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Sometimes it’s the lesser-known places that give you some of your best-loved photos.

Like many Antipodeans coming to Europe in the 1990s, I came with a list of well-known cities I wanted to tick off: Paris, Rome, Berlin, Amsterdam, Madrid. These were the well-known cities, the ones written about in newspaper travel supplements or on TV shows, the ones on postcards from my sisters a decade before.

But after living in London for 25 years, I’ve found it’s some of the smaller places that have been more inspiring to travel around.

When I was in the Amalfi Coast for a friend’s wedding a decade back, I stayed in Atrani, Italy’s smallest city. It was little more than five minutes’ swift walk from Amalfi, it’s central thoroughfare clogged with day trippers from an almost constant steam of coaches. In Atrani’s square, I watched the local kids play football as I sipped a coffee. The local butcher did the same from the doorway of his shop.

In 2016, I took a trip across southern France to Italy, across the rivieras the jet-set flock too. We flew into Nice and flew back from Genoa. Apart from Monte Carlo, the other towns we visited were complete surprises. The best of them was Sanremo, where this photo was taken.

Sanremo is a small but beautifully atmospheric town on the coast. The old town sits high up on the hill, the new town built nearer the railway station near the beach. On a June day we had its twisting alleyways almost to ourselves.

My most abiding memory isn’t the calm of the old town proper, but this moment on the bustling edge of the main town.

The guy here was clearly a street seller – you see them in town squares and tourist spots across Europe, especially in the summer months. They sell cheap souvenirs and knock-off football shirts, fake designer sunglasses and faux Rolexes. Many of them are economic migrants who have faced possible death in the hope of a better life in Europe.

These sellers don’t have licences and could be fined and have their goods impounded if caught by police. So they keep a watchful eye out for cops.

It was exactly what this guy was doing, peering around the corner. You can see the cops strolling through the arch. Purists might have snapped this on black-and-white or colour beg – the camera I had to hand was my Cosina CX-2, loaded with old Agfa CT100 to cross process.

The Cosina is quiet and great for street shooting like this – but the guy heard. He whipped round, and smiled sheepishly when he saw it was just a tourist taking shots. He sauntered off. No run-ins with the police, at least not this day.

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Stephen Dowling
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