On the northwestern coast of Italy, a series of centuries-old villages can be found nestled into the rugged cliffside. Cinque Terre (UNESCO World Heritage Site), translated as ‘Five Lands’, consists of five villages: Vernazza, Monterosso al Mare, Corniglia, Riomaggiore, and Manarolo. Each village has its own unique charm, deep history, and the most picturesque buildings I’ve ever seen!
Vernazza is a very small fishing village with a population of about 1000 people. Most of the villages remain inaccessible by car but are conveniently linked together by a train line. The town is densely packed with locals (and tourists) but it still has a relaxed vibe compared to other, larger coastal cities.
When I first arrived in Vernazza, it felt like I had been transported to another world!! The location of these villages is so unexpected it looks like they were picked up then dropped on top of a cliff. Looking out towards the sea, you get a glimpse of the neighbouring coastal villages and the never-ending water. Facing the mountains, you see vineyards, crops, and houses clinging to the land and ascending to the top of every peak.
The houses are packed tightly together, giving the illusion that they are stacked on top of each other, and you quickly find yourself navigating through steep, stone staircases to get around town. At one point, we were on the hunt for a particular restaurant and ended up lost after walking up 4 flights of stairs only to find ourselves looking down upon the village. Getting lost in Vernazza is something I WOULD recommend!
After a bit of wandering, we hiked our way through the mountains to get to the next town, Monterosso al Mare. This hike was my favourite part of our entire trip (separate blog post to come)! The trails take you up high into the mountains where you can find the best views of Vernazza.
I’ll admit that before this trip I used to think traveling to metropolitan cities was the best way to go. After visiting Cinque Terre I can’t believe I had overlooked visiting these smaller towns. The vibrant colours, surrounding nature, sound of the sea, food, sun… it’s impossible to not fall in love with Vernazza. I will definitely come back to Cinque Terre in the future for a longer stay…with more hiking!
More info about the hike from Vernazza to Monterosso al Mare:
How I got to Vernazza: Trenitalia (Florence to Vernazza)
My hiking skill level: Beginner. Bring proper footwear, the trails are steep and rocky.
Age-range of hikers we encountered: as young as 10 years old, plus a handful of people in their 60’s with ski poles to assist them.
Length of hike from Vernazza to Monterosso al Mare: ~2 hours. We chose the most direct path but longer trails up to 15km exist.