Arguably the most picturesque—and steepest—of all the Cinque Terre villages, Vernazza is indeed a striking sight: snaking narrow lanes and a crescent-shaped harbor are framed by forested peaks and glittering Mediterranean waters. Visitors can stroll the scenic waterfront, snap photos of the charming pastel-colored buildings, and explore a medieval castle before heading down to the sandy beach for a refreshing swim in the sea.
Vernazza makes a good base for exploring Cinque Terre National Park, which encompasses all five Cinque Terre towns, and for enjoying outdoor activities such as hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, and paragliding along the Italian Riviera. Day tours to Vernazza run from La Spezia, Siena, Lucca, and Florence, and typically include visits to the neighboring villages of Monterosso al Mare, Riomaggiore, Corniglia, and Manarola, as well as a stop in nearby Portovenere. Cruise ship passengers can opt for a shore excursion from Genoa.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Vernazza can get busy in peak summer season, so book tours and accommodations in advance.
- Bring comfortable, sturdy walking shoes, as the village roads are steep and often uneven.
- While many hotels and tourist attractions in Vernazza are wheelchair and stroller accessible, the village’s steep and narrow lanes can be challenging for those with mobility issues to navigate.
How to Get There
Located in Cinque Terre National Park, between Corniglia and Monterosso al Mare along the Italian Riviera, Vernazza is a 2.5-hour drive from Florence or a 45-minute drive from La Spezia. Parking is limited in Vernazza, so unless you are staying in town overnight, it’s best to join a tour or arrive by train from La Spezia (a 20-minute ride). Alternatively, from mid-April through October, ferries connect Vernazza with La Spezia, Monterosso al Mare, Riomaggiore, and Manarola.
When to Get There
Vernazza and the rest of the Cinque Terre see the most visitors and highest temperatures—upwards of 100°F (40°C)—in summer. Hikers should aim to visit in May or September to avoid the peak heat, while budget-minded travelers might want to skip August, when hotel prices skyrocket. Visiting in winter is possible, but some hiking trails may be inaccessible in heavy rain or icy conditions.
Historic Landmarks in Vernazza
Vernazza is best known for its colorfully painted houses, but the cliffside village is also home to some impressive historic monuments. Get a panoramic perspective from medieval Doria Castle, built to protect the town from pirates; admire the Church of Santa Margherita d’Antiochia, which dates back to the 14th century; or hike into the mountains to take in the views from the Sanctuary of Madonna di Reggio.