We were determined to find an apartment in the Cinque Terre. Everything was booked online and the few remaining rooms were outrageously priced. However with a group of towns this small, it is always possible to find that right person that doesn’t have Internet but they have an open space for rent. We went for it. After searching through one town and half of another, we were blessed with far more than we imagined!

In Vernazza, we were ringing all the doors with rooms to let and they were all booked. One man knew of an opening and an older Italian lady came out and brought us up several flights of stairs and right into the perfect place. We were in the middle of Old Town Vernazza, a short stroll from everything, and had a 1 bedroom apartment with exposed beams in the ceiling for 4 nights!

The lure of the Cinque Terre (the 5 lands) has grown over the years. These towns were all built by hand within the cliffs of the Italian Riviera. They were originally built here for defensive purposes and linked together by one long, beautiful hiking trail. Along the trails, the farmers have developed a unique way of growing grapes and lemons along the cliffs. The grapes of course are for wine, while the lemons are used to produce a local liquor called “Limoncino”. The latter we discovered, is perfectly paired with dark chocolate to make one incredible aperitif. Should anyone be interested, we have a Cinque Terre recipe for this Limoncino and plan on making some once back in Charleston. And lest we forget, this is so close to the birthplace of Pesto! We both could tell an amazing difference in the quality here and there’s nothing quite like it. Stopping into just about any shop will put you in a bind deciding which farmer’s home made pesto to try that night. Again, we have another recipe for Pesto should anyone be interested.

A typical day here was spent waking up to coffee and breakfast before setting out on one of the hikes between the towns. Lunch might be found along the hike or within one of the towns themselves. After a hike, we would find a cafe with a cliff or beachside view, order a drink and settle into yet another book. (that’s right, Abby’s now reading fiction) Then we’d catch the next train, as no cars are allowed in the Cinque Terre, and head back to Vernazza. Walking down the streets back home, we’d dream up dinner just by seeing what’s available that night. One of our favorite moments would be right after showering, heading out from our apartment to the main street in search of a Fococciaria or Pizza shop. We would place an order and watch them prepare everything while entertaining the locals and tourists alike. This was an incredible experience. By not sitting down in the restaurant, we were able to stand right next to the kitchen and watch how the locals interacted and cooked with one another. There’s something about Italians and how passionate they are about good food. It’s inspiring at the very least.

We’d walk right back to our apartment and settle in with dinner consisting of pizza or pasta, some fresh pesto, foccacia, a local wine (red or white) and of course Limoncino! It was always in the freezer waiting next to some dark chocolate. It’s the little things in life that get us excited these days.

The Cinque Terre is an unforgettable place. Time seems to slow down to a crawl and you get the sense that it’s always been this way here. Was it only four days we were here? Could’ve been a month or a day and it wouldn’t matter. This place will always be at the top of our list for return trips. Just sayin.