WELCOME TO VERNAZZA
Happiness is waking up on the first morning of a foreign trip and forgettting where you are.
Vernazza is the most pleasing of the five Cinque Terre towns, and therefore, generally the most crowded. While on the one hand, it is lined with the lovely cafes and gelaterias hidden in delicate corners, the other side is a natural marvel. This probably is the reason why it is the most photographed of them all and is in a way the symbol of Cinque Terre. Happily gorging on fried fish and chips while walking down the fantastic harbor, I was sprayed over several times by the crawling waves, as if it were some form of a salutation. However, considering the beauty all around me, I didn’t really mind.
The first evidence of Vernazza date back to 1080, when it was referred to as Castrum Vernatio and was the structured naval base of the Obertenghi family. Once the site of a maritime military base, the town became a powerful amalgamates to the Republic of Genoa in the Middle Ages—its secure castle and cylindrical tower served as a lookout for approaching marauders. Other noble families in the history of Vernazza were the Da Passanos and the Fieschis, the latter family ruled over the village until 1276 when the Republic of Genoa officially took control of it. In order to protect the village against the recurring pirate raids, the Genoese built a great number of fortifications, whose rests can still be seen today. Like many of the Cinque Terre villages, in the 17th century, Vernazza experienced a period of lessen that also negatively affected oil and wine production; this reduction reversed only in the 19th century when the residents created new terraced fields and started producing oil and wine again. During the first half of the 20th century, the village suffered heavy decrease in population due to the construction of the railway between La Spezia – Genoa – La Spezia’s naval base that caused many inhabitants to abandon their homeland in search of new job opportunities. Today, the main source of income of the people of Vernazza is tourism, although fishing, oil, and wine production still continue.
The main monument of the town is the church of Santa Margherita d’Antiochia, dedicated to the patron saint of the town. Located near the sea, it’s bring up for the first time in 1318, but its construction is premature, probably in the 12th century, by the Antelami masters. They say a wooden box with the finger bones of Santa Margherita appeared on the beach and a church was erected in Vernazza. A storm caused the relic to be lost, which reappeared in the same spot where it was first found and the church was rebuilt there. Modified several times, it passed from the initial Romanesque style to a Baroque and then Romanesque again. The main characteristic are the Mesco cave’s black stone columns, the Gothic tabernacle of the 15th century, and the mighty octagonal bell tower of 40 meters in height.
The other symbolic monument of Vernazza is the Doria castle overlooking the sea, of which the circular tower and parts of the walls remain. Back to the 11th century, it was part of a wider defense system, which included a wall and fortifications in the upper part of the town. The watchtower stands on a quadrangular base and was restored in the 20th century after damage suffered in the Second World War. Under the castle, next to the small port, there is the quadrangular bastion Belforte, of Genoese origin.
In the upper part of the village dominates the ancient convent of the Reformed Fathers of San Francesco from the seventeenth century, consisting of a tower, currently the municipal seat, a cloister, and a deconsecrated church used as an exhibition venue and for musical and theatrical performances.
Finally, located on the heights, stands the sanctuary of Nostra Signora di Reggio, of the 11th century, where an effigy of the Black Madonna is venerated, according to the tradition brought here during the time of the Crusades.
How to Reach
Vernazza is often comfortably connected by train from La Spezia or Levanto and the local railway station is also very well connected to the other Cinque Terre villages, Genoa, Pisa, Turin and Milan.