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The origin of the village dates back to the Roman Age as testified by the name, which finds its roots in Gens Cornelia, the Roman family to whom the land belonged.
In the Middle Ages it was a possession of the counts of Lavagna, the lords of Carpena and of Luni.
To reach Corniglia, it is necessary to climb the Lardarina, a long brick flight of steps composed of 33 flights with 382 steps or, otherwise follow a vehicular road that, from the station, leads to the village. The village stretches along the main road, Fieschi Road, and the houses have one side facing this road and the other facing the sea.
Corniglia is characterised by narrow roads and a terrace in the rock from which all other four Cinque Terre's villages, two on one side and two on the other, can be seen.
Unlike the other localities of the Cinque Terre, Corniglia is not directly adjacent to the sea.