Vernazza trip planner
The Cinque Terre town of Vernazza
The postcard-perfect Cinque Terre town of Vernazza. (Photo courtesy of joeandkaty.) Vernazza is the one town that appears on all the postcards: Tall pastel houses jostling as they curve around a natural harbor (where you can swim among the bobbing fishing boats) opening off Piazza Marconi, which is lined with café and restaurant tables.
The houses stack up the hillside to a stony castle tower, perched on the rocky promontory, which has kept an eye out for marauding pirates since the 11th century.
(Vernazza has been a stronghold since at least AD 1080, the likely launching point for a fleet fielded to defend this stretch of coast from Saracen pirates out of North Africa. Parts of its castle and defensive walls survive, giving it a historical heft missing from some of the other Cinque Terre towns.)
At the start of the main street leading up from Piazza Marconi (it starts as Via Visconti, then becomes Via Roma) is an opening to the right that leads down to the local medieval laundromat: a series of square basins fronted by sloping stones (for the hand-scrubbing of clothes), the whole complex system being constantly fed by the natural stream that runs beneath the village road.
The 2011 floods in Vernazza
Sadly, flash floods on October 25, 2011, gravely damaged the Cinque Terre, devastating Vernazza in particular (as well as severly damaging Monterosso).
The residents there are digging out from the mud and rebuilding, but it may be a while until Vernazza is back to its old self. As of spring 2012, the town is only just beginning to get back on its feet. A half-dozen hotels and rental rooms have already reopened; same for restaurants. Many more expect to open by summer. You can keep track of what's going on, and what has reopened, at www.savevernazza.com/traveladvisor. Note that most of the rest of the Cinque Terre is open for business.
My colleague Rick Steves, who put these towns on the tourism map in the first place, is rallying to the cause and you can find regular flood recovery updates (as well as links to local aid orignizations) in the "News" section of his site: www.ricksteves.com.
Note: Due to the flood, nearly all of Vernazza is currently closed. Until the town recovers and rebuilds, you'll have to stay in another town in the Cinque Terre.
Vernazza rental rooms and apartments
Contact the Trattoria Gianni Franzi (tel. +39-0187-821-003; www.giannifranzi.it) to rent one of the basic rooms squirreled away in the buildings above the restaurant (lots of stairs to climb), some with brilliant views over the coast. Rates for a double room start at €65 (without private bathroom) or €80 (with bath).
You can call ahead, or just drop by the restaurant's bar by the harborside at Piazza G. Marconi 5 (though, outside summer high season, the restaurant is closed Wednesdays, so you can't check in); it's closed early January to early March.
There are more rooms to rent listed at www.parconazionale5terre.it.
- Planning your time: Vernazza is most people's favorite Cinque Terre town—it has the looks, it has the central location (perfect for a lunch break in one of the excellent restaurants on Piazza Marconi; there's another trattoria, Al Castello, up on a terrace against the castle walls with great views), and it has the blessing of Rick Steves, who really put this area on the tourism map.
- Admission to the trails: They now have the gall to charge you to hike the old goat paths between the villages. This ticket is called the Cinque Terre Card, and you can get one valid for 1 day (€5), 2 days (€8), 3 days (€10), or 7 days (€20). It includes admission to the trails, use of the (frankly superfluous) tiny buses in some towns, the occasional elevator, and entry to a few tiny museums (local history in Riomaggiore, wine in Manarola, and in Monterosso an aquarium and a museum of anchovy salting—no, seriously).
There are also versions of the Cinque Terre Card that include unlimited train rides or unlimited ferry rides. Unless you're planning to take more than two train rides during your visit, don't bother. A standard train ticket between any of the towns costs just €1.60 to €1.80, while the train version of the card costs roughly €3.50 to €16.50 more per day (meaning you'd have to ride the rails at least three times a day or more to make it worthwhile). And, while nifty, you're unlikely to ride the less-frequent ferry more than once as a sort of mini-cruise.
- How to get to Vernazza: Vernazza is on the regional Cinque Terre rail line, passing Monterosso al Mare (3–6 min.), Corniglia (3–7 min.), Manarola (7–14 min.), and Riomaggiore (10 min.).
Vernazza is also 18–31 min. by train from La Spezia, where you can change for trains throughout Italy (sometimes you change at nearby Sarzana), including Pisa (1:30–2:05 hr. total), Lucca (1:45–2:30 hr., sometimes with another change at Viareggio), Florence (2:30–4:05 hr., sometimes with another change at Pisa), and Rome (4:30–6:15 hr.).
- Take a tour from Florence: Our partners at Viator.com offer a well-regarded Cinque Terre hiking day trip out of Florence. It's a long (13 hours), but comprehensive tour, and leaves from the Florence train station at 7:30am. It includes bus transportation, rail travel between villages, hikes, a box breakfast, and lunch. Don't want to hike it? There's also a bus tour from Florence version that lets you walk the first, easy trail (Via dell'Amore), and also gives you time to wander four of the five villages (all save Monterosso; no great loss).
- Hiking the Cinque Terre
- How to get around the Cinque Terre
- Hotels in the Cinque Terre (all the towns on one page)
- Other Cinque Terre towns: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Monterosso al Mare
- Cinque Terre homepage
This material was last updated March 2011. All information was accurate at the time.
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