Cinque Terre are one of Italy most internationally renowned destinations. The beautiful roughness of the coasts, the scents of the Mediterranean scrub, a spontaneous vegetation worthy of the best gardens and those colorful houses that offer themselves to the midday sun never leave indifferent.
Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, Monterosso: these are the names of the villages that make up the Cinque Terre, one of the many prides of Liguria. Each has its own characteristics and are all undeniably beautiful, but my favorite is without a doubt Vernazza. It wasn’t always like this: when I was a teenager I liked Monterosso because the spaces were wider and the town more populated. As I got older my tastes changed and today the small fishing village of Vernazza enchants me. It must have had the same effect on Disney because that’s where they set Luca.
I left for Cinque Terre on an ordinary day of May, exhausted from the lockdown and in search of clean air. As soon as the train came out over the sea I felt that the piece of lead that had been weighing down over my stomach for days had suddenly melted away. Looking up from the last step of the station of Vernazza, I saw the main street of the village and I realized that I was really free, despite the mask and hands soaked with disinfectant.
It was Tuesday and along the street was the tiny market with fruit, pesto, pasta and local cheeses, clothes and many small colorful accessories. People were chatting under the sun, while the wind coming from the sea brought the scent of saltiness heedless of FP2. I was so hypnotized by this bright normality that I didn’t even recognize the friend a meter away from me who was calling me!
What to do in Vernazza
Vernazza is a place of bliss, especially if you are lucky enough to experience it with few tourists. It must be seen for its incredible beauty: a tiny fishing village nestled in a natural harbor surrounded by lush and fragrant spontaneous vegetation. Impossible not to photograph it!
Compared to the other “small” Cinque Terre has also a real beach, partly sandy in part made of rocks. To tell the truth the beaches would be two: the second can be reached by crossing a small cave in the center of the country, but it is not always accessible.
From the small port there are also several boat excursions that go as far as Porto Venere. In high season the staff of the various agencies are in the port for the sale of tickets. Generally , it is always a good idea to get information before leaving: by doing a quick search on the Internet you can find various tour operators offering these experiences. If you are passionate about fishing there are people who offer this service.
For those who visit Vernazza and the Cinque Terre on beautiful winter days or during the mid-season, I highly recommend to take a walk on the beautiful trails in the Parco delle Cinque Terre. You can also do them in summer, but the heat is very intense and there is little shade. In particular, the Verde Azzurro trail that connects Monterosso to Corniglia offers truly spectacular views. Because of the high costs due to the ordinary maintenance of the passage, the access is subject to a fee: it is necessary to buy the Cinque Terre Card that gives right for one or more days to some facilitations on the territory. If you plan to use the buses and trains that connect the various locations several times a day, it might be worth spending a little more and purchasing the Cinque Terre Train which entitles you to unlimited rides for 1, 2 or 3 days.
In addition to the Verde Azzurro trail, Vernazza is also the starting point for other inland trails that stop at small villages and sanctuaries that are located second to the sea. From here you can see breathtaking views … if you still have breath after the endless steps of the Ligurian trails!!!
Yes, because one of the peculiarities of these places is that the mountains plunge headlong into the sea and every meter inland has been literally torn from the cliffs. So, if you are not trained, before taking a path consult well the maps and contour lines or ask at the information office located at the train station.
How to get to Vernazza and the Cinque Terre
And speaking of the station, this is also the best way to get to the village. Obviously there is a road but I can only advise against it: it is very narrow, full of hairpin bends and bumpy. In many places two cars do not pass, so there is the risk of having to back up to the first clearing between curves and visibility is poor. In addition, once you get to the bottom, the parking lots are really small and one, at certain times of the year, is also closed.
Much better to opt for the train. From La Spezia and Levanto there are several runs per hour (depending on the time of year, always check the timetable) that stop in each of the five villages. The price for non-residents is fixed: €4 per ride. During high season the trains are often very crowded, especially in the middle of the day, so plan ahead.
At Cinque Terre with the dog
As I said Vernazza is a very small village, squeezed between rocks and sea and often very crowded. The beaches are not accessible to animals and bars and restaurants, even outside, have rather narrow spaces. The apartments that accept animals are not many. In general, I do not recommend a stay with a dog: too many people and few spaces suitable for them. We came in the day with Athena a couple of times, but she never felt comfortable among the multitude of people.
If you want to visit the Parco delle Cinque Terre with your dog, probably the best choice is to move to the inland villages, among the woods and terraces. We stayed in Groppo and Volastra, near Manarola, and there Atena found green areas and quiet walks.