Monday, August 3, 2009

Vernazza, Italy (in the Cinque Terre): Picture Perfect and More . . .

Vernazza is a small and charming town located in the Liguria region of Italy. It is one of the five villages in the Cinque Terre which along with the surrounding coastline and beautiful hillsides is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Cinque Terre, made popular by travel guru, Rick Steves, is a stunningly beautiful part of Italy. And in 2005 my friend and I had the pleasure of spending three wonderful days there hiking between the villages. We chose to base ourselves in Vernazza, because of a recommendation I received from a Slow Traveler on the Slow Talk Travel Forum.

In addition to its small town charm and hiking opportunities, Vernazza has other main sights that are also interesting in their own right.

First, the Santa Margherita d'Antiochia church was constructed in 1318. It was built on a rock in front of the sea, with an impressive 40 meters belfry, three aisles and adorned by a pointed shape dome. It is said that a wooden box with the bones of Saint Margaret appeared on the beach one day which was a sign for the inhabitants to build a church. But instead of building the church where it was found (here on the beach) the residents built the church in another location but it was later destroyed by a sea storm and the relic was lost. Later, the relic appeared again in the original point and that is where the new church was built where it stands now.

Here is a closer look at the Belfry with a very handsome cat in the foreground. :)

The Doria Castle, or Castello Doria in Vernazza, was built in the mid 15th century to protect Vernazza, and the other four little Cinque Terre villages, from marauding pirates. Now it is not much more than a tower but for 1 Euro it is worth the climb to the top where there is a fantastic view of the village and coastline.

And lastly, there is the Santuario di Nostra Signora di Reggio (Our Lady of Reggio), which is located about a half hour hike up a steep hill from the town. It was built in the XI century on a pre-existing crypt. The first written mention dates back to 1248. The church has three aisles and in the XIV century was transformed to a Latin cross plant. Only the facade remains of the original Romanesque complex. The "Madonna Nera" with Child is the adored image, known as "The African" as well.

Each village of the Cinque Terre has its own sanctuary, located higher up on the hills and it would be fun to visit each of them on my next visit there. There's even a Sanctuary hiking route that can be followed.

Ever since I started reading Slow Traveler AnnieNC's Blog, Churches in Venice, I have become really interested in learning more about the many beautiful churches and shrines in Venice. And it has also made me more attentive to all the churches and shrines that I may have photographed during my travels. So while looking through my photos to find my photo of the month, I found a photo of a pretty shrine that I saw in Vernazza which I posted. I had mentioned to Annie that I have one or two more that I can post too. Well, I got so excited and enthusiastic that I turned it into a full blown post on Vernazza. :)

Here is a closer look at my August 2009 Photo of the month selection....

Here is another beautiful shrine photo I found . . . .

One more . . .

Thanks Candi and Annie for allowing me the stroll down memory lane to a wonderful time in a beautiful place...

Btw, I checked the flights from LA to Italy and they are around $680! Scotland or Italy? Hmmmm. . . :)


  1. OMG,Kathy, my eyes are tearing, I am so ready to go back to Italy. Alas, I have to wait. We LOVED Vernazza, loved hiking between the villages, hanging on the rocks and swimming in the Mediterranean. It is a gorgeous place!

    Great post about Vernazza, we chose to stay there too, our hotel, which I can't think of its name at the moment, had a terrace right underneath the Doria Castle, and the views were breathtaking. I can't wait to go back there. It is funny, up until our last day there, we still had to look at our map to figure out the turns up the stairs to our room. LOL. It was an adventure!

    Thanks for the wonderful post, Kathy. I love your photos.

  2. Oh-how serendipitous to read your blog just now. I was telling someone that I would love to go back to Santa Margherita again. The Cinque T was a real treat - thanks for the memories:-) menehune

  3. What a great post! Not only shrines, but a cool church, a bell tower, AND a cat - all my favorite things!

    That third shrine is very interesting - looks like it might be an Annunciation scene? All of them are so beautiful.

    Well, all I can say is follow your heart. You can go to Scotland another year (and you can also go to Italy another year). But that is a good price on a ticket and maybe you want to revisit a place you love rather than discover a new place like you did in Spain?

    You can't go wrong either way (but I know how these 'where to go this year' dilemmas can be!).

  4. Oh I really enjoyed reading this, this morning with my cappuccino! I loved my day trip to Vernazza! :)

  5. Hi everyone and thanks so much for your comments...

    Candi, you just expressed the reason why we love all Italy the way that we do. It brings out such emotions. I loved hiking the trails in the CT too. What wonderful memories! How cool that you had such a great view from your hotel. We stayed in an apartment owned by the owners of the Giani Franzi hotel, but didn't have a great view. So every evening we grabbed a gelato after dinner and sat on the bench by the water's edge and watched the beautiful sunsets. That is pretty funny that you had to keep using a map to find your hotel, but it is very understandable. The little streets and alleys were like a maze. But as you said, it's a wonderful adventure. I'm glad that you liked the photos and that it brought back some very fond memories for you...

    Hi M, seems like we all had Italy on our minds lately. :) I'm glad my post brought back some great memories for you. After reading Girasoli's blog, I would also like to one day visit Santa Margherita one day too.

    Hi Annie, glad you liked my photos and yes it does have everything you like. :) That last photo was interesting to me too. I wished I had found out more about it but back then I was fairly new at independent travel and didn't do my homework and research. But I think you are right, it could be an Annunciation scene.

    I know that you are right. It's funny that I didn't second guess my trip to Spain and it really fulfilled all of my expectations and then some. And I am still very excited about Scotland too and I know that I will love my experience there. I guess being away from Italy for so long has me blowing in the wind. I'm sure I'll figure things out and it'll be as you say great either way. Yes that where to next delimma is a toughy! I'm still hoping that there will be some airfare sales after labor day! Fingers crossed.

    Hi Leslie, glad you enjoyed reading my post. I love when our travel experiences can bring back so many great memories.

    Thanks again everyone for your comments. It was so much fun writing this post and remembering this beautiful part of Italy. Have a great evening.

  6. Kathy, Vernazza looks SO beautiful! I must admit, I've been a bit turned off by the Rick Steeves effect -- it seems almost everyone traveling to Italy these days insists on adding the Cinque Terre to their itinerary. But I know I'm just being a crank; I would love to see Vernazza for myself.

    Also, your shrine photos are great!

    Finally, that's an irresisitable airfare, from LA to Italy. Yikes! What a tough choice for you!

  7. Gorgeous - what a shame that Steeves 'ruined' it!

  8. Hi Sandra, glad you liked the photos. I sort of understand why people who visit Italy wants to visit the Cinque Terre. It is so beautiful there. I'll admit that it is very crowded during the day with day trippers, but when the day trippers leave it is the most peaceful place that I have every been. In fact, from all the other cities that we had visited on that trip, I slept the best in Vernazza. It is so peaceful. I would like to visit there again and maybe go to the other nearby towns or maybe try some place new like SML.

    Yikes is right. I'm hoping that there will be a truck load of airfare sales after Labor Day weekend. I'm staying optimistic anyway. :)

    Thanks for your comments Sandra. Have a great evening.

  9. Hi Jerry, I will admit that it was very crowded with daytrippes during the day which I expected but at night it was so peaceful. I don't think I would've appreciated my stay there as much if I had just been one of the day trippers. I think I would've still enjoyed the beauty of the coastline and the hiking experience but it was a wonderful added experience to also see it at night when it was quiet and peaceful. I wouldn't mind visting there again and maybe also trying the other towns like Levanto too. I just love that part of Italy.

    Thanks for your comments Jerry. And maybe you'll give CT another try again...:)

  10. What a coincidence...I am reading your post just as I am watching a show on TV called "Valerie Pringle has left the Building" and in this show, she is in Cinque Terre. Between the show and your post...sigh, be still my heart! I haven't yet been to this part of our beloved Italy, but one day...

    Thanks for this wonderful post, Kathy :)

  11. Hi Anne, wow that is a coincidence. Glad you enjoyed the post. Anne, you would totally love it here. It's old, quaint, beautiful and the local life is slow and easy. The ocean views are just stunning. I remember sitting watching the sunset and thinking to myself I could really live here!

    Thanks for your comments and have a great evening!

  12. We loved Vernazza also. We stayed in Manarola instead and really liked it. It would be interesting to stay the night in Vernazza. We ate lunch at a restaurant just on the harbor and half of the customers were American.

    But it was neat to find a small little church on the main street named Santa Marta. :)

    I agree with Annie - follow your heart but where ever you go enjoy it!

  13. Hi Marta, thanks for your comments. I loved staying in Vernazza. It is the smallest town but I thought that was it's best feature. Small. I wander if the restaurant you ate at was Giani Franzi, that's where we ate too, under the unbrellas. Fabulous view of the ocean and great seafood. And very cool to have a church there with your name! :) Now you'll have to spend at least one night there....

    Thanks Marta and I do agree with you and Annie, if I follow my heart I can't go wrong on my trip.

    Thanks again and have a great day today.

  14. Hi Kathy, I loved reading this post for all the reasons Annie mentioned. The 5 villages are such gems but you hardly hear anyone writing about the individual charm of each one. For this reason, I'm grateful for this post.

    I enjoyed reading about the story behind the building of the church, along with your wonderful photos (love the napping cat!) The shrines are very lovely and special in their own way. The second one is a very sweet image of the Madonna and Child. It reminded me of my Venetian shrine.

    Happy Thursday!

  15. Hi Maria, funny that I hadn't even thought about the idea that I just wrote about one town versus cinque Terre as a whole. That is pretty cool!

    Thanks so much for liking my post and reading about Vernazza. I also thought that second shrine was very touching too. They were all so pretty. Thanks to Annie's influence I have really become more attentive to the many beautiful shrines not only while visiting new places but when looking at old travel photos. Even in Spain I was looking for them.
    I like the cat by the church too. There were a lot of cats in Vernazza and they were all so friendly and comfortable around people.

    Thanks Maria for liking my memory post of Vernazza. It's a great little village and I would love to visit there again soon....Have a great evening and a good day tomorrow.

  16. Great post. And another tower to climb!! How did I miss this tower when I was there? My first visit was in 1999. I had a wonderful time. It was my first trip and first stop in Italy. I also met my friends Katia & Guido on a bench (no longer there) waiting for the train in Vernazza that year.

    Sadly when I have been there since (summertime), it was super crowded with Americans and was even loud at night. I missed hearing Italian being spoken. I still thought it was beautiful though. Maybe I just need to go back there during a different time of the year.

    I know that pull of Italy well. Like Annie said, follow your heart.

  17. Hi Girasoli, thanks for your comments. I remember your story of meeting your good friends on the bench in Vernazza. Such a cool story. I don't think I would have enjoyed my stay as much if it was loud and noisy at night too. I went in May, so maybe summer time is not a good time to go. In May it was so quiet you could hear a pin drop. I'd like to try SML too one day after reading your blog. Sounds like a great coastal town too.

    Yes, I am taking Annie's and all of your advice and following my heart .... all the way to Scotland! :)

    Thanks again and have a great day!


It's me Trekcapri (aka Kathy). Thanks so much for visiting and leaving a comment.