The Italian Riviera: Places to Explore



With its narrow streets and small squares, Vernazza is arguably the most charming of the five Cinque Terre towns. Historically, it was the most important of them as it was the only one fortunate enough to have a natural port and, therefore, became wealthier than its neighbors—as evident by the elaborate arcades, loggias, and marble work lining Via Roma and Piazza Marconi.

The village's pink, slate-roof houses and colorful squares contrast with the remains of the medieval fort and castle, including two towers, in the Old Town. The Romans first inhabited this rocky spit of land in the 1st century.

Today, Vernazza has a fairly lively social scene. Piazza Marconi looks out across Vernazza's small sandy beach to the sea, towards Monterosso. The numerous restaurants and bars crowd their tables and umbrellas on the outskirts of the piazza creating a patchwork of sights and sounds that form one of the most unique and beautiful places in the world.

If mass is not going on (there will be a cord blocking the entrance if there is), take a peek into the church of Saint Margaret of Antioch. Little changed since its enlargement in the 1600s, this 14th-century edifice has simple interiors but truly breathtaking views toward the sea: a stark contrast to the other, elaborate churches of the Cinque Terre.

On the other side of the Piazza, stairs lead to a look-out fortress and cylindrical watchtower, built in the 11th century as protection against pirate attacks. For a small fee you can climb to the top of the tower for a spectacular view of the coastline.

Vernazza at a Glance