Why Save Vernazza?

Vernazza, Italy, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, found within the Cinque Terre National Park in northwestern Italy’s Liguria Region, is a medieval town nestled between the Ligurian Sea and the terraced vineyards of its hillsides. It has 921 residents and accommodations for 500 travelers. Approximately 850,000 international tourists visit the Cinque Terre each year.

And, for those of us living in Vernazza, it is home.


“A powerful force of nature ripped out the guts of town, the insides of our lives, and left them lying scattered in the street” Michèle Lilley, co-founder Save Vernazza

Architect Richard Rogers has generously donated his “Renaissance of Vernazza” Project aimed at requalifying Vernazza’s public spaces and recreating the social fabric of Vernazza, a place he and his family have frequently called home over the past 50 years. Click here for more information .  We need your help to fund this “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity.

While the town has reopened for business and many of its residents have returned home, there is still much work to be done to ensure the sustainable viability of the town and surrounding territory.  For example, work continues on emergency projects to contain the canal, stabilize the surrounding hillsides and repair Vernazza’s infrastructure.


whysave“A cultural site of outstanding value, representing the harmonious interaction between people and nature to produce a landscape of exceptional scenic quality that illustrates a traditional way of life that has existed for a thousand years and continues to play an important socio-economic role in the life of the community.” UNESCO Cinque Terre recognized as a World Heritage site, 1997

Vernazza is ranked #18 on the New York Times’ “46 Places to Go in 2013” (the only Italian destination on the list).  Described by a New York Times journalist as “the place people come because life on this coast has remained much the same for centuries,” Vernazza is the economic driver of tourism for the Cinque Terre and the entire Italian Riviera from Genoa to La Spezia.  National Geographic Traveller named Vernazza one of the world’s Top 10 Walking Tours and one of the Top 99 Coastal Destinations.

The impact of the increasing volume of tourism to this small town and its surrounding territory, famous for the walking paths connecting the five towns, has been positive for the economy but it has also negatively impacted the social fabric of the community by the sheer numbers of people who visit each day.

Tourism is also a threat to the territory’s safety:  families continue to abandon agriculture, in exchange for the relatively easier work in tourism, and this lack of maintenance to terracing and stonewalls causes landslides.

Save Vernazza is proud to promote sustainable tourism.  For example, our Voluntourism Excursions directly connect travelers with Vernazza locals to make a difference in the territory while preserving Vernazza’s cultural traditions.  The Wine & Food Discovery lets travelers explore Cinque Terre DOC wines and food with local wine producers and a bilingual host to learn about our unique winemaking traditions and support our territory.

To discover the beauty that continues to mesmerize us, we strongly encourage visitors to stay in Vernazza, seeing the town as a local in the early morning or evening, and to go up into the hills, exploring the “off the beaten track” areas found 15 minutes from the center of Vernazza.

Hiking the trails high above the sea, one has the sense that not much has changed over the centuries:  vineyards are cultivated to produce Cinque Terre DOC white wine and Cinque Terre DOC Sciacchetrà; olive groves are harvested for olive oil; orchards bloom with lemons and other fruit; the Sanctuary of Nostra Madonna di Reggio serves as a site of worship 300 meters above the sea, housing its byzantine Black Madonna icon and collection of Ex-Votos; the terraced hillsides offer stunning views of the crystal blue sea, the green landscape and the multicolored pastel buildings in Vernazza.