Day softly turns to night in Vernazza, as seen from one of the most majestic overlooks on this planet.


My December visit to the Cinque Terre almost never happened. I had been traveling Europe for almost three months at the time, and I was all set to go up into Austria from Lake Bled, Slovenia. But here’s the thing: I hate winter. I was so over the cold and overcast grays that had plagued me since Germany, that I just couldn’t do it.

So I set my eyes on a new prize: the UNESCO World Heritage Site on the Italian Riviera that has been a dream for photographers since the dawn of the camera (I assume). I quickly redirected my course and booked three nights (which turned into seven) in Manarola.


This photo was taken at probably the most famous sunset viewpoint in the five towns. I knew I wanted to get this shot, so I decided to go there first – before I had even gone to my hostel. I arrived on a train from Florence at 4 p.m. (after getting on the wrong train and then missing my stop because I couldn’t figure out how to open the train door in time), so to make the 4:45 sunset, I needed to act quickly.

With time running out, I got off the train in Vernazza and sprinted around town asking people how to find the overlook. Despite three semesters of Italian, my language skills basically consists of “Ciao!” and “gelato!” Luckily, I eventually found an English speaker that pointed me in the right direction. A direction that included climbing hundreds of stairs, and I had all of my baggage with me. Not to be deterred, I picked up my roller suitcase and Ninja Warrior’d up the steps.

I finally reached the spot, sweating profusely, and mixed in among the other photographers. I dropped my stuff and looked out over the railing…


So what happens when you finally reach a travel spot that you’ve seen in dozens of photos over the years, that you’ve endlessly dreamed of visiting? Well, you look out at the view and one of two things happens:

1. You realize that the photos lied to you and the place isn’t all its cracked up to be.

2. You realize that no photo could do the place justice and that, for a brief moment, you’ve left this planet and are looking at something celestial.

I could wax poetic here, but really all I’ll say is that Vernazza is the latter. I set up my camera gear and photographed a soft sunset, all the time thinking about how my dreams were alive. In that hour, nothing could stop me from feeling like I was on top of the world.

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