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©John R. Turner

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May 22, 2014

We have just returned from an extensive and fairly amazing trip to France and Italy during which we took a greater number of pictures than I dare confess to. That means that over the next couple of weeks I can post quite a few comments about places we visited, along with photographs.

I decided to start with Vernazza, one of the small cities in the Cinque Terre, a region along the northwestern Italian coast, which is a favorite of tourists. The reason I'm beginning with Vernazza is that it's at least one of the reasons we took the trip in the first place. In Sarducci's, our popular Italian restaurant in Montpelier, there is a photograph of Vernazza which has fascinated me for years. I've often said, while dining at Sarducci's and studying the picture that I should go there sometime. Now I have.
Out and About with Word and Image of Vermont

Viewed from the trail above, Vernazza seems a fairly placid pace. And in a way it is. But it's also pretty well packed with visitors. Also, the main street runs further back inland than seaside photos indicate. So it's both busier and larger than one might anticipate. It's neither a lazy nor sleepy place. But it is fascinating and pretty strongly captivating.
One reason visitors are drawn to the Cinque Terre is that there is a trail, carved from the side of the cliffs, which allows people to hike all the way from the southern city, Riomaggiore, to Monterossa, a dozen of more kilometers to the north. At least it did allow the long walk until a couple years ago, when most of it was closed because of rock slides and floods. At the moment, only the northern segment of it is open. So the climb up and down from Monterosso to Vernazza was the only part we could take. It proved to be more than enough. It was far more difficult than we had imagined.
The climb up from the beach to the highest point involved negotiating steep steps, more than four hundred of them, carved out of the stone of the cliffside and, hence, not smooth or as gradual as normal steps are. It took us about two and a half hours to make the hike. At points the trail is so narrow that it's hard to get past the hikers coming the other way. But we made it, and having done so we were glad we did. The views along the way are spectacular, and the blue of the Mediterranean is more intense than any other seascape I've seen.
It's unlikely that anyone would wish to spend a week in Vernazza, but for several hours, after exhausting yourself with the scramble from Monterosso, it's about as pleasant a little spot as you could ever want.