Vernazza is considered to be the most characteristic village of the Cinque Terre, the rugged coastline of the Ligurian Riviera just north of Tuscany. From north to south, the Cinque Terre consists of the five villages Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore.
Like the other villages, for centuries Vernazza could only be reached on foot or by boat and the people lived a simple and isolated life. That all changed in the 19th century with the construction of the railway that connects the villages to the outside world.
Wine is produced in the vineyards on the terraces on the surrounding hills, but the time Vernazza was a quiet village that lived from the production of wine and fishing has long been over. Nowadays tourism is the largest source of income and the square at the old harbor where the fishing boats once docked was transformed into a lively terrace.
During my short vacation in the Cinque Terre in June, I made a day trip to Vernazza from my home base in Monterosso al Mare and spent the afternoon there. All villages are connected to one another by train and the ride from Monterosso to Vernazza takes only 4 minutes. The station is located at the edge of the village from where you take the main street Via Roma to the harbor.
The first mention in history of Vernazza was on a document from the year 1080. At that time, the Obertenghi family was in power and the natural harbor was used as a naval base in the defense against the attacks Saracen pirates.
Chiesa di Santa Margherita di Antiochia
Vernazza’s main church is located on the edge of the harbor. The 13th century Chiesa di Santa Margherita di Antiochia is a mix of different architectural styles. Several parts and pieces were added over the centuries, resulting also in the destruction of older parts, such as the medieval façade that was lost during renovations in the 16th and 17th-century.
Castello dei Doria
Another important monument not to be missed in Vernazza is the medieval castle Castello dei Doria. On the left in Via Roma just before the harbor, you’ll find the stairs that lead to the 13th-century castle that protected Vernazza against the attacks of Saracen pirates that roamed the Mediterranean. Because it is built on a rock, the castle has an irregular shape to which parts were added over the centuries. A visit to the castle costs € 1.50 pp. But is definitely worth it for the magnificent view it offers over the village and the bays where you see the other villages of the Cinque Terre. Especially Monterosso al Mare is clearly visible.
It’s not easy to reach Vernazza by car and it is a lot more convenient to take the train to the Cinque Terre. Every village has a station and within 3 hours you reach Vernazza from Florence. On Sunday morning there is even a direct train from Florence. The villages are so close to each other that you could visit several of them in a day.
All day there are ferries between the 5 villages and further south to Porto Venere. The ferry stops in all the villages except Corniglia that doesn’t have a harbor, and with a day pass you can hop on and hop off as often as you like.