Meet the Cinque Terra! It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. The clear blue water, soft breeze, terraced vineyards, freely flowing wine. But there was a bit of a surprise in store for us there. Allow me to digress…

If you’ve ever been a gym, you’ve seen that old guy who uses the stair climber like a champ. His shorts are too short and he’s sweating all over the machine. But secretly you admire him because you’ve been on the treadmill for only five minutes (with no incline!) and you’re already inclined to get off. (Get it? I know, I’m hilarious.) Trust me, this is related.

The Cinque Terra turned me into stair climber man. Determined, somewhat deranged, and highly motivated stair climber man. The whole region is hills and stairs. The post office? That’ll be 100 meters that way…straight up. Train? Back down. Lunch? Back up. Only 24 hours after arriving, I walked like a duck. It was hard to believe that my legs straightened out to 180 degrees the day before. But that was ok, because I was a champ!

Enjoy the photos and remember what Italy seems to say to us: that sunsets are for savoring and meals are for enjoying with loved ones.