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Story: When I speak of magical trips, I’m referring to those that when you return, your memories take on a dream-like quality. This happened after I visited Cinque Terre, the “five lands” suspended over the sea on the Italian Riviera coast.

I block out the tourists and visualise a sleepy fishing village, remembering how the rocks jutting out of the sea at Manarola stole my heart.

I hear the waves crashing against the beach from quietness of my room in Monterosso al Mare, and can almost smell the coffee I drank on my terrace, feel the crispness of the day’s newspaper in my hands.

In my mind’s eye, I pick my way along the clifftops, vivid Ligurian sea views before me. Farmers toil on their steep land, the heady perfume of Corniglia’s vineyards clings to the ocean breeze.

I’m in the hustle and bustle of craft shops trying on beautifully made leather sandals, then it’s a plate of homemade spaghetti in a hidden corner.

But it’s the parasols that are etched most deeply in my mind. Audacious yet sophisticated, vivid yet subtle, bright colours and neat rows conceal the congenial babble of holidaymakers beneath.

For many, Italy is about food, wine, leather and the sea. But when I think of Italy, my mind always drifts back to those parasols.


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