Many travelers would argue that the most scenic town in Italy’s Cinque Terre is Vernazza. Perhaps it has a lot to do with its gorgeous towering cliffs, colorful old homes, and that iconic small harbor. As part of the Cinque Terra National Park, Vernazza is one of the towns you can reach if you hike the renowned trail. This hike lasts for about five hours and can be trekked for a minimal fee.
This town of 600 inhabitants is practically car free except during Tuesday morning, when people drive from all over to take part in the street market that supports the local business community. Instead of cars, more people tend to use their boats. This is tradition that started in medieval times, when the water level was very high (right up to the buildings). Aside from having the only natural harbor in the Cinque Terre region, Vernazza is also blessed with a tiny but very decent beach. This pebbled cove provides nice views of the sea and has a very lively scene where locals and tourists mingle regularly. Summer on this beach is all about fun soccer games that feature local talent.
As you walk around town, you will soon discover that it actually has two main sections. The left side is considered the sunny one and is called Sciuiu (means flowery). The right side is shadier and is called Levugu. Vernazza’s castle ruins, which on the far right section of town is one of its prominent historical landmarks. While in ruins now, the castle was originally built to protect people from pirate attacks.
Another site you will want to explore is the Harbor Front church, which is known for its unusual entryway which provides access to the eastern side of the altar. This church houses three of the region’s important portable crosses. These crosses are actually replicas brought along on the crusades to the Holy Land of Jerusalem. After dropping by the church, enjoy the small piazza in front of it. This is an especially popular place for locals to pass their time under the sun. Relaxing in this area, gives you a glimpse of the authentic Vernazzan lifestyle.
If you like countryside and picturesque vineyards, you are in for a treat! Just at the outskirts of the town, toward the mountains, are wonderful terraces of vineyards. These terrace walls, when combined, extend to a whopping 3,000 miles! This is a true testament of the Italians’ love for wine and grape growing. Being in Vernazza means adopting a laidback pace of life. In the evenings, you can spend some of your time watching the locals do the passeggiata or the evening stroll. This tradition involves walking up and down the streets completing a couple of laps. You can always find a quaint and cozy bar that will serve you their finest locally grown wine.
You have the option rent a car and drive to the Cinque Terre region. But if you must commute, take the local commuter locomotive, also known as milk trains as they used to deliver milk to the towns. This train service goes from Genova or Spezia, and promises a journey that unveils magnificent landscape filled bordered with turquoise waters, olive trees and cliffs. One of the nearest major airports to Vernazza is the Pisa International Airport, which is about 80 kilometers away.