Corniglia is the smallest of the Cinque Terre villages, and the only one not directly on the coast. It is also the most peculiar of the five, with a style all of its own. It is situated at a higher altitude than the others, perched on a rocky rise some 90 metres from the sea, and the houses in Corniglia are not tall and narrow like those of Riomaggiore or the other villages, more closely resembling those of the inland villages.
The history of Corniglia can be traced back to Roman times, and indeed the name derives from the gens cornelia, the family of former slaves of the Roman settler this land was given over to.
During the excavations in Pompeii, a number of amphorae were found bearing the name Cornelia. During the Middle Ages, the neighbourhood came under the rule of a succession of noblemen, lords and counts, until it was brought under the rule of Genoa.