Corniglia is the smallest of the five towns of the Cinque Terre as well as being the middle village with only around 150 full time residents in recent years. It is one of the oldest of the villages as the settlement has been around since Roman times. Unlike the other four villages, this one sits 100 metres above the shoreline but with no access to the Ligurian Sea. It is a quiet agricultural town in the middle of large vineyards and terraces growing olives. It is connected to the outside world through a road coming down from the top of the mountain and the train-line that runs lower down from the town. Corniglia’s lowest building is the train station. The map to the right shows the location of the station and visitors arriving by train either have to do the slow walk up the hill or catch a bus. The ‘zig-zaging’ pathway can be seen in the photo above as well, slowly winding its way up to the centre of town.
We visited the Cinque Terre again in 2014 and arrived by train from Manarola for a walk around Corniglia. We were a bit slow moving off from the station area and were gazing at the sea views when we noticed a large group of tourists arriving by train. To our astonishment, two relatives, who we had not long before spent time with us in Southern France, appeared in the midst of this tourist group from the train. It was a perplexing coincidence of a short reunion that we couldn’t have pre-planned if we tried!
After saying goodbye to our relos, we did our own tour of Corniglia, checking out the shops in the back alleys and making our way up to the Chiesa di San Pietro. As stated already, Corniglia is a small town so it is easy to see from the map on the left of its small number of streets, how simple the tour is after arriving via the 377 stairs from the railway station.
After examining the Church of St Peter, we then strolled down the main street of the town, Via Fieschi, to St Mary’s terrace. This a very atmospheric dining area of town and it is the site of a monument to those town folk that died during World War I. It also contains a small chapel called the Oratorio dei Disciplinati di Santa Caterina.
The overhead photo of Corniglia below is probably a little unclear but the arrows trace the path of the hardy traveller who walks up the many steps from the railway station to the Church of St Peter. From here the arrow indicates that if you follow Via Fieschi to the small chapel of St Catherine, it is another short walk to St Mary’s Terrace where a lone tree marks the skyline. From here there are amazing views of the sea, the coastal mountains and also some glimpses of the other towns of the Cinque Terre.