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When thunderstorms are predicted and Italian trains are due to strike, the idea of visiting the Cinque Terre – five coastal villages in Liguria only reachable by train or by boat – seems more stress than it’s worth, and so at 7:45am, when our bus began to pull out of Santa Maria Novella train station, I had my doubts. Fortunately, there wasn’t an umbrella in sight and we had no issues getting from place to place. I’m not sure how we were so lucky but, as they say in Italian, a caval donato non si guarda in bocca.

The trip that Europass organised for us was really second to none, as the guide certainly knew his stuff, but also knew how to strike a balance between telling us about the history and culture of the Cinque Terre and letting us discover it for ourselves.

Whilst all five tiny villages are a fantastic example of how colourful, rich, and culturally authentic the Ligurian coastline can be, there’s one that stood out the most to me: Monterosso al Mare, the biggest of them all. Here, we decided to search for a little backstreet restaurant where we could get a true taste of the Cinque Terre.

Being in Liguria, I couldn’t skip out on some pesto alla genovese, could I? Whilst tinned pesto might be the staple of any student’s diet back home, this was my first time visiting its place of origin, and so it was only right that I tried the real deal. And it didn’t disappoint! Other dishes being served were very seafood based and it all looked and smelt amazing, but it didn’t end there. As part of the tour, we had a free liqueur tasting session where we got try some traditional limoncino, a lemon drink not dissimilar from the south’s limoncello, which was welcomely refreshing on such a hot day.

Being so lucky with the weather, there was only one way this day could end – on the beach. The entire coastline is packed with sunbathers and snorkelers, but what you notice is that the beaches of the Cinque Terre aren’t golden and sandy, but rather collections of rocks at the bottom of high cliffs. It seemed a little strange to lay down a towel on the rugged stones, but the clear blue see soon made us forget about the lack of sand. Quirky, but completely worth it.

Le Cinque Terre –