Vernazza Italy - The Jewel of the Cinque Terre!
Vernazza is my favorite Cinque Terre village. It probably helps that it was the first place we ever stayed in this Liguria region, but I believe it's more than that... There's something truly magical about this beautiful, friendly, lively but relaxed slice of heaven along the Mediterranean!
The town seems to be a perfect fit for my whole family! We love that it has a natural harbor - the only town in the Cinque Terra that does - and my kids LOVE climbing on the boulders of the man-made breakwater that was added in the 70s. This turns the harbor into a C shape, where any spot you choose to sit has great people-watching opportunities.
Swimming at Vernazza's little beach is calm and easy for kids young and old, and the more adventurous can jump in on the outer side of the breakwater for some bigger waves. I love that you can swim from the beach, around the buoyed boats, right out into the big waves of the Mediterranean Sea without getting close to the wave-crashing rocks father out.
There are ropes separating the boating area from the swimming area, keeping it safe for little ones!
It's perfect for kayaking too since you can get in and out of your kayak on the beach, where the water is exceptionally still, and then paddle out to the deeper water. No need to get from a dock into a kayak, which is always a little tricky... even without big waves. Paddle up to the next town, Monterossa, and take out at the larger beach there. Or, in the other direction, paddle to Corniglia and take out at the small clothing-optional beach at the base of the cliffs. More on kayaking in the Cinque Terre later...
Relaxing and People-Watching...
Even with some crowds in the heat of the day in the Summer months, there's ample room along Vernazza's harbor front to find a comfortable spot to sit (or lay) in the sun. There are even some shady nooks!
My favorite spot for an evening glass of wine or a morning cup of coffee is out on the rocks of the breakwater. If you don't feel like exerting any effort to find the perfect rock though (or if you're wearing a dress!), there are built-in benches all the way along the town side of the breakwater. You can seriously always find a seat!
Sit anywhere along the benches and you have a breathtaking view of the entire village of Vernazza! The pastel-colored houses, stacked like legos up the hillside, with just enough laundry hanging outside the upper floor windows to feel quaint, the beach and rocks along the other side of the harbor, and the restaurants and bars along the water are fun to watch any time of day. I probably prefer the rocks themselves for my perch because I can turn the other way and look at the Mediterranean Sea whenever I choose. I can (and have) spent hours just gazing back and forth between these two amazing scenes! And I'm not usually one to sit still for long! There's something about this town, and the whole Cinque Terre, that instantly relaxes me!
The hikes from Vernazza to its neighboring Cinque Terre towns are not wimpy! In fact, these are the two most challenging of the four popular town-to-town hikes. But that's even another reason to love Vernazza because, by the time the town comes into view, it's like a beautiful mirage that makes the steep up and down hike you've just made feel well-worth the effort!
Quaint, picturesque, and a castle too!
Of course, I love the restaurants, bakeries, and gelaterias here too! There are also some terrific rooms to rent. The town's dry white wine is wonderful (Each town has its own unique label)! And I've had the best pesto of my life in here! I'll definitely cover each of these topics soon!
Another thing I love about Vernazza is its size. It's small enough to walk quickly from the harbor to the train station (or run if you hear the train whistle!), but it's large enough to wander through the back streets (more like back steps!) for hours. I love climbing up random-feeling sets up stairs and seeing locals who clearly don't see many non-familiar visitors outside their front doors often!
Of course, the fact that Vernazza still has the remains of its castle adds to the picturesque beauty of the town. And, on top of all of that, the entire village of Vernazza sticks out into the Mediterranean on a small peninsula, making it gorgeously scenic from any angle!
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