In sifting through my posts about my recent trip to Provence and Italy, I can’t believe I didn’t write about Cinque Terre! I adored it, but it must have gotten lost in the fray. So here goes.

Cinque Terre is a collection of five tiny, picturesque towns on the west coast of Italy. We took the train down from Genova, and were rewarded with breathtaking views. The train was perched high above the water, which made for a dizzying — yet gratifying — view. We were supposed to get off the train in Corniglia to put our luggage away before meeting our tour guide, but the train door wouldn’t open. We got off at the next town, Manarola, and frantically tried to figure out what to do. We had heavy bags and a day of walking ahead of us. Oh, and no phone service.

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It all worked out in the end. I texted our tour guide, Loredana, who persuaded the employees in the train station to let us leave our bags while we explored.

Because of the kerfuffle, we didn’t end up visiting the furthest village, Riomaggiore. Next time.

We started with a tour of Manarola, which was picturesque with its pastel-painted houses, striped boat covers, and old men drinking espressos at outdoor cafes.

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Then, we went to Corniglia, the village we would be staying in. Corniglia was a bit different; whereas with Manarola, you’re right in the middle of town when you leave the train station, Corniglia is perched on a hill, and you’ve either got to walk 400 steps (no) or take the bus up (yes). The town was quieter than the others, but I loved it best. There was a narrow, winding street where the grocery store we ended up visiting several times was, as well as a few shops and restaurants. We ate lunch there. Our tour guide recommended some sort of local fish that I now forget. The price was by the grams, which was an unusual way to charge. The meal was fine. The wine was better after a stressful morning of travel.

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Onward. Now to Vernazza, where we watched children splash in the water at the beach, did some shopping, and ate a gelato. Hey, when in Italy…

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We ended the tour with a wine tasting in Monterosso al MareThat was quite an experience; the bistro owner who gave us the tasting only spoke Italian! I spoke enough to understand that she was pretty passionate about her wine, and I learned a little about the classification that most of the wineries were under — DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) — which regulates the quality. But interestingly: only white wines had the DOCG label.

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We spent another day on our own, exploring the area and making friends in Corniglia, like this guy, who worked at the cafe down the road. He also happens to own a winery with his brother, but because there’s not a lot of money to be made in wines in Cinque Terre (if you saw the steep inclines they grow grapes on, you’d understand why), he also works a second job.

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We didn’t have any noteworthy food in Cinque Terre, really. I was shocked to get not one but two meals of microwaved pasta! Still, Cinque Terre was gorgeous, and I look forward to returning.