Vernazza of Cinque Terre, Italy

On the northwestern coast of Italy, a series of centuries-old villages can be found nestled into the rugged cliffside. Cinque Terre (UNESCO World Heritage Site), translated as ‘Five Lands’, consists of five villages: Vernazza, Monterosso al Mare, Corniglia, Riomaggiore, and Manarolo. Each village has its own unique charm, deep history, and the most picturesque buildings I’ve ever seen!


Vernazza is a very small fishing village with a population of about 1000 people. Most of the villages remain inaccessible by car but are conveniently linked together by a train line. The town is densely packed with locals (and tourists) but it still has a relaxed vibe compared to other, larger coastal cities.

When I first arrived in Vernazza, it felt like I had been transported to another world!! The location of these villages is so unexpected it looks like they were picked up then dropped on top of a cliff. Looking out towards the sea, you get a glimpse of the neighbouring coastal villages and the never-ending water. Facing the mountains, you see vineyards, crops, and houses clinging to the land and ascending to the top of every peak.


The houses are packed tightly together, giving the illusion that they are stacked on top of each other, and you quickly find yourself navigating through steep, stone staircases to get around town. At one point, we were on the hunt for a particular restaurant and ended up lost after walking up 4 flights of stairs only to find ourselves looking down upon the village. Getting lost in Vernazza is something I WOULD recommend!


After a bit of wandering, we hiked our way through the mountains to get to the next town, Monterosso al Mare. This hike was my favourite part of our entire trip (separate blog post to come)! The trails take you up high into the mountains where you can find the best views of Vernazza.


I’ll admit that before this trip I used to think traveling to metropolitan cities was the best way to go. After visiting Cinque Terre I can’t believe I had overlooked visiting these smaller towns. The vibrant colours, surrounding nature, sound of the sea, food, sun… it’s impossible to not fall in love with Vernazza. I will definitely come back to Cinque Terre in the future for a longer stay…with more hiking!


More info about the hike from Vernazza to Monterosso al Mare:

How I got to Vernazza: Trenitalia (Florence to Vernazza)

My hiking skill level: Beginner. Bring proper footwear, the trails are steep and rocky.

Age-range of hikers we encountered: as young as 10 years old, plus a handful of people in their 60’s with ski poles to assist them.

Length of hike from Vernazza to Monterosso al Mare: ~2 hours. We chose the most direct path but longer trails up to 15km exist.


Chicago architecture

Ranging from the Tribune Tower to the Willis Tower, the architecture of Chicago is impressive even at a glance. You don’t have to know the first thing about buildings (I’m clueless) to appreciate the unique combination of modern and traditional architecture scattered throughout the city. Also, there’s deep-dish pizza and the Cubs. Personally, there is something about the uniformity of skyscraper windows that I love!


The first time I tried to capture the regularity of these windows with a point-and-shoot camera was in New York over 10 years ago. The heat that summer was record-breaking and the photo reflected that. Rows upon rows of windows each fitted with an air conditioner. I had never seen so many air conditioners on one building face! This massive building must have had hundreds of air conditioners jutting out of its windows. I still have that photo printed in my current apartment and whenever I look at it I can’t believe how long ago that was. It also reminds me that there is a striking contrast between the ‘bland’ exterior of an apartment complex and the vibrant life inside. Maybe that’s why I enjoy taking photos of seemingly average buildings.

Of course, Chicago’s skyscrapers are anything but average. They tower over you and block the sun from reaching the sidewalks. Their shadows are so huge you actually feel the temperature drop when you step into one. They also provide us with incredible views of the city! Plus, they’re pretty amazing to look at on their own.


Don’t forget to look UP next time you’re in Chicago! Feeling like an ant amongst skyscrapers is highly underrated.

– Diane –