Friday, 5 July 2013

Reviving Vernazza

Let’s put the domestic affairs aside for a while and return to late April and the Cinque Terre in Liguria, Italy. As I told in my hiking post (here), our plans to walk the paths from our base Corniglia to the neighbouring villages didn’t materialize because the trails to both directions were still closed for repairs. Instead, we took the train to Vernazza which many have described as the loveliest of the five Cinque Terre villages, at least before the October 2011 natural disaster.

The main street arching down from the train station towards the sea will attract every traveller straight to the protected marina with its colourful fishing boats floating by the massive breakwater and pier.

Piazza Marconi by the beach is such a gorgeous sight we had to admire it from every angle. It was a warm afternoon and we lingered with a class of beer under a parasol in one of the outdoor restaurants observing all the details of the setting and feeling happy. I was so delighted about the place I already illustrated one of my posts with some of my Piazza Marconi photos (here).

Visiting the church is one of the touristic routines we generally follow whenever possible. In this village our timing was unfortunate as we were trying to step into the church of Santa Margherita d’Antiochia at mass time. The present layout of the church with its entrance from Piazza Marconi wouldn’t allow anyone to enter unnoticed so tourist visits are not allowed during mass.

Finally, we moved away from the piazza and took a stroll up the narrow alleys and passageways finding the path mounting to the hillside north of the village, the one leading to Monterosso al Mare.

There it was waiting for us, the grand view of the Vernazza postcards. The whole splendour from the Doria Castle down to the marina opened up before our eyes.

On our way to the panoramic spot we saw a couple of houses that had most likely been destroyed by the torrential rains and subsequent flood that hit the Cinque Terre on October 25, 2011. In fact, it was Vernazza that suffered the most during that day when a massive mudslide ran down the main street towards the sea. A huge poster of photos of the mud-covered marina and streets greets you just outside the train station as an everyday reminder of the devastation that buried the village under four metres of mud and debris and of the accomplishments reached since then.

The main street of Vernazza is at least four times wider than that of Corniglia (see my post here).

Much has been done to rebuild the village but more needs to be done to restore and preserve it. An architectural team led by architect Richard Rogers – designer of the Millennium Dome in London and the Madrid-Barajas Airport, co-designer of the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, and a regular visitor to Vernazza – has outlined plans to redesign and restore the public spaces of the village under the Save Vernazza project. Construction of the first phase is scheduled to start in November 2013.

At about sunset, we had just enough time to climb the hill south of the village along the path leading to Corniglia.

To our surprise, there was another beach right below the cliff. We had noticed a sort of natural tunnel or corridor in the rock leading away from the main street but had no idea it would take you to a secluded place like that. Well, not exactly secluded as there are plenty of terraced houses up on the cliff with unobstructed views to the beach, not to mention all the hikers with their cameras up on the trail.

Then a few final glances over the rooftops and towards the train station and off we rushed to catch the train back to Corniglia only a few minutes away along the rails. We must return one day to review the result of the restoration project. I trust Baron Rogers and his friend Renzo Piano will not come up to anything too drastic.


  1. Beautiful photos and even more beautiful place. I wonder how people managed to build their houses perched on the rocks like that.

    1. Isn't it an amazing tradition in the Mediterranean countries. No one would venture on a construction project like that in our country.