Why Vernazza is the best town in the Cinque Terre.
Vernazza, one of the 5 villages in the Cinque Terre, is idyllic in many ways. In other ways it is another example of rampant tourism.
Geographically it is gorgeous. The town is built up on the steep cliffs that surround the harbor. Pastel colored houses, small windy alleys decorated with potted plants, laundry hung out to dry from green-shuttered windows. A small fort on the harbor. It is a walker’s delight, each alley seems to bring yet another beautiful view on the town and harbor. A photographer’s dream, Vernazza is ideal, picture-perfect Italy. in our opinion it is the prettiest town in the Cinque Terra (Rick Steves agrees with us).
The problem is that it is far from being undiscovered. There are lots of tourists, especially on weekends, but also on weekdays when daytrippers come in. Only on weekday evenings do you get a sense of what Vernazza was like before mass tourism. Forget about trying to find a room last minute – I booked 3 months in advance and even then I had many rejections before finding anything. Restaurants and bars are jam packed at mid-day with daytrippers, you may even have to make a reservation to sit down for lunch.
Anyway, forgetting about all the tourists we still really enjoyed Vernazza. It is a beautiful spot, one of the most beautiful anywhere. We climbed a lot of steps, took tons of photos, and drank beer / wine / expressos while people-gazing. The gelatos were also great. Vernazza was still many of the things I expected coming here.
Below: Lots more photos. I couldn’t stop taking them here.
I really, really recommend staying at least one night in Vernazza and seeing the town after all the day trippers have left. We stayed at Alessandro Carro Affittacamere which was good (not great, but good). A few recommendations: Affittacamere Elisabetta (good prices, comfortable place, incredible views), La Polena – Affittacamere (much of the same views but higher end), MaDa Charm Apartment Terrace & Carugio (in the heart of the town, high end, very nice). Finding a place in Vernazza can be difficult so book early.
Organized Tours. You really can’t stay a night in Vernazza? Then I recommend taking an organized tour.
Have you been to Vernazza?
Related: A Local’s Travel Guide to Italy
Related: 3 Days in Florence
Related: 12 Surprising Places to See (that you may never have heard of)
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What amazing photographs! We have three nights in the Cinque Terra towards the end of June and would have made it longer except for all the accounts of how touristy and crowded the area now is. I hope the beauty of the area will make up for the jadedness of the locals though – I will let you know if this is the case. Thanks for making such a lovely blog.
Hi Celina. Please let me know how you find it, it’s been a few years since we went. I think you’ll love how pretty it is though 🙂
I intentionally bypassed Cinque Terra & Positano when I went to Italy – not because I do not want to see them, but because I want to experience them with my guy – when I have one (lol) – it’s just a romance thing. Fantastic photo’s – sure makes it hard to wait! BTW, I found Italy in at the end of Sept into Oct a great time to visit – low tourist season and great weather.
Thanks Paula. You’re right, we really enjoyed visiting both Prague and Split in April. Low season is actually a very good time to see Europe. Shame about Cinque Terra, hope you get to go. Maybe you should go by yourself, you might meet a nice Italian gentleman like that guy standing there outside the cafe with a glass of wine in his hand 😉
Sad to hear about this. When my friends and I went while backpacking after we graduated college in 2001, it was still quaint and filled with very friendly people and the food was A-mazing (not to mention the samples of different flavors of grappa as well as their local white wine). I can still taste the foccacia made in the tiny shops in the villages of the Cinque Terre. It is still stunning, thankfully, as evidenced in your wonderful photos.
That sounds really nice Amy…hmm, I wonder if still like that in the off-season? Unfortunately was so packed with tourists and the quality was mostly blah..Just beautiful though.
Thanks for taking the time to comment 🙂
I’ve not been to Cinque Terre, mainly because I think it will be too touristy…I like less-known places…but I have to admit. It is gorgeous!
Wow – this is a truly spectacular photo essay. Loved it!
Valen-This Way Paradise
Yes, the tourists for me made it the worst place I’ve ever visited. I guess I’m lucky!! And, for me, the food has a lot to do with how much I enjoy a place, and I found it quite terrible here. We definitely had similar experiences.
Now you have me really jealous!!! I was only able to explore one town, thinking that a day trip would be enough for us. So far I’ve seen Monterosso. Wish I could explore all four of them, particularly Riomaggiore for its cliff sides. The Italian Rivera is so quintessential Italy.
Helen Anne Travis
Beautiful photos. We stayed in Riomaggiore while visiting Cinque. It’s not quite as popular as Vernazza. Still, the village was so much more pleasant in the evenings when all the daytrippers left.
That’s really interesting! We visited on a rainy afternoon in March and I found Vernazza to be charming and the locals helpful in letting us in out of the rain and serving us food during the afternoon break. Now that I’ve read your account I will definitely make sure to visit out of season again – anything to escape the hoards of tourists! It is definitely true that tourism and overseas visitors are beginning to ruin certain places but I guess these places become popular for a reason.
Thanks Mandy – I think next time we’ll go in the off-season. I’ve never been to Europe in the winter, would love to see with snow on the ground. And yes, people always friendlier towards tourists when there’s less of us around 🙂
Marina K. Villatoro
Sometimes I hate reading travel blogs, I’m constantly seeing these unbelievably storylike places that I’m dying to go to yesterday, but know I’m not possible to see until we’re ready for that part of the world!
Hi Marina, I started reading your comment and thought “yikes, she hates my blog…” I’m sorry I brought travel lust to your heart, I’m sure you’ll get out there someday!
Cinque Terre is pretty, but it isn’t my favorite place in Italy. It’s definitely not the off-the-beaten-path gem that Rick Steve’s professed it was many years ago.
I agree Jennifer, definitely not off the beaten path. But so beautiful!