It took us about 90 minutes along the coast to complete the approximately 4 Kms from Monterosso to Nervazza. The last section was made a little more convenient by the tunnel through the last headland that saved us from having to walk through the local farmers terraces of grape vines and olive trees. (Note the tunnel entrance below right, above Vernazza Harbour.) This little fishing village has the only natural ‘harbour’ of the five villages along this coast and it can be seen that while tourism is the biggest money earner in town, the amount of boats on the water here indicate that fishing is still a viable life-style.
The first records of a village on this spot comes from 1080 and it is believed that it was an important base for Genoese families who were battling the pirates who preyed upon this coastline for the next 800 years. On the left is a photo of the church of Santa Margherita of D’Antiochia which we passed as we walked along the path from the headland tunnel along the edge of the harbour. Records show that it was built in the middle of the 13th century but its beautiful octagonal bell-tower was not built for another 6 centuries.
The path beside the harbour as well as the church can be seen in the left side of the image below. The small sandy beach at the shallow end of the harbour is always covered in sunbathers in the summertime if the tide is out. The presence of pirates raiding the villages along this coastline has always been just another burden over the centuries for the locals to bear when trying to make a living out of this picturesque, but difficult environment. On the headland of Vernazza (see image below) is a watchtower, Doria Castle, which was built in the 15th century to keep watch for the arrival of pirates as well as providing some security for those town’s folk who could seek safety there from the same scavenging pirates.
The photo of Vernazza to the right shows a clear image of Doria Castle, sitting on the perfect headland for keeping watch out to sea. Pirates no longer were a big issue for the locals by the 19th century and the local economy expanded, particularly with the arrival of the La Spezia to Genoa railway line which ended the centuries of isolation of this village. I am not sure if climate changes affecting the local environment has replaced pirates as the number one scourge of the citizens of Vernazza but the same torrential rains that caused havoc in Monterosso in 2011, also brought massive flooding and mudslides to this town. It took many months for the locals to recover from the four metres of mud that was dumped on the town, even submerging the local railway station.
The photo above is taken from the other side of Vernazza from the hiking path as hardy walkers continue along the coast to Corniglia. If you look carefully, you can see in the misty distance the town of Monterosso.
After our walk in 2009 we decided we would catch the train back to our rooms in Monterosso and recover from our walk. Before we did this, we took the opportunity to have a good look at the harbour and its concrete arm (‘Mole’) that protects the fishermen’s boats from the regular rough seas that would surge into this port. It is no wonder that this beautiful town was recognised by UNESCO in 1997 as a World Heritage site