The village of Vernazza was our first onshore experience of the Cinque Terre, arriving late morning with a plan for coffee and pastries.
Dating back to the early 11th century, the fortified military base defended the coast from Saracen pirates. In the middle ages, the water went right up to the buildings and the boats would tie up there, as they do in Venice.
These days, they remain on buoys in the harbour unless rough weather is forecast, then they can be found in the main piazza.
Seated on a base of rocks at the entrance to the inlet, the parish church of Santa Margherita d’Antiochia was built in 1318.
The views would be spectacular from the tower, almost as rewarding as those from the cemetery on top of the hill where, rather than being buried in the ground, the coffin is slid into something like a drawer in a wall, known as a loculo.
In October 2011, Vernazza was devastated when torrential rains, resulting in flooding and mudslides, buried her under four metres of mud and debris. For months the village was uninhabitable and years later, restoration work still continues. It is hard to imagine the peaceful harbour
and beautiful pastel shades of Liguria under siege from nature.
We wandered up the main thoroughfare, Via Roma, my aversion to crowds and having people in my photographs meant my eye was drawn to the upper level of the streetscape.
Returning to the harbour, houses seemed to be suspended above a cave entrance
which, it turned out, led to another beach.
From this side of the harbour we could see the next town, Monterosso, in the distance.
The remains of Doria Castle and its lookout tower stand proudly on the rocky promontory
while below, on the terraces of the medieval watchtower, Ristorante Belforte has been serving quintessential Ligurian cuisine for the past fifty years.
We had time to admire the stunning rock formations
while waiting for the boat to take us to our next destination, Monterosso.