This article is part of the series about Cinque Terre and will be about Vernazza, the fourth of the five villages. Vernazza is my favourite after Corniglia and in summer I usually come here to enjoy the bars and the beach. Let’s talk about Vernazza then!
The first historical sources about Vernazza date back to the 11th century when it was a castrum and was used as a harbour where the ships against the pirates’ attacks could dock and was also a commercial hub. The entire name was Castrum Vernatio, where the noun Vernatio is said to come from the latin adjective Verna meaning “indigenous”. The port was owned by a landlord called Nicolò Fieschi but then, he lost everything because of Vernazza’s growing political ties with Genoa. Vernazza, unlike some other Cinque Terre towns, has a peculiar aspect, that is to say the port is very protected. For this reason the Genoa Republic used the town as docking place for the galeys during the war against Pisa. More recently, Vernazza was annexed to the Napoleon’s French Empire and then became part of the Sardinia Republic in the 19th century.
The port is the town’s meeting place where you can find a big amount of restaurants and cute bars overlooking the sea. The square is quite huge and offers the chance to get a good insight into italian life. To have a complete view over the town, you must go ahead and reach the pier where you will be awarded with a beautiful portrait of Vernazza with its colorful and ancient houses. On the pier you can also find a very picturesque seafood restaurants, which is located on the top of a tower. I have never eaten there because I do not like seafood and plus, it is said to be quite expensive…so only people that have a strong wallet can go here 😉
On the square you can also find the lovely church whose name is Santa Margherita d’Antiochia built in the 14th century by the Magistri Antelami, a group of nomadic artists. The original style was Romanesque but in the 16th century, the interior was changed into the Baroque style and the outside was enlarged. I do not know why but I am very fond of this church, it is pretty small but very nice because it overlooks the sea. Some churches in Italy have very strict rules on the way you are dressed in order to grant you the entrance but here, everyone can enter without problem…I guess this happens because it is just near the sea and people do not usually wear long trousers, long sleeves shirts and a veil ahah
The Two Beaches
Unlike some other towns, Vernazza even has two beaches! Quite astonishing if you think about it and you have been to Cinque Terre because you saw how hostile the territory is, just too many cliffs around. The first beach is located just near the square: you go beyond the church and you find some rocks where you can lie down. Here the rocks are quite huge so you can sometimes find very big and flat rocks, perfect for your beach nap during summer. The other beach is more special because 6 years ago, it did not exist. Cinque Terre experienced very bad landslides in 2011 due to the heavy rainfall and the fragility of the territory. Vernazza was one of the most hit towns in the Cinque Terre area, just think that the port did not exist anymore and was covered with mud. This beach is just the result of this bad landslide that is why you can find different kinds of sand there, even though recently the beach got rid of all the bad materials brought there by the flood. The beach is not entirely rocky, it is made up of small stones and when you approach the shore, it eventually changes into rocks. But if you bathe there, be careful, because the current is quite strong and can bring you away!
Well, how can I not speak about this when I am writing of Cinque Terre towns?! As you have already figured out from my previous articles, these villages are composed of intricated and mazy alleyways: some very steep and some very old and hidden. To discover them, you just need to venture into the town’s real centre and pass by the houses of the locals. I think that in Vernazza I found the most picturesque alleyways so far! While wandering, I also discovered some steep stairs that lead you to the top of the tower built when Vernazza was under Genoa Republic’s rules to protect the town from enemies’ attacks. The stairs are very very steep but I am sure it is worth a hike! I hiked until the top but we decided not to enter the tower because we had to pay ahaha do not think we are stingy but just, that day, we were not in the mood and there were too many people so I am planning to go back in november when there are less tourists.
I do not think it is so secret but some tourists that do not hike could miss this. On the hiking trail that links Monterosso wih Vernazza, just at the beginning, there is a beautiful view over Vernazza’s port that should not be missed. The hiking trails are not free, you need to pay if you want to go but if you just want to see this view, you do not need to enter the hiking trail but just stop before the payment desk. I was really enchanted by the colours of the town that characterised this place since forever. I, later, discovered that they used to paint the houses with different colours for a practical use, not for beauty! In the past, the inhabitants lived mainly thanks to the products of the sea so when the fishermen left for fishing and went back in the night, just by looking at the colour of the house, they could recognize theirs and not risk entering the house of someone else in the middle of the night 😉