Trekking the Sanctuaries of the Cinque Terre

Visiting the Cinque Terre away from the hustle and bustle

by chiara@rescomunicazione.it

How to visit the Cinque Terre while avoiding the horde of tourists crowding bars and restaurants? From the top of the Via dei Cinque Santuari, a veritable Way of the Cross walked by believers on annual anniversaries, the spectacle on the villages is breathtaking. To each of the five villages of the Cinque Terre corresponds, a Sanctuary. They are five, tall, they look like impregnable fortresses that want to challenge the sea from up there. A path between land, sea and sky outside the tourist flows, to travel this itinerary born in the sign of faith means to immerse oneself in an authentic and ancient Liguria. Of that Liguria devoted to the cult of Mary, a reference point for farmers engaged in heroic agriculture, and for sailors who could find comfort from the sea. Evidence of an ancient past when maritime villages were part of the diocese of Luni. Some scholars even claim the Via dei Santuari, traces the route of a communication route dating back to the Bronze Age (1800 – 900 BC), to which the menhirs of Volastra and Tramonti attributed to an ancient Ligurian civilization would bear witness.

Stage No. 1: Soviore (Monterosso) – Reggio (Vernazza)

Soviore Sanctuary: The Sanctuary of Soviore is the oldest in Liguria. The object of worship here is a wooden Piet√† dating back to the Middle Ages. Legend has it that the first church was built in the 8th century, when a priest, guided by a dove, found a wooden Pieta in the ground, buried there a century earlier by local inhabitants who had fled for fear of the arrival of Rotari’s troops.

From the sanctuary of Soviore (Monterosso) to the sanctuary of Reggio (Vernazza): Starting from Soviore, climb along the Levanto-Pignone road to the beginning of path 8/b. Leaving the carriage road, descend until you cross the Mulinaro stream, continue to Capanna Ricchetto and then descend again along the Mesorano Coast. One more short flat stretch and you reach the road connecting Vernazza to Foce Drignana. From here, a short path leads to the Sanctuary of Madonna di Reggio below.

The mule track winds through vineyards and olive groves until it reaches the square of the sanctuary surrounded by centuries-old trees.

Sanctuary of Our Lady of Reggio (Vernazza): Tucked away in the shade of monumental trees, including a centuries-old holm oak, it venerates the image of a Black Madonna and Child known as “the African,” painted, according to legend, by St. Luke. The huge and mighty building still retains the Romanesque facade of its origins, dating back to 1284. Outside, look for the beautiful spring kept in an artificial cave.

Stage No. 2: Reggio (Vernazza) – Nostra Signora delle Grazie (San Bernardino – Corniglia)

Sanctuary of Reggio to the Sanctuary of Nostra Signora delle Grazie: Walk all the way up along the road leading to Foce Drignana until you meet path 8/a. At the height of Muro Superiore you cross the road leading to the small village of San Bernardino where you find the Sanctuary of Nostra Signora delle Grazie.

The small building has the appearance of a country church. Inside a canvas depicting the Madonna with the saints St. Bernard and St. Bernardino of Siena is venerated. A legend says that originally there was a chapel founded by St. Bernardine himself who used to come here to pray.

Stage No. 3: San Bernardino (Corniglia) – Volastra (Manarola)

From the Sanctuary of San Bernardino to the Sanctuary of Nostra Signora della Salute: take path No. 7 until you reach the small village of Fornacchi houses. From here you walk on the carriage road in the direction of Riomaggiore. At the fork, take path No. 6/d from which there are breathtaking views of Corniglia and Manarola, and you will reach Volastra where the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Health stands.

This shrine dates back to the 20th century and still retains its simple and clear Romanesque structure.

Stage No. 4: Volastra – Montenero (Riomaggiore)

From the shrine of Our Lady of Health (Volastra) to the shrine of Our Lady of Montenero (Riomaggiore). From Volastra you take path No. 6, the same path that descends to Manarola, until you meet the Strada dei Santuari, a few hundred meters before the junction leading to the village. From here you walk along the carriage road and reach a wide hairpin bend toward path No. 3a.

The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Montenero (Riomaggiore): The community of devotees pours in every Pentecost Monday to carry in procession the votive image kept inside. The shrine has ancient origins and its foundation is due to the discovery of a Byzantine icon that became a pilgrimage destination. Of all the shrines, this is our favorite. A green atrium from which one can embrace the entire coastline with one’s gaze. The wind that blows on late summer days fills the soul with freedom and peace. Far from the chaos of the villages, far from the noise of civilization, here the silence and the sea remain.

Recommended periods: spring, autumn or very early summer. Check the walkability of the trails on the official website. Hiking equipment (no sandals), water.

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