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

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.

Vernazza After Dark — Magic

I’ve come back to Europe every spring since the 1970s — and I love that here we are, in 2019, and the magic still survives.

Join me now for a thoughtful walk through Vernazza after dinner, when it’s quiet and empty. This is the busiest time of year in the Cinque Terre, but after hours it’s all mine. (Many travelers, ironically trying to avoid the crowds, “side-trip” to the Cinque Terre for the day, before heading back to Florence or their cruise ships at dinnertime. To really enjoy this place, get here before 10 a.m. or after 6 p.m.)