You asked that I give you some info on where we stayed in CT. We started off at a place (way) above the town of Vernazza, a small grouping of houses called Seroa (very close to San Bernardino). The owner misled us considerably in suggesting it was only a 30-45 min. walk to town. The walk takes closer to an 1 hr. 15 min. or more and is fairly steep and dangerous if you have small kids (which we had). It takes close to 2 hrs 30 min. to walk up the mountain. Buyer beware, the owner is Brigitte Langmann (and runs a rental agency called “A Rucca”…which means “witch” and its a fitting name). She asked for cash upfront – which we naively gave them – and then refused to refund money when we chose not to stay, since she misled on the distance/time to Vernazza. She made up some policy after the fact about ‘no refunds’ which we had never agreed to. An expensive lesson. We had chosen to stay there originally because we couldn’t find a place in town for 5 nights.
Vernazza needs a good rental agency.
Ok, the good news: We spent the remaining four nights at the apt. of a very nice women named Juliana Germana, I think. It was a few minutes walk above the train station, had a balcony and was nicely remodeled, and right next to the creek (our son loved that b/c of the frogs).
If you have kids (12 years or younger) Vernazza is THE place to stay. It was fairly busy with tourists/day trippers, but not bad really and made for an
interesting mix of people. It is truly beautiful and the plaza is a great place to spend a summer evening having dinner, a drink, or talking with people.
The big find was the fairly new Pirate cafe/bakery just above the train station – next to the Post Office – as well. Two brothers (twins) own it and
offer VERY good Italian pastries. They are nice, funny, very friendly and eager to serve (read: not jaded). Ask specifically for their fresh canoli’s and fresh “granita”.
Restaurants: Al Castello had an incredible view, esp. around sunset and very tasty food. The seafood starter was very good and generous. The service,
however, was unbelievably slow (even by Italian standards). Our waiter was kind but overwhelmed with the number of tables he had to service. Get a few busboys and make it easy on everyone!
Lastly, we definitely recommend a visit to Corniglia. Beautiful old town – feels even older than Vernazza – but smaller, more intimate than Vernazza. Worth the walk up and down the mountain. Great gelato at the farthest shop (there are two) from the bus stop/road.