracks to get to the station), turn left to head to the Via del Amore and the start of the Cinque Terre trail.

Turn right for the modern new park office headquarters and info center (tickets for the park and trails, maps and guidebooks for sale, a cybercafe upstairs). Keep walking past the park info kiosk and through the tunnel beyond to get to the center of Riomaggiore.

The main drag, Via C. Colombo, is lined with grocery stores, bars, and restaurants (and, halfway up, a convenient laundromat). Partway up on the left—with a semi-interred entrance under a red-white-and-green sign than says "Cinque Terre Antiche"—is the little Museo della Memoria (Museum of Memory). This consists of a single room with a handful of antique oddments and accoutrements accompanied by lengthy plaques (in Italian and English) describing the local history, customs, and environments (land and sea). Frankly, it wouldn't really be worth the bother if it weren't already free (or, rather, included in Cinque Terre Card you need to access the trails anyway). It's open daily 10am–5pm.

At the foot of Via C. Colombo, the tunnel to the right heads back to the train station, while the tunnel to the left turns and heads down and out to the pretty little harborfront marina.

Keep walking along this path and around the headland to get to the town's small beach, a slope of smooth, bowling ball–sized rocks at the base of a high wall (where there are two showerheads for rinsing off—a nice touch, and unusual for Italy).

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How long should I spend in Riomaggiore?

Riomaggiore is my favorite base for the Cinque Terre, so I'd go ahead and look for a place to stay and spend the night.

However, as far as the sightseeing in town goes, you can be "done" with Riomaggiore in an hour or two: strolling the main street takes all of five minutes; the little museum maybe 20–30 minutes; hitting the park office for intel another 10–15 minutes.

You can lounge on the bouldery beach as long as you'd like.

How to get to Riomaggiore

Riomaggiore is on the regional Cinque Terre rail line, passing Manarola (2–3 min), Corniglia (6–7 min), Vernazza (12 min), and Monterosso al Mare (7–20 min). 

In the other direction, Riomaggiore is 7–9 min by train from La Spezia, where you can change for trains throughout Italy (sometimes you change at nearby Sarzana), including Pisa (75–95 min total), Lucca (1:30–2 hr, with another change at Viareggio), Florence (2:15–3:33 hr, sometimes with another change at Pisa), and Rome (4:17–5:38 hr).

Useful Italian phrases

Useful Italian for sightseeing

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
Where is?... Dov'é doh-VAY
...the museum il museo eel moo-ZAY-yo
...the church la chiesa lah key-YAY-zah
...the cathedral il duomo [or] la cattedrale eel DUO-mo [or] lah cah-the-DRAH-leh
When is it open? Quando é aperto? KWAN-doh ay ah-PAIR-toh
When does it close? Quando si chiude? KWAN-doh see key-YOU-day
Closed day giorno di riposo JOR-no dee ree-PO-zo
Weekdays (Mon-Sat) feriali fair-ee-YA-lee
Sunday & holidays festivi fe-STEE-vee
ticket biglietto beel-YET-toh
two adults due adulti DOO-way ah-DOOL-tee
one child un bambino oon bahm-BEE-no
one student uno studente OO-noh stu-DENT-ay
one senior un pensionato oon pen-see-yo-NAH-toh

Basic phrases in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) pro-nun-see-YAY-shun
thank you grazie GRAT-tzee-yay
please per favore pair fa-VOHR-ray
yes si see
no no no
Do you speak English? Parla Inglese? PAR-la een-GLAY-zay
I don't understand Non capisco non ka-PEESK-koh
I'm sorry Mi dispiace mee dees-pee-YAT-chay
How much is it? Quanto costa? KWAN-toh COST-ah
That's too much É troppo ay TROH-po
Good day Buon giorno bwohn JOUR-noh
Good evening Buona sera BWOH-nah SAIR-rah
Good night Buona notte BWOH-nah NOTE-tay
Goodbye Arrivederci ah-ree-vah-DAIR-chee
Excuse me (to get attention) Scusi SKOO-zee
Excuse me (to get past someone) Permesso pair-MEH-so
Where is? Dov'é doh-VAY
...the bathroom il bagno eel BHAN-yoh
...train station la ferroviaria lah fair-o-vee-YAR-ree-yah
to the right à destra ah DEH-strah
to the left à sinistra ah see-NEEST-trah
straight ahead avanti [or] diritto ah-VAHN-tee [or] dee-REE-toh
information informazione in-for-ma-tzee-OH-nay

Days, months, and other calendar items in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
When is it open? Quando é aperto? KWAN-doh ay ah-PAIR-toh
When does it close? Quando si chiude? KWAN-doh see key-YOU-day
At what time... a che ora a kay O-rah
Yesterday ieri ee-YAIR-ee
Today oggi OH-jee
Tomorrow domani doh-MAHN-nee
Day after tomorrow dopo domani DOH-poh doh-MAHN-nee
a day un giorno oon je-YOR-no
Monday Lunedí loo-nay-DEE
Tuesday Martedí mar-tay-DEE
Wednesday Mercoledí mair-coh-lay-DEE
Thursday Giovedí jo-vay-DEE
Friday Venerdí ven-nair-DEE
Saturday Sabato SAH-baa-toh
Sunday Domenica doh-MEN-nee-ka
Mon-Sat Feriali fair-ee-YAHL-ee
Sun & holidays Festivi feh-STEE-vee
Daily Giornaliere joor-nahl-ee-YAIR-eh
a month una mese oon-ah MAY-zay
January gennaio jen-NAI-yo
February febbraio feh-BRI-yo
March marzo MAR-tzoh
April aprile ah-PREEL-ay
May maggio MAH-jee-oh
June giugno JEW-nyoh
July luglio LOO-lyoh
August agosto ah-GO-sto
September settembre set-TEM-bray
October ottobre oh-TOE-bray
November novembre no-VEM-bray
December dicembre de-CHEM-bray

Numbers in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
1 uno OO-no
2 due DOO-way
3 tre tray
4 quattro KWAH-troh
5 cinque CHEEN-kway
6 sei say
7 sette SET-tay
8 otto OH-toh
9 nove NO-vay
10 dieci dee-YAY-chee
11 undici OON-dee-chee
12 dodici DOH-dee-chee
13 tredici TRAY-dee-chee
14 quattordici kwa-TOR-dee-chee
15 quindici KWEEN-dee-chee
16 sedici SAY-dee-chee
17 diciasette dee-chee-ya-SET-tay
18 diciotto dee-CHO-toh
19 diciannove dee-chee-ya-NO-vay
20 venti VENT-tee
21* vent'uno* vent-OO-no
22* venti due* VENT-tee DOO-way
23* venti tre* VENT-tee TRAY
30 trenta TRAYN-tah
40 quaranta kwa-RAHN-tah
50 cinquanta cheen-KWAN-tah
60 sessanta say-SAHN-tah
70 settanta seh-TAHN-tah
80 ottanta oh-TAHN-tah
90 novanta no-VAHN-tah
100 cento CHEN-toh
1,000 mille MEEL-lay
5,000 cinque milla CHEEN-kway MEEL-lah
10,000 dieci milla dee-YAY-chee MEEL-lah

* You can use this formula for all Italian ten-place numbers—so 31 is trent'uno, 32 is trenta due, 33 is trenta tre, etc. Note that—like uno (one), otto (eight) also starts with a vowel—all "-8" numbers are also abbreviated (vent'otto, trent'otto, etc.).