This place doesn’t look real.
From the top of a steep hillside covered in lemon trees and grapevines, the village of Manarola tumbles out below, like a handful of pink, orange and yellow blocks that have been shaken, then poured from a toy bag.
Manarola is one of five hamlets strewn a few miles apart along the Mediterranean coast in Northern Italy. Each comes with its own personality, and the best way to see the lot is to pick one as a home base (we’ve chosen Manarola because it’s smaller and quieter than the others), then spend a few days hiking between them, pausing to sip wine, eat grilled octopus and cool off with a swim in the sea.
We left our cliffside apartment this morning, hiked up through steep terraces covered with vineyards, paused to admire a chapel and sip lemonade in the pint-size village of Volastra, then descended into Corniglia, where we revived ourselves with gelato before striking out for the next town up the coast, Vernazza.