Friday, March 14, 2008

July in Vernazza

On evening in July 2000 I was picked up at Malpensa airport in Milan by a Laila, a good friend. We had hired a car and our first destination was a small coastal town on the Ligurian coast. It was my first and only time in Italy, but all the places I visited during our voyage left a mark. I simply loved the rugged coastline south of Genova, the steep hills covered with in vegetation rising up from the most wonderful blue sea.

If you are planning your honeymoon, Vernazza is an ultimate romantic destination. It is one out of five cities climbing the cliffs of Cinque Terre, a rugged landscape that displays everything you can wish for. The Cinque Terre area is listed as a UNESCO Heritage site.

These small cities goes back as far as the year 1000 AD. Belfort, the medieval castle in Vernazza was built around 500 years ago to protect the city from pirates. The whole city with its beautiful rustic town houses fulfills every dream of what Italy may be.

We went by car, but Vernazza and the other cities are not easily accessible by car. There is a small railway station in the city. Why not take the train from Genova?

There are little accommodation available in Vernazza. We stayed in a room rented out by Giuliano Basso. (ph: +39 333 341 4792). We got a room that faced a steep hill with lush vegetation. We had a large bush of wild rosemary growing outside our window. The good thing with our quarters was that it provided enough shade during the scorching hot Italian summer. Giulano Basso has rooms available from 70 Euro a night.

There is a small beach where you can swim, but the best thing at the old harbour is to sit sit down and have a great meal during the hot Italian evening. I enjoyed the best seafood pastas with fish, shrimps and vongole served in white wine produced in the area, and sipped to the same wine to the food. Here you may order freshly made pasta with the most outstanding pesto genovese, made from local ingredients. The areas around Vernazza is renowned for their olive oil, said to be of the best in Italy.

The season is long, from March or April to October/November if you are lucky. But book your room early as Vernazza is popular with the international crowd. As you roam the city the presence of Germans, French, English and American is felt. In spite of this, Vernazza does not feel like a tourist trap.

Alternatively, you may try to book a room in the larger of the cities, Monterosso al Mare. Here you have a better beach and several larger hotels, and Vernazza and the other cities are just a short trip away.

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