Halfway between Riomaggiore and Portovenere, in the Cinque Terre National Park, is the ancient village of Monesteroli, reachable only by a likewise ancient staircase, made of 1200 steps, built by farmers who needed to transport grapes from the vineyards surrounding the village.
The so-called Grand Staircase, formed by sandstone steps, winds its way between the remains of vineyards and a precipice. Only the sounds of wind and waves crashing below will accompany your descent. To reach the village, 415 meters below, takes about 30 minutes, and the effort is rewarded by the splendid view you have once you get there.
Clinging to a spur of rock overlooking the sea, the village appears, with its red brick roofs, at the end of the narrow and steep staircase.
Monesteroli today has very few houses, most abandoned. In the past, they were cellars, where grapes were worked to make wine. Some of them have been left as they were, while others have been transformed into holiday homes.
Peasants in the past climbed these steps with panniers full of grapes over their shoulders, climbing up and down the steps.
It is Monesteroli’s almost inaccessible position that has helped preserve it, still isolated, and almost unchanged over time.
After enjoying the extraordinary view and unique quiet of the place, catch your breath and climb the stairs back up!
There is actually another way to reach Monesteroli, and that is by boat, but the thrill will be bigger if you walk the staircase, as long as you’re fit enough.
You can also walk a loop that allows you to walk in a holm oak wood. It is about 6 km and starts at Fossola; go up to the church of S. Antonio (path number 534), where you can stop for coffee. Continue towards Schiara (path 504), then turn and take path 536, which goes down to Monesteroli. From Monesteroli, go up to the junction for Fossola and continue along the flat path (535) until you return to the starting point.