We just returned from Italy and I already miss this little breakfast nook overlooking the Ligurian Sea. From this perch in the Cinque Terre, the ocean is hazy blue and homes are scattered like dice on hillsides crowded with vineyards and lemon trees. Breakfast is the perfect capuccino and a flakey cornetto smeared with homemade lemon marmalade. Seabirds wing overhead, darting and singing. Fishing boats bob and fishermen haul in nets. A lone tower, medieval in cut and weathered by centuries of storms, stands watch for pirates.
I know how it sounds, but we're really not accustomed to paradise. Travel is a luxury, and we saved up and slipped into Europe through the back door. At first we felt like tramps in the palace, but the feeling passed with the first pitcher of vino della casa and platter of calamari, and soon we were enjoying la dolce vita of the cinque terre (the "five lands") with the best of them.
Life is good here. The locals catch fish and make wine and swim in the sea. There are a few family run places to stay but there are no major hotels and no roads between the villages (you can't get there by car) so most of your "ugly Americans" (or Germans, or French) stay away or head up the coast to Portofino where there are big, swanky hotels, traffic jams, yachts and cruise ships.
Not here. At night, we sip drinks by the water under faded yellow umbrellas lit by hanging lamps, and when the waiters inside put on a Billie Holiday record--softly, barely louder than the surf--it's too perfect. We're never going back.
The next morning we hike. The villages are connected by the Sientiero Azzurro, a steep goat trail carved out in ancient Roman times. This footpath hugs the cliffs and can be extremely narrow, so no pushing, please. The views are breathtaking. Start early in the morning while it's still cool--but first, enjoy the perfect breakfast.
Views like this, of Vernazza, make the steep trail worth the climb.
This short film might give you a feeling of the Cinque Terre: