When arriving from La Spezia, then Riomaggiore is the first village of the Cinque Terre. It is named after the river "Rivus Major" that crosses the small fishing village.
From the train station the lovely village is located to the south, whereas the paved coastal path "Via dell' Amore" which leads to Manarola starts north of the train station.
The whole Cinque Terre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Please read what the committee wrote about their decision:
"The Ligurian coast between Cinque Terre and Portovenere is a cultural landscape of great scenic and cultural value. The layout and disposition of the small towns and the shaping of the surrounding landscape, overcoming the disadvantages of a steep, uneven terrain, encapsulate the continuous history of human settlement in this region over the past millennium."
Fondest memory: The views from our terrazza and the adventurous birthday cake story!!!
Favorite thing: The coulorful houses of Manarola are situated on the end of a small hill. The medieval village is famous for its vineyards and the Cinque Terre wine. Manarola is connected with Riomaggiore by a paved coastal path called "Via dell’ Amore".
There is only one street in Vernazza, taking visitors from the railway station down to the small harbor. Left and right of it is network of so-called caruggi, short, narrow and steep streets or stairways, leading up on the surrounding hills.
The main street is usually very crowded by the daily visitors. It is full of shops, cafe-bars and small restaurants. The ambent around is busy and pretty much hectic.
Such a small place as Vernazza is could have one square only and it is the real heart and soul of the village. It is called Piazza Marconi and looks spectacular. Piazza Marconi is rather small but very charming site, filled with small restaurants and cafe-bars. The square is closed by fairly high buildings all painted in vivid colours, except the part where small harbor is situated.
Piazza Marconi and small harbor is definatelly the most attractive part of the village and real emblem of Vernazza.
Via Roma, the main street, ending at Piazza Marconi and beautiful small harbor of Vernazza. It is undoubtelly the most attractive part of the village and the whole of Cinque Terre National Park. The harbor is well protected by the surrounding buildings and Molo, pier construction to protect against heavy seas.
By the end of October 2011, only two months after my visiting, Vernazza was struck by torrential rains, massive flooding and mud slides, that left small town buried in over four meters of mud and debris.
Vernazza is derived from the Latin adjective "verna", meaning native. First records mentioning Vernazza in 1080 as an maritime base of the Obertenghi, Genovese noble family. In medieval times Vernazza was focused in its defence against pirates raids from the Northen Africa. From the beginning of the 17th century Vernazza suffered period of decline that negatively affected wine production. The stagnation lasted up to the beginning of the 19th century when the village returned to the wine production, enlarging and creating new terraced hillsides.
In 1997 Cinque Terre was recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, and National Park of the area was born in 1999. The main source of revenue for ernazza is tourism plus wine and olive production.
Vernazza is quaint tiny place with a population of about 1000.
Favorite thing: At the peer of the "town harbour" there is a beach that people actually use for swimming although it's tiny and not so clean, and there are boats everywhere. Vernazza is not made for swimming actually. it's more interesting to stroll around, enjoy the view and observe the peculiar style of building houses on steep cliffs.
Favorite thing: Before you descend down to Vernazza, be sure to stop at one of the plenty view spots along the curvy road. From there, you can have a magnificant view to the sea and the town below. You can listen to the silence, the nature and the wind and feel incredible peace...
Although I found this strange, I had to put it in the site because of the great cause that it stands for. On the hikes from Vernazza to Monterosso and Corniglia to Vernazza, there are donation boxes to provide food for a big group of cats that live in the mountains. They seem like regular housecats and interacted with me like the standard tabby.
Be sure to leave a Euro up there so that they can continue to be fed.
If you would like to read more about Vernazza, here are some helpful links:
Aerial view of Vernazza
VT Vernazza pages
If you have to stay in only one place in Cinque Terre, stay in Vernazza. Don't rush your visit, the place is beautiful. We stayed 5 days, which gave us plenty of time to take leisurely hikes between all the villages and lay around in the sun. You can also rent your own motorboat in Vernazza for a day on the water. Monterosso is overpriced and lacks the character of Vernazza. If you must experience the beaches, people, and nightlife in Monterosso, do yourself a favor and just take the train for a day trip and return to this wonderful village at night.
Fondest memory: Renting a motorboat for two hours and seeing all the villages from the ocean. Eating the best gelato in all of Italy. Buying some cat food and feeding the "homeless" cats between Vernazza and Corniglia. Italians (particularly in Cinque Terre) love their cats and take care of them. Even the homeless ones are well fed. Too bad they haven't learned to have them "fixed." Earn yourself some good karma and feed these guys on the trail. Often you'll find a bag of catfood nearby that someone else has left them, they may just need a scoop on the ground. At the very least leave them some water as the trails areas are very dry.
Favorite thing: You'll run into lots of people who will tell you that the Cinque Terre can be hiked in one day. It can, but don't do it. Not only is it a good 4-5 hour hike in the hot summer sun, but you'll miss the finer nuances and scenery of this beautiful area. Spend some time in the individual villages, shoot lots of pictures. We spent 5 days here which we thought was just enough. We had time to walk the whole Cinque Terre trail, both ways, and to experience most of the food and scenery that the region has to offer. A note on Cinque Terre trains, they are notoriously slow and sometimes they don't come at all. If you plan on hiking to another village, be sure you know the train schedule back. We arrived in Cornilgia one night expecting to catch the 8:00 pm train back to Vernazza. Without explanation, the train simply didn't show. The next train wasn't until 11:00 pm. 3 hours is a lot of time to spend in Cornilgia, so we ran the trail back to Vernazza before it got dark. (BTW, it can be done in 30 minutes)
Favorite thing: Vernazza by night is equally charming like in the daytime. There are a lot of small cafes, lovely in the narrow streets inside, romantic walks by the sea, the lights, music and the scent of the sea will do their best to charm you!
Basically, entire western coast in Italy is filled with caves, most of them would be called "il grotto azzurro" - the blue cave :)))
In vernazza there are several as well, one of them is inside the very downtown! :)