A view of the piazza from the sea wall. Vernazza is one of the 5 villages that make up the spectacular Cinque Terra on Italy’s verdant northwest coast. We arrived without room reservations on the local train that bores through the mountains, emerging suddenly into daylight at each village station. The village was a swarm of day-tripping tourists. As we went from hotel to penzione it became apparent that it would have been wiser to pin down lodging weeks earlier. A couple of elderly residents who had likely been born in the village watched on from their prime bench at the edge of the piazza. In true Italian fashion they waved us over, pulled out cell phones and began calling all of their inside connections to find us a room – to no avail – the village was filled to bursting. Eventually we migrated back north about 10 minutes on the train and discovered Levanto, quietly tucked away from the glaring tourist spotlight. With only a slight mention in Rick Steves’ traveler’s bible, Levanto retains a certain ‘realness’, and quickly became one of our favorite places – one we’re sworn to return to.