I'm sharing my travel experiences, candid opinions and what's on my mind. If you think it's inappropriate for a travel writer to stir up discussion on his blog with political observations and insights gained from traveling abroad, you may not want to read any further. — Rick

Life is Good in the Cinque Terre

With the help of my friend Marco, I’ve discovered a wonderful new restaurant in Monterosso. The owner, Elisa, makes all the cakes they serve — and we got them all.

Here’s how I wrote up L’Osteria for the next edition of my Rick Steves Italy guidebook:

[$$] L’Osteria is a delightful little family-run place serving “cuisine with passion” at wonderful prices. Allesandro thoughtfully explains your options, and Elisa is understandably proud of her cakes. Their Possa wine, from vineyards close to the sea, is the oyster of local wines, or maybe the passion comes from the Ligurian music the family is sure to play (12:00-14:30, two evening seatings: 19:00 and 21:00, closed Mon., Via Vittorio Emanuele 5, tel. 0187-819-224). It’s a cozy scene inside with a few tables outside in the shadow of the church.

Forgive Me Father

I’m in Monterosso, in the Cinque Terre — and Father Renato just found me visiting a cemetery. He said he needed to talk to me about taking something out of my guidebook, and then he took me into his monastery for some homemade limoncello.

Capuchin friars are Franciscans — the “Jugglers of God” — and they like Lutherans (like me).

High Above the Sea — and the Crowds — in the Cinque Terre

Join me for a quiet moment high above the port towns of the Cinque Terre. I’m enjoying a hike with local guide Marco Brizzi — and taking in a thousand years of heritage. We’ve dropped by a church that was built to serve the farming community that once lived up here, far from the coast, because they were afraid of Turkish pirates.

There are no crowds here, high above all the people complaining about crowds. With a good guidebook, you can find a local guide, ride a little bus to the top — and then hike down.

Café Gourmand with Andrea on the Cinque Terre

Meet Andrea, the entertaining waiter at Vernazza’s Ristorante Belforte. I’m here with my new friends from New Hampshire and Boston, having a great time in the Cinque Terre.

To get to the most out of your stay here, don’t just come for the day, as many travelers do. Instead, spend the night — and spend some money at a top restaurant like this one. I love family-run, personality-driven places like this, where I’m greeted by the same waitstaff year after year.

Sexy Bruschetta in the Cinque Terre

I’m in Riomaggiore, enjoying a simple lunch of bruschetta and wine at Dau Cila with my local guide, Amy Inman. This fine restaurant follows a “zero-kilometer” ethic, keeping everything — wine, oil, anchovies, basil — very local.

Listen in as Ferdinando gives us a little cooking lesson for pesto. I love visiting my favorite places and seeing the younger generation taking the reins and keeping up high standards.