Reggio and the Sanctuary Road, looking for peace in the Cinque Terre

Autumn is the ideal season, together with spring, for one of the best activities to practice in the Cinque Terre, Trekking. If the weather is nice, the days are still long and clear you get the chance to view even the most distant islands on the sea; the temperatures are mild and allow you not to sweat too much on the trails. 

Vernazza seen from the mule track that leads to the Sanctuary of Reggio

For example, you can walk along the Via dei Santuari, which connects the ancient churches founded on the heights of each of the five villages of the Cinque Terre.

The Via dei Santuari connects the Cinque Terre at high altitude

Initially, the populations of the Cinque Terre lived inland, devoting themselves to agriculture in small inhabited centers, in which building a church was always necessary. However, only around 1000 AD and in the following centuries, the inhabitants moved down towards the sea to fish and exploit the marine communication ways. That is when the unique urban settlements of the Cinque Terre villages formed in the tiny space available on the coast.

The villages on the sea became civilized and expanded much more than the original centers on the heights. However, they remained points of reference for land cultivation. Also, the Sanctuaries at the top of the hills remained favorite places of worshippilgrimage, and refuge during pirates’ assaults from the sea, as evidenced by the numerous ex-votos still preserved in the churches. 

Behind Riomaggiore is the Sanctuary of Montenero, on the heights of Manarola, the village of Volastra and its church. Further west, Corniglia is overlooked by San Bernardino and its ancient Church. Above Vernazza is the Sanctuary of Reggio, and above Monterosso is that of Soviore.

Along the Sanctuary road, you discover these ancient testimonies of the most authentic Cinque Terre history. The churches are exceptional examples of Romanesque style, with later styles layered on them. It is a spectacular discovery of the view that opens from the road winding at a high altitude among the ancient Sanctuaries.

And the peace you can find up there is just unique. 


From Vernazza, go up towards Reggio from the center of the village, near the station, taking the stairway marked as path no. 508 (ex n.8). It is one of the most beautiful vertical paths of the Cinque Terre. At first, the climb is steep and on cobblestones, among olive trees and vineyards. Later, it opens to a beautiful view of Vernazza cove from above, at the height of the cemetery and the Church of San Bernardo, where you can already rest on a bench, marveling at the view. From here, the walk gets easier and turns into a track; you can see the Via Crucis stops in standalone marble aedicules or perched in the wall all along the way to the Sanctuary of Reggio.

The route towards the Sanctuary and the Foresteria of Reggio

In Reggio, you can visit the Church, dating back to the Romanesque period to period dating back to the 1st century BC and was documented for the first time in 1248. Many ex-votos depict boats in the stormy sea and the image of the black Virgin with the child Jesus. According to the legend, it was made by St. Luke and is instead a work of the Genoese art school of the fourteenth century.

The churchyard of the Shrine of Reggio, with old trees

Around the Church, a beautiful churchyard is shaded by Lecci, cedars, and horse chestnuts. The oldest secular cypress of Liguria (800 years), an ancient source, quenches travelers for centuries. Unfortunately, the town of Reggio is no longer there today. Still, once, it was an important center for population and centrality on the roads. From here, the people moved to the coast to fund Vernazza.
The course can be done in about an hour. For the most trained even 40 minutes can be enough.