by Barbara Ann Weibel at Hole In The Donut
My first glimpse of Vernazza was from high above the town. I had been hiking through through miles of terraced mountainside vineyards on a stone and dirt path that connects the five spectacular, remote villages known as Cinque Terre, Italy. Concentrating on my feet, I negotiated a particularly narrow section that swept around the mountain. I clutched the vertical wall on my left and tried not to look at the sheer drop-off to the deep blue Adriatic Sea on my right, praying that I would not meet another hiker coming from the opposite direction. When the path finally opened up and straightened out I breathed a sigh of relief and looked up; spread out beneath me was Vernazza’s stunning harbor, with its pocket sand beach jutting into indigo water that sparkled in the crystalline, mid-afternoon sunshine.
Vernazza is my favorite of the five villages that comprise Cinque Terre (literally five lands) on the Italian Riviera. The trail leads down past stone houses painted in vibrant hues that contrast starkly with the black volcanic rocks on which they perch. In town the path widens, becoming a series of cobblestone paved lanes wide enough for a car, but built only to accommodate boats that are pulled up onto the streets during stormy weather. At the waterfront, outdoor restaurants ring a central square, leading to the small but cozy beach. Its small size is not daunting to Italians, who happily spread towels upon craggy boulders at the water’s edge when every speck of sand is occupied.
Aside from eating, drinking, sunbathing, and swimming, Vernazza’s beach is a perfect place to watch local fishermen set out in their colorful wooden boats, or to watch an energized soccer match between teams fielded by local bars and restaurants. While the seven-mile trail between Cinque Terre’s villages can be hiked in as little as four hours, those who do so miss out on one of the most delightful beaches I have ever had the pleasure of visiting. Whether visitors have discovered this little paradise while working abroad or traveling, people always remember it as one of their favorite little spots in all of Italy.
Photos courtesy of Barbara Weibel