Trail D The Origins of Riomaggiore
3 h Difficulty
Running up the Rio Maggiore creek, this trail goes to the Sanctuary of Montenero and discovers the old hillside villages Riomaggiore originates from.
The old paved track climbing up alongside the Rio Maggiore creek starts in Lavaccio (Lavaciu), next to the National Park information point, and arrives to the springs in Laghi
. The name of Lavaccio stems from the fact that this was the place hosting the wash-houses for the inhabitants of the higher part of the village. Immediately after the first stone bridge, on the right, you will see the Gìardi mill. Just after the house you can see a big stone on which stairs were built: this is probably a large stone rolled here due to a flood.
In this place, so called since people used to grow lupins here, you are facing an important crossroads: on the left, the old path running up the main valley and on the right, the stairway going to the Montenero Sanctuary. At the crossroads, there's one of the typical "poza", a low wall found along the main paths, once used to lay heavy loads without bending over. In particular, they were used to lay the heavy grape baskets (corbe) during harvest time. Next to the poza
, on the cobblestone, there is one large stone plate. Its grooves indicate it was part of an oil mill.
3 Tramuìn (alternative)
The path on the left, embellished by two marvellous stone bridges, leads to Tramuìn
, on the other side of the road. Its name (lit. behind the mill) stems from the fact that to get here you had to walk through the mills along the Rio Maggiore. The first mill owned by the Petòn family is on the left and at deeper look you'll be able to find the bidu
, the conduit which carried the river's water to the wheel. Further on, on the right, there's the mill of Zan dii Laciòn, whose real name was Giovanni Raffellini, the last miller of the village operating until the 1920s. The other mills continued their activity until the 1960s, but only as oil mills. The third mill is on the left, a few meters before the second bridge: if you look inside the door you'll see the remains of the wheel's gears. Immediately after the bridge, going down a small stair, you'll get to the Tramuìn fountain.
4 Cazau e Cazinagua
In Tramuìn, after a few turns of the path, the abandoned stairway on the right (aa Trama
) used to connect the old medieval villages, now uninhabited, of Cazau
. The tradition tells Cazinagua is the oldest of the hillside villages of Riomaggiore. Supposedly the toponym derives from the greek word "agorà" (indicating a "cheese square"), thus confirming the legend of Montenero attributing greek origins to the people of Riomaggiore. In its memories, Reverend De Battè, who lived in Riomaggiore in the 18th century, wrote that during his working in a lot of land in Cazinagua, he witnessed to the finding of an old architrave depicting a boy with Greek dresses and an inscription in Greek.
5 Via Grande
The path going to the Sanctuary of Montenero is called Via Grande (Main Street): it was broadened and paved to allow the flow of the procession carrying the image of the Madonna for the coronation of the Madonna di Montenero in 1892, an event accompanied by majestic celebrations which are still part of the local collective memory. The path runs along the Ria, a tributary of the Rio Maggiore, which old people say it has been almost dried out after the construction of the second line of the Genova-La Spezia train line. The conjunction between the two rivers is on the left, at the end of the firs stairway.
In Bargón, a few meters before the crossing with the road, you'll notice a group of houses laying on the crest dividing the Valleys of Ria and Rio Maggiore. Due to the sectioning of the hillside during the construction of the road in the 1960s, the path climbing on the crest has been abandoned, as witnessed by the old stone bridge right on the other side of the road, which is now unused.
7 Giandràn Fountain
A few meters on, the path abandons the Ria river and turns right into the wood. Once, this road used to be in the vineyard, as indicated by the dry-stone walls on the two sides of the path. When the path stops rising, a small stairway on the left takes to the Giandràn fountain, called after the family owning the area. The spring is under a characteristic barrel vault made of moss-covered stones, at the end of which two basins can be found. Unfortunately, this spring has almost dried out. 8 Montenero
Montenero (Munteneigru in local dialect), is on the top of the Montenero hill. Its name stems from the dense vegetation which used to cover it. It's the most important of the medieval hillside villages which gave birth to Riomaggiore, as witnessed by the fact that oldest books used this name to indicate the local community. In 1251, the inhabitants from Montenero, Cazinagua, Cazau, Limen and Saricò gathered on the top of the mountain to swear allegiance to the Republic of Genoa in its fight against Pisa. Thanks to the transition to the Superba
(the Republic of Genoa) in 1276, the local community could count on sufficiently safe seas and founded the village of Riomaggiore at the outlet of the creek, gradually abandoning the original villages. 9 Church
According to the oral tradition, the Sanctuary of Montenero was built to store the sacred image that the first inhabitants of Riomaggiore, Greek refugees fleeing from an iconoclast persecution, took with them. According to the tradition, the picture of the Assumed Mary has been painted by Saint Luke. It was hidden to save it from the assaults of the Longobard hordes and has been found one century later thanks to the miraculous apparition reported by a young shepherdess. A spring gushed in the place of the finding and the water was gathered in a tank which still exists. The church has undergone several renovations, which transformed it in the one we see today. Nevertheless, one of the original characteristics is still visible today: looking from the centre of the nave, the chancel tends towards left. Its a characteristic of the Ligurian Romanesque style symbolizing the reclined head of Jesus Christ on the cross. People of Riomaggiore a very strong emotional bond with Montenero. At Pentecost, during the celebration of the Sanctuary, people of Riomaggiore usually spend two days at the Sanctuary. In that time, the gold of the Madonna, gathered in time in the form of ex votos, is publicly exhibited. The Madonna of Montenero has always had the twofold function of protecting vineyards on one side and sailors on the other side, as witnessed by the traditional songs dedicated to her. 10 Limen
The path starting in the holm oak wood on the back of the Sanctuary takes to Limen, one of the hillside villages which originated Riomaggiore. Its name stems from its proximity to the boarder with Biassa properties or, according to a much more fantastic interpretation based on its proximity to the village of Monesteroli, from Menestheus Limen
, indicating the western limit of the travel of the Greek hero Menestheus, the protector of sailors, whose function has then been passed to the Madonna of Montenero. The small chapel of Limen, dedicated to Saint Bernard from Chiaravalle, hosts only one mass a year, during the celebration of the Saint, on the 20th
of August. 11 Saricò
An abandoned path takes from Limen to Saricò, one of the primitive hillside settlements, which name derives from the Turkey oak (seru
in local dialect), a tree of the same family of oaks, very widely spread in the area of Riomaggiore. The underlying valley, Val di Serra (Sera) has the same etimology. The area, well exposed to the sun, produces the best grape, which is used to produce the famous Sciachetrà, the passito wine typical from Cinque Terre. By walking along the main path, you will get to Telegrafo, joining the High way of Cinque Terre, the scenic crest path connecting Porto Venere to Levanto.