Nestled between the sea and the rocky hill dotted with orchards, vineyards, and olive trees, Vernazza is a charming village within the famous Cinque Terre National Park in Liguria.
Its name has an uncertain origin: it was said it came from an ancient Roman family of landowners named Gens Vulnetia, but there is no official proof. Its first inhabitants lived on the slopes of the hill, but the tiny settlement got larger and larger, getting closer to the shore during the Middle Ages.
Vernazza is a typical example of Ligurian architecture, featuring tall and narrow houses, bright colors, winding alleyways, and a double identity, both rural and maritime. It’s worldwide famous for its natural landscapes and its fairy atmosphere, but also for its trekking trails and its amazing location at the heart of the Cinque Terre National Park.
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. This means I will receive a small commission if you click on certain links and subsequently purchase a product.
Visiting Vernazza in Cinque Terre
When to visit Vernazza
In summer, of course! Keep in mind that June, July, and August are very busy months in Cinque Terre, and the crowds of tourists might cause the villages to lose part of their charm.
If you want to take some great pictures and enjoy the natural landscapes, it’s best to visit Vernazza in May or September, which is also perfect for some relaxation on the beach and a swim!
Vernazza is a tiny village, and you can visit it in one day or choose it as your base to explore the Cinque Terre National Park.
How to get to Vernazza
- By car: you can reach Vernazza in about 45 minutes from La Spezia and about 2h from Genoa. Keep in mind that only the cars belonging to the residents of Vernazza are allowed to enter the village, so make sure you know where to leave your car!
- By train: that’s the easiest and cheapest way to visit Cinque Terre. Vernazza is very well connected to La Spezia and the other villages of the coast by frequent rides. Buy your Train Card to get illimited access to local trains.
- By boat: during the summer months, there are several ferries connecting La Spezia and the villages of Cinque Terre daily and with multiple rides per day. For more information, click here.
Where to stay in Vernazza
Cadè Ventu– an entire apartment is available. Its elevated scenic location offers a quiet environment only 4 Km away from the old town. It’s best to have a car to reach the nearest beach, which is 3,5 Km from the apartment. It’s a great choice if you’re looking for a peaceful and relaxing holiday. Click here for more information and to check the latest prices.
Hotel Gianni Franzi – close to the beach and the old town, it’s a relaxing yet central location where you can spend a few days in Vernazza. It also offers an internal restaurant and great value for money. It’s one of the few proper hotels in Vernazza (house rentals and guesthouses are more common in Cinque Terre). Click here for more information and to check the latest prices.
Things to Do in Vernazza
Explore the “carruggi”
Take advantage of the early morning to wander through the old town and experience a typical Ligurian-style village without its usual crowds of visitors! Carruggi are the local narrow winding alleyways that were built to protect the locals both from the strong winds and the pirate attacks. The old town offers a picturesque walk and plenty of souvenir shops!
Reach Doria Castle
When exploring the narrow alleyways of the old town, don’t forget to take the winding street leading to the top of the hill. Doria Castle was built 70m above sea level in the XIII century for defensive purposes, and its tower is still visible from a distance.
It has been the residence of the bishops of Genoa for a long time, but it’s now in ruin. You can only see some parts of the ancient walls and a cylindric tower which was the oldest core of the former castle. The ticket is 1,50, and all the proceeds are donated to the Green Cross, which is a local non-profit organization.
Visit the church of Santa Margherita di Antiochia
This house of worship draws its origin from a legend. It was said that a local once found a wooden box containing the bone of a finger belonging to S. Margherita di Antiochia. To pay tribute to the Saint, a church was about to be built right on the beach, but a storm swept away the box with the bone.
After some time, it reappeared in another place, and it was decided that it was the right location for the church in honor of S. Margherita. It now stands in a very scenic location above the sea, and it deserves a visit for its beautiful baroque decorations.
Hike the Blue Trail
The Blue Trail connects all the villages of Cinque Terre, and it’s an unmissable attraction for its amazing views. One of the most scenic sections of this long path connects Vernazza to Corniglia. It takes about 1h30, and it’s pretty hard but really beautiful.
It starts from the main square of Vernazza with a very steep staircase leading to a proper trekking trail winding above the sea. It’s best to be fit enough and to wear hiking shoes. Don’t forget to bring water, a hat, and sunscreen with you!
Stay fit on the trail to Monterosso.
This section of the Blue Trail takes about 2 hours, and it requires a fairly good fitness level. It’s often considered the hardest trail in the Cinque Terre National Park, but it’s suitable for everybody if you take it slow and you wear proper hiking shoes. It’s best not to take this trail during the hottest hours of the day. This trail is so popular because it crosses some beautiful citrus gardens, orchards, and vineyards.
Enjoy a happy hour at the small marina.
One of the most picturesque spots in Vernazza is the vibrant, colorful, and always busy marina. It’s just in front of the main square, and full of restaurants and cafés. It’s also a great place to watch the sunset!
Enjoy some shade and peace at the Shrine of Our Lady of Reggio.
Dating back to the 13th century, this Romanic shrine is located among oaks, cedar trees, and cypresses on top of the hill. It’s a very quiet place you can easily reach from the train station of Vernazza via a steep staircase. Just follow the signs indicating Trail 508 and enjoy the Mediterranean scrub and the olive trees along the way. The ascent takes about 1 hour, and it’s quite easy.
Visit the former monastery of S. Francesco.
It was built in the 17th century to accommodate a community of friars. The church is very simple, and it has an underground crypt where the friars were buried. Now the monastery is home to the town hall, and its rooms are often used as exhibition halls.
Take a break on the beach.
Vernazza has only a very small beach, right in front of the main square and next to the marina. Another slightly larger beach (but still small!) is located behind via Roma, and it’s accessible through a cave. Vernazza is not a great location to enjoy a traditional beach holiday, but you can still take a break and sunbathe after your hikes.
Take plenty of Insta-friendly pictures.
Vernazza is one of the best locations to take some pictures in Cinque Terre. These are the best viewpoints:
- Just above the small marina: take the trail leading to Monterosso and watch the sunset from there. Vernazza’s buildings will shine with gold in the late afternoon sunlight! Just keep in mind that you need to have the Cinque Terre Trekking Card since the viewpoint is part of the Blue Trail.
- Above the village, on the trail leading to Corniglia: it’s a great location to take some pictures of the bright blue sea on a sunny day. It’s also part of the Blue Trail, requiring a pass for access.
- From the courtyard of Doria Castle: one of the most popular postcards of Vernazza
Rent a bike
If you love sports, then rent a mountain bike and reach the mountain ridge above the Cinque Terre villages! It’s a 6 Km steep ascent from Vernazza, but it’s great to stay fit and enjoy some nature and a great view!