< Previous Post | Next Post >

Italian Stairmaster: With exercise like this, who needs a gym?

By Michelle May, M.D.

(Michelle May, M.D., author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat and Chef Owen May, owner of Chef with Benefits®, recently traveled throughout Italy to explore mindful eating and take culinary and wine courses. They are back on U.S. soil now, trying to sustain the relaxed yet engaged state of mind that travel brings. They are sharing these posts to inspire you to bring that same mindset to your kitchen and life. Buon Appetito!)

ItalyCinqueTerre09-Hike-ItalianStairmaster1They (whoever “they” are) say Europeans walk everywhere. I don’t know if that’s really true (such generalizations usually aren’t), but Owen and I love to walk and hike when we travel. We know it’s great exercise, but that’s just a fringe benefit; we enjoy experiencing the scenery from a different vantage point. (Click photos to enlarge.)

ItalyCinqueTerre11-VernazzaOur first hike in Italy was the Cinque Terre, five quaint villages on the rugged coast of the Italian Riviera connected by beautiful trails. We got an early start from Monterosso, but since it was late June, it was already hot and humid. This first picture shows why I dubbed the trail an “Italian Stairmaster” – the first of many! At nearly two hours, this was the longest leg of our hike. We were rewarded with this amazing view of the second village, Vernazza.

ItalyCinqueTerre17-Manarola ItalyCinqueTerre15-Corniglia After a lovely breakfast and cappucino in Vernazza, we hit the trail again to Corniglia (right). I loved the narrow streets lined with tiny shops; we had our first gelato in Italy here too!

The next leg of the trail was closed due to a mud slide so we caught the train to Manarola. (I purchased a water color that looks exactly like my picture on the left.)

ItalyCinqueTerre20-Viadell'AmoreThe path along the water (not many stairs this time!) from Manarola to Riomaggiore is known as Via dell’Amore because it was once a lovers’ lane for the boys and girls to meet between the two towns. Now it’s sweetly decorated with ribbons, padlocks, and graffiti by couples professing their commitment to one another.

ItalyCinqueTerre23-Riomaggiore We had a late lunch overlooking the water in Riomaggiore. We enjoyed regional white wine and focaccia with buffalo mozzarella and pesto (pesto originated in this region of Italy). This simple meal was one of the best we had in Italy (and there were many!)

You know I don’t believe in ItalyCinqueTerre04-Monterossoexercising to “earn” the right to eat; this was simply the perfect ending to a perfect morning.

After six hours of hiking, a fabulous lunch, and a glass of wine, we’d had enough. We caught the ferry back to Monterosso so we could enjoy retracing our trail from the relaxing vantage point of the ferry deck.

Everywhere we went in Italy, there were natural opportunities for movement. I took a series of photographs I call “Italian Stairmasters and Treadmills.” Check them out on our Facebook page (please “Like” the page while you’re there)!


About the author

Michelle May, M.D. is a recovered yo-yo dieter and the founder of the Am I Hungry?® Mindful Eating Programs and Training. She is the award-winning author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat: A Mindful Eating Program to Break Your Eat-Repent-Repeat Cycle , winner of seven publishing awards. She is also the author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat with Diabetes, Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat for Binge Eating, and Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating for Bariatric Surgery. Michelle shares her compelling message and constructive keynotes with audiences around the country, offers workplace wellness programs, and has trained and licensed hundreds of health professionals to facilitate Am I Hungry?® Mindful Eating Programs worldwide. She has been featured on Dr. Oz, the Discovery Health Channel, and Oprah Radio, and quoted in Diabetic Living, Fitness, Health, Huffington Post, Parents, Self, USA Weekend, US News & World Report, WebMD and many others. Her personal success story was published in Chicken Soup for the Dieter's Soul. Michelle cherishes her relationships with her husband, Owen and grown children, Tyler and Elyse. She regularly enjoys practicing yoga and hiking near her home in Phoenix, Arizona. She and Owen, a professional chef, share a passion for gourmet and healthful cooking, wine tasting, photography, and traveling.


  1. Renee says:

    Thanks for sharing your pictures, they’re gorgeous. Great hiking, great scenery, great food – sounds like the perfect vacation!

  2. S.S. says:

    I just went on a 2 week vacation to Italy! Cinque Terre was BEAUTIFUL! We didn’t know about the ferry, but i bet that was equally as beautiful.
    I agree that they walk everywhere! We walked so much, I had to buy a belt and I lost about 6-8 lbs! And I ate pizza, pasta, lots of gelato(everyday), wine everyday!…It goes to prove if we just get off that couch we can do anything 🙂 Just WALK and climb stairs 🙂

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

< Previous Post | Next Post >