I spent a glorious five days on Italy’s Mediterranean Coast among the mind-meltingly beautiful villages of the Cinque Terre. The “Five Lands” – Riommagiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare – each have something special to offer. You will definitely find your favourite, and wonder why it took so long for you visit. I’ve already talked about the amazing hike through the villages during the wine harvest, now it’s time to see the best of the rest, my favourite village, Vernazza.

Vernazza Cinque Terre

Travel among the villages: train and ferry

The villages of the Cinque Terre are located within a national park, the Parco Nazionale delle Cinque Terre, a protected area. Visitors are required to buy a Cinque Terre Card, providing access to the park and the hiking trails between villages (1 day € 6.00/2 days € 9.70). The passes can be upgraded to include unlimited train travel among the villages, which I had and can recommend without reservation for the simple convenience of it all.

I had a two-day train pass, and for my third day, I mixed it up with a one-day ferry card (€ 15.00 in September 2013). Again, this is highly recommended because you simply cannot beat the view of the villages from the sea.

Cinque Terre Vernazza

The ferry trip also affords visitors a view of the Via dell’Amore, which was damaged and closed to the public during my visit.

Cinque Terre Via dell'Amore

Picking a favourite village: Vernazza

It may seem like an impossible feat, but I knew Vernazza (population: 500) was my favourite as I hiked down the seaside path leading into town. It was just as charming as the other villages, but had a nice, compact layout, an easily climbable castle with a 360-degree view of the village, plus some pretty remarkable gelato (among a lot of remarkable gelato spots). For the best view, start your visit at Castello Doria, pay a small fee (€1.50 in September 2013), then climb to the top for this unbeatable view of the village.

Vernazza panorama from Castello Doria
Vernazza from the top of Castello Doria. The village in the distance on the left is Monterosso al Mare. On the right, Corniglia, Manarola and, eventually, Riomaggiore.

When you’re in Vernazza, make some time to visit my favourite shop, Bottega d’Arte, whether you’re looking for unique gifts for the unfortunate people who can’t join you on the Cinque Terre, or a little custom jewelry treat for yourself from Storie in Italie. I visited Bottega d’Arte every day I was there, and managed to pick up some lovely art for my flat, as well as a custom piece of jewelry to remember my time there. We got chatting with the owner one day and she spent quite a bit of time telling us about Vernazza’s recent struggles. A devastating flood in 2011 left the village submerged in several metres of thick, muddy water. To walk through the streets today, the extent of the recovery is nothing short of amazing.

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