This wonderful area - located in the province of La Spezia, Liguria, northern Italy - is known for the beautiful range of colourful houses that adorn the big mountain above the crystal blue water that surrounds one edge of the town.
Manarola is older than its neighbour Riomaggiore, having first been mentioned in 1261. This historic town was founded by residents of the Roman village Volastra - which was located on top of the hill - and they would use the plains of what is now Manarola to grow olive, lemon and chestnut trees. As the population grew in Volastra, some residents moved down towards the sea and from there founded the village of Manarola.
Arrive to Manarola with a gentle walk from Riomaggiore; arriving this way you will come into the village from the back. Head towards the railway station and down through the pedestrian tunnel there, which will take you to the town's main street. In the olden days, a creek ran through here, with two small bridges connecting either side. If you were to head up into the village, the creek still exists there.
Now on the main street, walk up to the square of the Piazza Papa Innocenzo IV church, which gives you an amazing view over Manarola. Along this walk, you will walk past an ornate old mill wheel.
Then head down the main street as you make your way towards the sea. Here, the fishing boats are parked just like cars would be in an in-land town.
Down into the harbour is a great place to swim. You can jump off the rocks into the beautiful water, which is home to many fish and other sea creatures. However, the water is quite deep so is only recommended for more advanced swimmers. From the sea, you get a stunning view of the colourful houses towering above you.
For those travelling here around Christmas time, make sure to admire the wonderful nativity scene displayed on the hillside. There are 300 characters on display, all made of recycled materials, and it looks most beautiful at night when it is all illuminated. There are also different illuminations on August 10, the day of San Lorenzo, and around Easter time.