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Liguria

Streets want to be explored (slowly and randomly, if you're with me) and passers-by watched and listened to, glad of the local wine's quiet company, from sidewalk café tables. Particularly we'll watch for those restaurants that natives are drawn to—which have arguably homier menus and tastier entrees, for fewer Euros.

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Portovenere will be our home along the Ligurian coastline. We've traded the bustle of the actual Cinque Terre park towns, for the peace of this little harbor south of La Spezia. Behind our upstairs apartment is a purely non-tourist neighborhood. In front, along the main roadway, there's a tree-shaded park with benches. We long to enjoy a daily passagiata (which look up), during our three overnights.

The Via Dell'Amore winds its scenic way from Riomaggiore (this image) to Manarola. It's a stroll rather than a hike—the way is paved, and with almost no change in altitude; wild succulents trail between the boulders rearing up along your right side, with endlessly changing sea water pulsing among sharp rocks to your left (unless of course you began the walk from Manarola or Corniglia and are making your way southward, thus swapping the sides described). So, climb into this picture—the Via begins to your right—find your lover, and enjoy together. Sigh.

Three nights

Where the passagiata must happen
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Here is the classic Ligurian village, Vernazza—with its harbor afloat with colorful boats, the somber old church's classic outline against terraced cliffs, a gracious square's fun restaurants. Also well-stocked gelato emporia. Its sole downside is the abundance of U.S. tourists here, guidebooks in hand, twenty-four-seven.    [Thanks, Rick Steves, I guess.]

Onward by rail, then to that comfortable and exciting town on the French Riviera, so well-loved by prosperous English tourists at the turn of the last century,

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