The Castle….no not the famous one in Tullamarine, for those who may remember the movie, but the landmark of Vernazza, Cinque Terre. This ancient Doria Castle has featured in millions of tourist photos as an icon of Vernazza, although not everyone takes the steep steps up to explore it fully.
Making the most out of a cloudy morning I climbed the narrow alleyways or ‘caruggi’ as they are known in dialect, to enjoy the breathtaking view from the Castle.
Tucked in a corner on the way was Susie Barrow’s Art gallery, an English artist who has been living in the area for the past 9 years, doing jewellery and ‘splashnflow’ watercolours.
I had visions of swashbuckling pirates plundering their way through the labyrinth of alleyways in search of treasures, or more likely, seizing men and women to use as enforced labour or to sell off as slaves. In fact they say the ‘caruggi’ were specifically built so narrow so no one could be surrounded by a group of sword thrusting bandits!
Historical documents date the Castle and its Tower to the 13th Century although it may be even older than that. Little remains of the Castle apart from the Tower, and during the Summer there is often an Art exhibition in one of the rooms below.
It is highly likely the castle, with its imposing tower, was built as part of the Vernazza system of fortifications commissioned by the Genovese during the early Middle Ages to defend itself against the raids of Muslim pirates from Andalusia or the Basque bandits from Southern France.
On climbing the narrow spiral stairs it’s easy to appreciate its defence quality for the commanding view of the coastline and complete coverage of the village below.
Even during the Second World War, it was used as a defence base against Nazi attacks.
Today it is a peaceful spot to admire the stunning view and inhale the beauty of the surroundings of Vernazza and the Cinque Terre.
“You don’t leave the Castle without drinking our wine, that’s called ‘Schiacchetra’ and which brings happiness”