Vernazza is a stunning little town. In case there is any doubt, allow me to add that when I say “stunning,” I mean beautiful, not something that may be require a Taser.
The older section of town, which lies between the train station and Vernazza’s natural harbour, is only for pedestrians. It includes slender streets and some walkways that are too narrow to be called streets if yours is a car-oriented mindset.
The human-scale buildings, none more than a few stories high, are painted from a pastel palette that includes pinks, oranges, reds, yellows and sandy colors. In addition to residences, they include lots of interesting little restaurants and shops.
When I was there, Vernazza was very crowded with tourists. Which, I suppose is better than being crowded with, say, warthogs. Then again, being a tourist, who was I to complain?
Despite the crowds, and despite being someone who thinks the world would be a far, far better place without crowds, it had a very laid back feel to me. Don’t ask me to explain how it could be both bustling with tourists and laid back. I can’t. It just was.
Church by the Sea in Vernazza
What’s an old European town without an old European church? That was a trick question. I don’t know. But I do know it’s not Vernazza.
The town’s church is near the harbour. Inside, it’s dark and little-decorated, with rough stone walls.
There’s a small “castle” at the top of a “low” hill beside the harbour. Castle is in quotes because it’s essentially a small plateau encircled by a short stone wall to keep us tourists from falling off.
Low is in quotes is because “low” is in the legs of the be-climber. it’s a small fraction of the height that you will climb if you hike the Monterosso to Vernazza trail (more on that in a future post), but not all that low if you’re a somewhat out-of-shape guy approaching his “golden” years. Or if not golden, then maybe tin-plated. That would be me.
You get to the castle by climbing a somewhat hard-to-find maze of staircases. The first set of stairs in the maze starts to the left (facing the water) of the square in front of the harbor. Once you find that, the appropriate turns are reasonably well marked with arrows pointing to Castello Doria.
Standing on top of the plateau, there are great views of Vernazza and the coast, all the way to the next town over. But for an even higher viewpoint, there’s a small, cylindrical stone tower on top of the plateau. You can climb to the top of the tower up a narrow, claustrophobia-inducing interior spiral staircase. On top, there’s a small platform around the tower’s periphery.
OK. You can breath now. The view is amazing.
Warning: Mobility-challenged, particularly stair-and-hill-climbing-challenged people will miss some stuff in Vernazza.