Vernazza is the second village you will reach on the beautiful stretch of the coast in Liguria known as the Cinque Terre if you start at Monterosso to the west. It is also one of the prettiest of the Cinque Terre villages and officially listed as one of the 'most beautiful villages in Italy'.
We arrived in Vernazza on the path from Monterosso. This has the advantage of giving you a stunning view of the village as you approach, but the disadvantage that the path is very steep and hot, at least for the first part soon after leaving Monterosso! The train is easier if less beautiful...although we didn't find the path to be dangerous, as some visitors had suggested before we set off.
I can't emphasise enough how exceptional these views are! You can reach the same viewpoints much more easily by following the coast path up the hill to the west from Vernazza, but you will still have to pay the seven euro charge per person which entitles you to walk along all sections of the coast path.
Like all of the villages of the Cinque Terre it is the village, harbour and setting of Vernazza that is the principal highlight of your visit rather than any particular monument
Vernazza is the only one of the Cinque Terre villages to have a natural harbour.
If you are looking for historic monuments, the principal church in Vernazza is the 14th century Church of Santa Margherita di Antiochia down in the harbour while on the hill to the front of the town you can see the 12th century defensive fortifications built by the Genoese, the castle-tower of the Doria. You can climb the tower as well as the coast path in both directions from Vernazza so bring sturdy shoes!
Disaster in Vernazza
In October 2011 a terrible mudslide buried large parts of the village in several metres of mud and Vernazza could not be visited for the following three years. I am pleased to confirm that from 2015 it is most certainly open to visitors and there is no visible sign of the devastation that took place here.
Equally important you don't get the impression when you visit that you are in a village that has just been restored, repaired or rebuilt - it is just as it always has been.
Otherwise there is little in the way of important historic monuments here so after your exertions you can spend your time sitting in the small square next to the harbour before wandering back up Via Roma to catch the train to your next village...or heading for the small beach. You will certainly want to pause here a while: the piazza next to the harbour is surrounded by tall orange and pink buildings, with lots of cafes and restaurants to choose from, and is exceptionally pretty.
Along Via Roma you can also be enticed by various shops and restaurants, and just along this main shopping street from the harbour you will notice a tunnel through the rock to the right, that doesn't look particularly enticing and as far as I could see was not signposted. Go through this tunnel and you reach the small beach in Vernazza. The beach here is quite small, and stony, but very welcome and beaches are very hard to find in Cinque Terre - your children will thank me for mentioning it!
It will be the five villages of the Cinque Terre and the coast between them that are of most interest when you visit Vernazza: see the Cinque Terre guide. Vernazza is between Monterosso (to the north-west) and Corniglia (to the south-east).
You can find more local travel ideas in the Liguria guide.