At the eastern end of the Cinque Terre, Riomaggiore is built into a river gorge (thus the name, which means "major river") and is easily accessible from La Spezia by train or car. The landscape is terraced and steep—be prepared for many stairs!—which leads down to a small harbor protected by large slabs of alabaster and marble that serve as tanning beds for sunbathers, as well as being the site of several outdoor cafés with fine views. According to legend, the settlement of Riomaggiore dates as far back as the 8th century, when Greek religious refugees came here to escape persecution by the Byzantine emperor.
The village is divided into two parts. If you arrive by train, you will have to pass through a tunnel that flanks the train tracks in order to arrive to the historic side of town. To avoid the crowds and get a great view of the Cinque Terre coast, walk straight uphill as soon as you exit the station. This winding road takes you over the hill to the 14th-century church of Saint John the Baptist, toward the medieval town center and the Genovese-style tower houses that dot the village. Follow Via Roma (the Old Town’s main street) downhill, pass under the train tracks, and you’ll arrive in the charming fishermen’s port of the village. Lined with traditional fishing boats and small trattorias, this is a lovely spot for a romantic lunch or dinner. Unfortunately, Riomaggiore doesn't have as much old-world charm as its sister villages; its easy accessibility has brought traffic and more modern construction here than elsewhere in the Cinque Terre.