Vernazza City Guide

Vernazza, known as Vernassa in Ligurian and Vernasa in the local dialect, and derived from the Latin name Vulnetia, is a town and comune situated in the province of La Spezia, in the Liguria region of northwestern Italy. It is one of the five towns that collectively form the renowned Cinque Terre region. As the fourth town when traveling north, Vernazza stands out as a true “fishing village” on the Italian Riviera, maintaining its authentic charm. It holds the distinction of being the only natural port within the Cinque Terre and is famous for its elegant houses.

The name Vernazza originates from the Latin adjective “verna,” meaning “native.” The village’s name is further associated with the indigenous wine called Vernaccia, which played a role in its naming.

History of Vernazza, Cinque Terre

The earliest documented records acknowledging Vernazza as a fortified town date back to 1080. It served as an active maritime base for the Obertenghi, an Italian noble family, and was a significant departure point for naval forces defending against pirates. Over the following centuries, Vernazza played a crucial role in Genova’s conquest of Liguria, providing a port, fleet, and soldiers. In 1209, approximately 90 influential families from Vernazza pledged their loyalty to the Republic of Genova. The presence of a church was first recorded in 1251, with the mention of the parish of San Pietro in 1267. The Church of Santa Margherita d’Antiochia of Vernazza was referenced in 1318. Some scholars believe that the construction of the church actually took place earlier, possibly in the 12th century, based on materials and construction techniques. The Church of Santa Margherita d’Antiochia underwent expansions and renovations during the 16th and 17th centuries, culminating in the construction of the octagonal bell tower that rises from the apse.

In the 15th century, Vernazza fortified itself to defend against frequent and devastating pirate raids, erecting defensive walls. During the mid-17th century, like other villages in the Cinque Terre, Vernazza faced a period of decline that impacted wine production and delayed the development of the trail system and harbor mole, designed to protect against rough seas.

In the 19th century, after a prolonged period of stagnation, Vernazza experienced a revival in wine production, expanding and creating new terraced hillsides. This led to a resurgence in Vernazza’s commerce. Additionally, the construction of the Genoa–La Spezia rail line, initiated during this time, put an end to Vernazza’s isolation, resulting in a 60% increase in the population. The establishment of La Spezia’s naval base also provided employment opportunities for many Vernazza residents.

As the 20th century arrived, Vernazza faced a wave of emigration as agricultural work became perceived as dangerous and a cause of illness, while the ability to further exploit agriculture diminished.

In 1997, the Cinque Terre was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, followed by the establishment of the National Park of the Cinque Terre in 1999. Today, tourism serves as the primary source of revenue for Vernazza. Nevertheless, fishing, wine production, and olive oil production continue as a testament to the enduring traditions of the region.

On October 25, 2011, Vernazza suffered severe damage from torrential rains, massive flooding, and mudslides that affected not only the Cinque Terre but also Val di Vara, Val di Magra, and the province of Lunigiana in Liguria. The town was submerged under more than 4 meters of mud and debris, including the train station. The event resulted in over 100 million euros worth of damage, prompting the evacuation of the town and the declaration of a state of emergency that lasted for several months.

3 Best things to See in Vernazza

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Tours and Activities from Vernazza