The first thing we did when we arrived in the town of Vernazza, in Italy’s Cinque Terra region, was find the B&B where we had a reservation. And, as it turned out, the room we had reserved was in a faded pink building facing a tiny bay filled with fishing boats.

Cinque Terra is a group of five small villages on the Italian Riviera. However, while much of the region is dominated by touristy, upscale resort cities, the towns of Cinque Terra are small and comparatively unchanged from the way they were in the distant past. In fact, today the region is a national park and no new buildings can be built, which means that there are no large hotels or modern stores.

We decided to stay in a place called Albergo Barbara. A double room with a shared bathroom was 50 euros, which was just about the cheapest place we had found. Amazingly, it was also one of the best located places to stay and once we arrived I was really glad we had emailed a few days before hand to get the room.

After we checked in to the B&B, we headed out into the town. We found a small market (there aren’t really any grocery stores), and bought some food. Then we headed up to one of the trails to eat it and watch the sunset wash the town in yellow. Usually there is a fee to hike the trails, but we were so mesmerized with the view of Vernazza that we just sat at the trailhead watching.

Later, we decided to explore the small alleys that snake through the town. Vernazza is built between two hills and the larger buildings and one commercial street run down the center. The smaller buildings, several churches, and a stone tower are up higher.

As we walked through alleys we got away from the moderate tourist crowds and were along with the locals, their cats, and their laundry hanging between the buildings. Houses sat on top of each other, connected by a labyrinth of stone stairs and cobbled paths worn smooth by generations past. With the sun behind the hills, the afternoon heat abated and the cool breeze carried the smell of fresh pesto and garlic.

By the time we returned to our B&B, we had decided to stay another night in Vernazza. We reserved another night at Albergo Barbara—which meant we had to move to a smaller room with a sea view, so not bad at all—and planned our next day. Then we fell asleep to the sound of waves in the bay.


Written by Jim Dalrymple II

Urbanism and travel writer. Also a journalist covering the news.

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