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Boy points to the sea while standing on rocks at the edge of the sea. Colorful buildings of Vernazza on the left in the background.

Vernazza with Kids – How to Visit the Cinque Terre Village as a Family

Are you trying to decide if you should visit Vernazza with your kids… or save it for when they’re older?

Maybe you visited on a previous trip to Italy and want to share the magic of the village with your family.

I first visited in 2003 as a backpacker, and I’ve returned numerous times for work and play – with friends and my children (as babies and older kids).  My most recent trip was with my 6-year-old son and I experienced it with the same joy I did on my first visit a couple of decades ago.

Let’s take a look at what a visit to Vernazza with kids is like, including:

  • whether or not a Vernazza visit would work well for your family
  • when to visit Vernazza with kids
  • how much time to spend in Vernazza as a family
  • kid-friendly activities in Vernazza
  • where to eat and sleep
  • how to get to Vernazza
  • family logistics in Vernazza (strollers, diaper changes, etc)

Andiamo – let’s go!

Is a Trip to Vernazza Right for Your Family?

Before we go any further, I want to quickly review a few things about traveling in the Cinque Terre and to Vernazza with kids that may sway you to make a visit or skip the area on this trip to Italy.  Keep in mind that a ‘pro’ for one family may be a ‘con’ for another family.

Vernazza is filled with steps.  Great for working on buns of steel, not so great if you’re depending on using a stroller or have small toddlers that insist on walking everywhere.

One of the highlights of the area is hiking.  If you’ve got kids that enjoy hiking, this is one of the best places in Italy to explore as a family.  The hikes are gorgeous and bring you to picture-perfect villages like Vernazza. 

The best time to visit weather-wise (June, July, August) is also the busiest.  And the crowds are epic.

When it’s crowded in the area, it’s best to stay in one spot.  If you’re visiting the Cinque Terre as a family, the trains are packed (and you may need to wait for the next one) and train travel here can be stressful.  Instead of trying to visit them all, stay in one (or two) of them.

Vernazza has a beach but it’s not the best one for kids in the area.  That award goes to Monterosso al Mare, one quick train stop north of Vernazza.  Monterosso’s beaches are larger, ‘sandier,’ and have more facilities for kids. 

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The Best (& Worst) Times to Visit Vernazza as a Family

Colorful buildings and boats in the middle of the harbor piazza in Vernazza, Cinque Terre, Italy.
The main piazza on a quiet spring day

The best time to visit Vernazza is when the weather is nice and it’s not crowded.  That combination doesn’t happen, so you’ll need to choose what’s most important to your family.

If you want to hike with your kids, visit during one of the warmer months when there’s less of a chance of rainfall (and slippery trails or trail closures). 

If you’re more keen to see Vernazza without the throngs of tourists, visit in the spring or fall, but know that poor weather may hamper your hiking goals. 

I just visited with my 6-year-old in early spring and we had a sunny day in an uncrowded Vernazza and it was splendid!  But, we took a risk visiting during a rainy time of year.

Read more about visiting Italy in JanuaryFebruaryMarchAprilMayJuneJulyAugustSeptemberOctoberNovemberDecember.

How Much Time to Spend in Vernazza with Kids

Ideally, two nights (one full day) in Vernazza, so that you can enjoy the village in the morning and evening, when the day trippers are gone.  While town won’t be empty, it’s much more charming.

However, I recognize two nights might not be possible, especially if you want to see more of the Cinque Terre.  You can definitely visit on a day trip on your own or join a group tour. 

I usually encourage visitors to spend more time in a place to get to know the area, but there’s not a ton to do in Vernazza with kids, so I think a couple of nights is plenty (and a day or half day also works!).

Fun & Realistic Things to Do in a Day in Vernazza with Kids

Play at the Harbor Beach

Boy at edge of water in small harbor, skipping rocks. Terraced hillside in background. Vernazza, Italy.
My son, skipping rocks at the small harbor

A highlight of Vernazza for kids is spending time at the small harbor beach.  Depending on the time of year, it may be difficult to find a spot to play, so if you can, visit early in the morning. 

Play in the sand, wade in the water, or build a sand castle!

You can walk to the right on a path to a mini waterfall.  There are large rocks on the way, and you can sit on them and read or check out the view (note that this isn’t a great option with small kids).

My boys also like skipping rocks here, but only if no one else is around.  Vernazza (and the Cinque Terre) has plenty of flat stones, perfect for skipping!

Visit One of Vernazza’s Playgrounds

While they’re not the area’s most spectacular playgrounds, Vernazza has two playgrounds that kids can use.  They’re small, but when your kids need a place to let out some energy, they’re a lifesaver – especially when the streets and paths of the Cinque Terre are crowded.

The first Vernazza playground is close to the train station.  Just walk under the over pass (direction – uphill) and take the first left up the stairs.  You’ll come upon a terraced area with a small playground with a slide and climbing structure.  It’s fenced and there are benches, but no shade.  Just above it is another section of the playground that has swings. 

If you keep climbing up, you’ll get to the comune, or town hall.  To reach the second playground, enter the town hall and head to the back of the building and back outside.  This playground is a little bit bigger, still fenced, and it has a plastic play structure with a little slide. 

Good To Know:  Neither of these playgrounds are amazing for toddlers because there are climbing sections that they could fall from.  The most toddler-friendly area is the swings in the lower playground.

Take a Boat Trip

Boy smiles at father on boat in the Cinque Terre, Italy.
My husband and our baby on a ferry in the Cinque Terre

You can take hop on one of the ferries to get a different perspective of the Cinque Terre.  We try to do this whenever we’re in the area with kids, as it’s fun for them to be on a boat.  It’s also a nice alternative to taking a train between villages, especially if you’re visiting during a busy time of year. 

We’ve also taken the ferries with babies and it’s been a pleasant experience.  We used a baby carrier.

You can see the Cinque Terre line’s most up-to-date info on the official website.  The main stops are:

  • La Spezia
  • Lerici
  • Porto Venere
  • Riomaggiore
  • Manarola
  • Vernazza
  • Monterosso
  • Levanto
  • Deiva Marina
  • Moneglia

I’ve bolded the Cinque Terre villages.  You’ll notice that you can’t take the boat from Corniglia.

Good To Know:  Kids under 5 are free and kids ages 6-11 get a discount.

Good To Know:  Currently, you can purchase tickets at the wharf in Vernazza (but confirm online before your trip).  You can also purchase them online.

Try Local Foods

Hand holding up focaccia with pesto in Vernazza in the Cinque Terre.
Don’t miss trying pesto!

Even if your kids don’t like seafood, you’ll likely find something that your kids will enjoy eating!

Here are the foods that my boys enjoy most in the area:

  • Pesto – on trofie pasta or spread on freshly-baked focaccia
  • Fried sardines – served at the table or in a paper to-go cone
  • Lemon gelato

Climb Up to the Castle

If your kids are like mine and always full of energy, a climb up to Castello Doria could be a good option for your family.  It involves a lot of steps, but the views are fantastic!  And, it makes a cool gelato after the climb even sweeter.

Go For a Hike

Boy walking on brick path above village of Vernazza. Sea in background and trail sign on wall on right.

One of the classic things to do in the Cinque Terre is hike, but that’s not always a great option with kids.  The Blue Trail hikes on either side of Vernazza aren’t a cake walk, but you could do them with older kids or teens who enjoy hiking. 

The views are spectacular!

I have hiked the full village-to-village trail on my own, but not with my kids yet.  While we do enjoy hiking as a family (especially in the Dolomites), they’ve always been more interested in the sea when we’re in the Cinque Terre.  And, since I want to keep our travels fun for them, that’s where we spend our time!  I’m sure in the next few years we’ll try the Blue Trail.  In the meantime, we’ll continue to do short out-and-back hikes from some of the other villages.

Where to Eat in Vernazza with Kids

I’ve eaten in restaurants in Vernazza but now usually snack there and eat meals in other Cinque Terre villages. 

Fritto e Pizza da Sandro (Via Roma, 60) has the fried sardines in a takeaway cone.

Il Gambero Rosso (Piazza Guglielmo Marconi, 7) has been our go-to for atmosphere (sit outside and enjoy the views of the harbor).

Pizzeria Fratelli Basso (Via Roma, 1) for takeaway focaccia with pesto.

Gelateria Vernazza (Via Roma, 13) is where we head for gelato.

We like to get something to go and eat down by the water.  Or, grab a packable snack like focaccia and take it on the trail.

Teach kids some Basic Italian Travel Phrases before your trip!

Sleeping in Vernazza with Kids

If you decide to make Vernazza your home for the night, book your accommodation as soon as possible.  Because it’s such a small village, options are limited.  You can find rooms for rent and apartments online.  I’ve stayed in a couple of apartments and at Gianni Franzi (lots of steps, but gorgeous breakfast terrace!).

When you’re booking your family stay in Vernazza, keep in mind:

  • you probably won’t feel like you’re getting great value for your Euros in Vernazza
  • ask for a room with a balcony or view
  • know you’ll likely have to tackle many steps – so pack light

How to Get to Vernazza with Kids

Boy looks out train window onto colorful street of Vernazza, Italy.
My son, checking out the view from the train

The best way to get to Vernazza with your kids is by train, either from the north (Genoa) or the south (La Spezia).

From those cities, you’ll enter the Cinque Terre National Park (Parco Nazionale Cinque Terre), and you’ll ride on the Cinque Terre Express trains, which run frequently between the five villages. 

Other options include hiring a private driver, driving a rental car, or taking a day tour. 

Read about our Day Tour to the Cinque Terre from Florence

Family Logistics in Vernazza

Boy walks on paved path next to large rocks and the sea. In background is colorful village of Vernazza.

Strollers – Vernazza is not stroller-friendly, so let your children walk, and carry small babies or toddlers in a baby carrier.  You will have a hard time getting your stroller on crowded trains, and once in the Cinque Terre, you’ll just need to leave it somewhere while you explore. 

Changing Diapers – Take advantage of bathrooms in restaurants, or use a portable changing pad.  There are benches at the two playgrounds and you can change diapers there. 

Safety Precautions – Like all villages in the Cinque Terre, Vernazza has safety hazards that you need to be aware of as a parent.  The biggest ones are: water, poor or nonexistent railings, large crowds, and windows without bars.

Breastfeeding – If you need to feed your baby, you can do so wherever you feel comfortable.  I’ve breastfed here on ferries, in restaurants, on the hiking trail, and down by the water (sitting on a rock).  You can also breastfeed in the small playgrounds, especially the upper one (likely to be less crowded).

Baby Supplies – You can find diapers, wipes, food, and other supplies at the pharmacy (on the main drag, Via Visconti/Via Roma) and the little Coop grocery store (also on Via Roma).

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Things to See and Do with Your Family Near Vernazza

From Vernazza, you’re just a quick train or boat ride from the other Cinque Terre villages of Monterosso al Mare, Corniglia (train only), Manarola, and Riomaggiore. 

You could take your kids to a soccer game in nearby La Spezia (they play in Serie B, our second league).

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