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A Postcard from Vernazza

As a child seeing pictures of Durbar Square in Kathmandu, the great pyramids of Giza and the manicured tea plantations of Darjeeling, helped determine the destinations of my first forays outside of Europe as an adult. Similarly photographs of Liguria’s famed Cinque Terre coastline, had etched their vertiginous charms onto my memory making a circuitous detour between the vineyards of Verona and Alba in Piemonte, essential.

Vernazza is tiny. A one street village that terminates with a small piazza in the lee of a curving harbour wall. Beyond eating, drinking and leaping off the jetty into the bath like waters below, Vernazza offers little but I wasn’t complaining. Being rather than doing has its own particular pleasure and as the sun melted from view and the last of the day-trippers caught the ferry back to La Spezia, we enjoyed a bottle of some of Italy’s least exported wine.

The vines that cling to these impossibly steep slopes produce relatively small quantities of predominantly white wine sold under the Cinque Terre DOC. Made (usually) from a blend of the indigenous Bosco, Albarola and Vermentino, they provide the tourist trade with something refreshingly pointed and crisp with which to accompany their fritto misto. The majority may lack the depth of Italy’s best whites but my pleasure quotient was so high that any further stimulation would have have rendered my already misty eyes wet.

The sadness of such a brief stay was tempered by the knowledge that our next stop was one of the world’s great wine towns: Alba. Yet as the home of Nebbiolo deserves more than a simple missive my next postcard will come not from Italy but the next country on our travels: Spain.