The Cinque Terre (which literally translates as "Five Lands") is named after five tiny villages which may be considered as one of the most heavenly places to be found in Italy. Located on the Ligurian coast and nestled in a series of coves, this part of the Italian Riviera has become internationally famous over the last decades, arousing the curiosity of tourists from all over the world, and this is no surprise! The reason to this fame: its pastel-colored houses, its clear turquoise waters and its green vineyard cliffs. In this post, we covered the best things to do in Vernazza by creating a walking tour with a selection of curated tips.
The Jewel of the Cinque Terre. Vernazza is undeniably stunning, with a perfect combination of everything the other villages have to offer. Its small sandy beach, vibrant old town, and breathtaking viewpoints make it the loveliest of the five villages, and a must-visit destination for anyone traveling to the region. The village is also home to the ruins of a castle, which adds to its charm and gives visitors a glimpse into its fascinating history.
One of the things that makes Vernazza so special is its picturesque marina. With colorful boats bobbing in the water, it's the perfect place to soak up the Italian atmosphere and feel like you're in a movie. Despite its popularity, Vernazza manages to maintain its intimate and charming vibe, making it the ideal spot for those looking to wander through a quaint little town and take a dip in the sea. Whether you're a history buff, a beach lover, or simply seeking a dose of Italian charm, Vernazza is not to be missed!
Before the 12th century, pirates made the coast uninhabitable, so the first Vernazzans lived in the hills above. The town itself dates mainly from the 12th and 15th centuries. In the Middle Ages, there was no beach or square; the water rose up to the buildings, where the boats docked, as in Venice. At that time, Vernazza was the richest and largest of the Cinque Terre towns.
HOW TO GET TO VERNAZZA?
GETTING THERE BY TRAIN
Located at the second most northern point of the Cinque Terre, Vernazza may be reached from larger cities of the Italian Riviera, and more generally from all the major cities of Italy. Like the other villages of the Cinque Terre, Vernazza is more easily accessible by rail. The train station is located right at the end of the main street: from there, the marina is only a hundred meters away on foot. Below you will find some information on how to get there by train:
- From Pisa: a stop in La Spezia is necessary, the trip lasts around an hour and a half and costs 12 EUR.
- From La Spezia: direct train line to the Cinque Terre; the trip lasts around 18 minutes and costs 4 EUR.
- From Genoa: direct train line to Vernazza; the trip lasts around an hour and a half and costs 16 EUR.
- From Sestri Levante: direct train line to Vernazza; the trip lasts around 40 minutes and costs 7 EUR.
The Cinque Terre Train Card is the card you need! This card costs 16 EUR per day per person and includes unlimited train rides in the Cinque Terre area AND access to all the hiking trails (more information here).
GETTING THERE BY BOAT
One of the best way to enjoy the Cinque Terre is to hop from one village to the other by boat. This allows you to see the villages from a different perspective, however, if you are on a rush (which we hope you are not), boat rides tend to be slow and therefore not ideal. The price for unlimited boat trips in the Cinque Terre costs 27 EUR per day per person (more information here).
GETTING THERE BY car
While it is possible to reach Vernazza by car, it is important to note that cars are not allowed in the village. Due to this restriction, traveling by car may not be the best option to reach these remote villages. In addition, the limited number of parking spots available can be a disadvantage for travelers coming by car, and the cost of parking is relatively high (about 2.50 EUR per hour and 25 EUR per day). However, for adventurous travelers who still decide to come to the Cinque Terre by car, below are some distances and approximate travel times from nearby cities: 114 km and approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes from Pisa, 94 km and approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes from Genoa, 34 km and approximately 45 minutes from La Spezia, and 45 km and approximately 55 minutes from Sestri Levante.
1. VIA ROMA
Via Roma is typical of the architecture of the Cinque Terre, with its colorful facades and shutters. It is Vernazza's main street, which can also be described as the commercial center of the city. There are many stores here, from souvenir stores and wine shops to restaurants and gelaterias. You can easily be distracted by the amount of options there are, but check where locals go and follow them! It's in this street that Italians take part in the passeggiata; the art of strolling around for leisure, mainly in the evening, with the aim of socializing. Hidden behind Via Roma, you can also lose yourself in the adjacent alleyways of the city, these are quieter than Vernazza's Main Street but as beautiful and charming!
2. NEW BEACH
This place is a hidden gem that we definitely recommend you visit! As you walk down Vernazza's main street, make sure to pay attention to a small passage on your left! An obscure tunnel leads to this hidden beach where it's really nice to sunbathe and take a quick dip in this pristine water (especially after hiking from one village to another).
3. VIA AGOSTINO DEL SANTO
This is one of the alleyways we mentioned above, here the atmosphere is completely different from Vernazza's busy main street: narrow paths, colorful facades and laundry drying in the windows, no doubt, you're in Italy! Make sure to get lost in this maze of alleys!
4. PIAZZA MARCONI
One of the most picturesque places in Vernazza is definitely its main square, also called Piazza Marconi. This square looks like something out of the Disney animated film Lucca (set in an Italian village), with its colorful houses, church and waterfront! People like to sit on the terrace of one of the many bars and restaurants of the square to rest and enjoy the sun.
5. VERNAZZA VIEWPOINT
You absolutely have to go to this place, even if you are not an amateur photographer! In fact, this is the place with the best view of the pastel-colored harbor of Vernazza! To get there, you have to take the steep and narrow stairs hidden behind the church, as if you were heading to Monterosso! The views get more and more rewarding as you climb; note that before the ticket booth, the views are fine, but that after the ticket booth, the views are the most impressive views. Our tip: if you don't have the Cinque Terre Trekking Card and simply don't want to purchase one, you can hike up there in the evening (after 7 p.m.), once the park is officially closed!
6. CASTELLO DORIA
On the far right of the main square of Vernazza, the castle (Castello Doria), or rather what is left of it. In fact, today it is only stones and a grassy park, but it offers incredible views of the harbor of Vernazza! In pirate days, this castle was the town's watchtower; during World War II, it was a Nazi lookout. For your information, to access this place, a fee of 1,50 EUR will be requested (not included in the Cinque Terre Trekking Card).
HIKING FROM VERNAZZA
As previously mentioned, the five villages of the Cinque Terre are connected by hiking trails (marked with red and white paint), also known as the "Blue Trail" (Sentierro Azzurro), which have been used for centuries. In order to have access to these hiking trails, you need to either have the Cinque Terre Train Card (16 EUR per day per person; more information here) or buy the Cinque Terre Trekking Card (7.50 EUR per day per person; more information here).
VERNAZZA TO MONTEROSSO
This section is one of the most popular sections of the Blue Trail. The route, which connects Vernazza to Monterosso, is one of the most fascinating but also one of the most tiring, but the panoramic views are rewarding! The hike is 3.3 km long and lasts approximately one hour and a half.
VERNAZZA TO CORNIGLIA
The hike from Vernazza to Corniglia is the wildest and the greenest section of the coast. It is very rewarding but also very steep! This itinerary is very popular with Cinque Terre tourists. If you decide to take this path, you are guaranteed picturesque views! You will pass through olive groves, vineyards and Mediterranean scrub. There is also a panoramic view of the famous village and its medieval tower from the trail near Vernazza. The hike is 3.2 km long and lasts approximately one hour and a half.
OUR FINAL THOUGHTS
Vernazza is definitely one of the village you have to visit when going to the Cinque Terre! This town manages to achieve the perfect balance of what makes these five small towns unique: a special mix between traditional Italian harbor villages with a dazzling natural combination of blue waters and rocky shore. Home to one of the most iconic viewpoint of the Cinque Terre, we certainly recommend planning to watch a sunset there!
| For more information about the Cinque Terre, check our post here |
And now it's your turn to let us know what your impressions about Vernazza were. Which of the five villages is your favorite? We look forward to reading your comments.