Manarola: the vertical village

Looking at them from the sea, attached to the rock like magnets on the metal, facing the edge of the vertical cliffs like unwise children, the houses of Manarola seem a challenge to the law of gravity.

Instead, they have been there for centuries like a bunch of colorful flowers confined in a too small vase.

When the eye rises up the coast, it stops on the terraced vineyards supported by innumerable dry stone walls, which loom like tutelary deities over the village which, founded on a black rock at 70 meters above sea level, is the most suggestive and romantic among all the villages of the Cinque Terre National Park.

Manarola, was founded by the inhabitants of the ancient village of Volastra, from which they descended to the valley in the 14th century when the terrible raids of the Saracen pirates ended and according to most historians it owes its name to a large and ancient wheel of a mill (from the Latin Magna Roea) placed on the banks of the Rio Groppo, along which the town develops and which can still be admired in its restored version.

The church of the village in Gothic style, dating back to 1300, was built with the local sandstone. It was dedicated to San Lorenzo and has a magnificent rose window in white Carrara marble with human heads and lion heads on the outer crown, sculpted by the masters of the time.

From the church square, the village winds towards the sea along the main street, which is the covering of the Rio Groppo which once flowed in the open sky among the colored houses, punctuated by stone humpback bridges that connected the banks, of which is the only remaining evidence, located between the parking lot  and the Oratory of the Disciplined.

Beyond the square Dario Capellini, below which runs the La Spezia-Genoa railway line, you enter the maritime part of the village, where the typical Ligurian gozzi (typical Ligurian fishing boat)dominate, parked in neat rows, pulled dry whenever the sea is stormy with a typical hoist, which constitute a curious and colorful urban decor, the memory of a village where once people lived only out of the resources of  fishing and what the countryside could offer.

The memory of these magical places has been preserved by  Anselmo Crovara, a great man 100% from Manarola, who made his house a museum of objects related to the trades of the past: wicker baskets, billhooks, hoes, hatchets, funnels, demijohns, barrels of wood, old clothes as well as a huge black and white photographic archive that can be admired along the pedestrian tunnel that connects the railway station with the town.

That of Anselmo is a veritable Archive of Memory that better than any other source, reveals the humble origins and the incredible tenacity of the population of these places that have brought us to the millions of tourists who every year come to visit the Cinque Terre National Park.  Anselmo left a priceless heritage, so much so as to have been included in the list of the main naturalistic beauties of the world by UNESCO.

Some of the photos in this article are made by André Leuba, Eduard Kopp and Anselmo Crovara and they are kept in the Archive of the Remembrance Anselmo Crovara located in Via Aldo Rollandi in Manarola.


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