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Cinque Terre Travel Guide: Visit Vibrant Vernazza

For many people, the Cinque Terre is the ultimate Italian destination. Magical views, wonderful hiking and walking, historical and cultural highlights and, of course, the chance to sample the incredible food and wine of the local region. There’s so much to love about these five charming villages strung along the dramatic coastline and it’s one of those places that definitely lives up to the considerable hype. 

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Here at Walkabout Florence we have a very special place in our hearts for this stunning area and, if you give us a day, we’ll give you the most fun and rewarding experience of your life!   

Each of the five villages has its own character and it’s very difficult to play favourites – and nor should you! We love them all equally but here’s what we think you’ll love about Vernazza. Cinque Terre affords you an open invitation to explore…

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Is Vernazza Worth Visiting?

If hiking through breath-taking scenery, meandering through colourful streets and taking in panoramic views of the crystal clear Mediterranean Sea sounds like your idea of heaven, then you’ll no doubt love the centuries-old quintuplet of villages that you’ll get to encounter  on our very rewarding Cinque Terre tour. The picturesque coastal trail that links the villages affords not only spectacular far-reaching views, but you and your fellow travellers will be dazzled by all five of these idyllic towns: Corniglia, Vernazza, Monterosso, Manarola and Riomaggiore. 

In this post we want to introduce you to the unique beauty and enticing history of Vernazza. We recommend you use this guide to supplement your trip, so that as you wander around the town’s archaeological attractions and iconic buildings, you can call on these juicy facts for a heightened historical and cultural experience. 

Top Tip: If you’re worried about whether your physical fitness is up to the job of hiking between the villages, you can always take up the option of catching the local train. While the hike is a big part of the experience for many, it’s also perfectly acceptable to jump on the train if your legs aren’t up to it!

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“So incredibly worth it! Best day of our trip!”

“The transportation was seamless, the information given to us was super interesting and useful, and the overall experience was ideal. I can’t rave enough about this tour. You HAVE to see Cinque Terre, and this is a great way to do so. You would miss out on so much history without the guides.”

5 Stars on Trip Advisor, Laura M

What is Vernazza Known For?

A multi-coloured gem tucked into the Ligurian coastline, it has long been lauded as the most beautiful of the five villages, and it’s not hard to see why. With its quaint natural harbour and seaside piazzetta, it feels more like a traditional Italian fishing village than other locations on the coastline. It is also untarnished by car fumes and traffic noise as vehicles are only permitted entry on Tuesday mornings, ensuring the village hums only with rustic and authentic charm. It’s a place that can truly capture your heart and it’s not uncommon for visitors to return on a second (or third) visit to this magical and memorable place.

A Little History

The town is mentioned in documents dating back to 1080, when it served as a military/naval base for the prominent Obertenghi family. Being a vulnerable coastal village, it was frequently raided by Saracen pirates. Many important families helped to fortify the village over the years to ensure the safety of their beloved land of terraced hills and lemon trees, and many of these fortifications can still be seen today. In fact, it even boasts the mysterious ‘floating festival’, an unfixed date where locals dress up as pirates and re-enact the invasion of the normally serene towns in memory of the real raids that terrorised residents millennia ago. 

For the next 200 years, the village remained an important source of soldiers and fleets, which proved key to Genova’s conquest of Liguria. Nowadays, it has retired from its military purpose and reposes by a glistening sea, leaving only shadows of its more violent past. As you wander the streets, however, it’s not hard to imagine the history of days gone by…

A Little Pleasure

During your tour you will be given some free time without your guide to stroll the narrow alleyways of Vernazza yourself. This is an absolute joy (and you won’t get lost, we assure you!) and around every corner you’ll encounter dazzling views of the sea as well as the picture-perfect pastel-coloured houses that are scattered over the coastline. Whilst taking this time to relax, be sure to sample some Italian delicacies from the cosy cafes, sip some local wine from a local bar or search for souvenirs from the artisan street vendors on the main street.

Top Tip: If you’re feeling hot and bothered after all the hiking you can take a refreshing swim in the invitingly clear sea – just remember to bring your swimming gear with you!

Explore the Buildings & Ruins

As you soak up the general ambience of this beautiful Italian village you are also sure to spy some of these historical and cultural landmarks. They’re very easy to find and include: 

  • The Church of Santa Margherita di Antiochia

This gorgeous church, erected in 1318 by the Maestri Antelami, was designed and built in gothic Ligurian style. The raw stone walls are adorned by a charming octagonal bell tower. Said to have been built on top of a mysteriously appearing wooden box full of Saint Margaret’s bones, this little church is steeped in local tradition. 

  • The Doria Castle 

Built in the Middle Ages to protect the village from pirates, the Doria Castle sits far up on the hillside keeping peaceful watch over the town. Its main feature is its impressive tower, estimated to be the oldest part of the castle. This imposing feature offers spectacular views over the town and, once you’ve explored, it’s interesting to  return to the village and look back up from a different perspective. 

  • The Sanctuary of Nostra Signora di Reggio

Although we won’t have time to visit here directly on the Cinque Terre tour, the sanctuary of Nostra Signora di Reggio is well worth exploring if you choose to return to Vernazza another time (and you will want to!). Built in the Romanesque period and hugged by centuries-old trees, this charming sanctuary boasts an unparalleled view over the greenery and the houses.

How Do You Get to Vernazza, Italy?

There are multiple ways of getting there. The entire region is a very popular destination (particularly in the warmer months), which means it’s reasonably accessible. 

By far the most relaxing and popular way of visiting the area is on a day trip from Florence – and at Walkabout Florence, we heartily believe ours is the very best! While it’s certainly a long day, it’s never overwhelming, because all you need to do is sit back and relax on the early morning drive from Florence. Once we arrive, your guide will take care of all the details (like entry into the National Park) and you’re free to simply start enjoying those spectacular views. At the end of the day you’ll be driven back to Florence, tired but completely invigorated – and also completely under the spell of this magical place. 

If you’re based in Florence for the duration of your holiday, you can certainly catch a train or bus from the main station to La Spezia, and then take the local train that also links the five villages, including Vernazza. However, there is a caveat, in that you’ll be at the mercy of scheduling and timetables, which in Italy can be somewhat unreliable.

You can of course also drive yourself in a rental or private vehicle, but be aware that parking is at a premium cost and availability once you arrive. In fact, private vehicles are discouraged from the area so it’s not really recommended, particularly for those to whom the roads are unfamiliar.

Best Time to Visit

The good news is there’s no bad time to visit Vernazza! Cinque Terre does get very busy in the peak season, however, and it’s also a good idea to understand a little about the weather at different times of the year. This blog post will help you understand which would be the best time to visit for your own individual travel requirements.

Happy Clients Have Their Say!

So Vernazza is naturally, historically and culturally rich – what’s not to love? Be sure to join us to discover this lovely town’s multi-coloured charms for yourself. If you need some further inspiration, look no further to what our very happy clients say about our tour:

“Amazing Tour, Worth it!”

“Best tour we’ve taken so far. Hiking was mild to moderately strenuous, but amazing views and short exploration of all 5 villages. [The Guides] are extremely knowledgeable, attentive, helpful and fun guides.”

5 Stars on Trip Advisor, Helen Y

“So incredibly worth it! Best day of our trip!”

“The transportation was seamless, the information given to us was super interesting and useful, and the overall experience was ideal. I can’t rave enough about this tour. You HAVE to see Cinque Terre, and this is a great way to do so. You would miss out on so much history without the guides.”

5 Stars on Tripadvisor, Laura M Cinque_Terre_Hike

If this little yet delicious slice of Italian culture, history and beauty has sparked your sense of wanderlust, all you’ll need to do is get in touch with our team. Our handcrafted Cinque Terre tour is the perfect opportunity for you to take in the picture-perfect surroundings with a touch of educational expertise. Book your tour today and prepare for memories that will last a lifetime.

We Are Walkabout Florence

Here at Walkabout Florence, we provide our guests with exciting tour experiences that aim to showcase Italy’s unique beauty, be it on a hike, Vespa tour or wine tasting session. Our small selection of meticulously designed group tours each promise to be both magical and memory-making, and we can guarantee that some of the most fascinating places to visit in Italy will be on your itinerary no matter which tour you choose!

Walkabout Florence is sure to make your holiday feel that extra bit special, and we can assure you that you’ll be heading home with full hearts (and camera rolls). Book online today and support our independent business.