Archive for August 28th, 2008

Cinque Terre


The sun setting over Italian vineyards.

The sun setting over Italian vineyards.

The train ride from Rome to Pisa is likely a popular one for tourists wishing to see the fabled leaning tower. Returning to the historic streets of Rome before the sun sets. Yet Pisa is not the final destination on those train tracks, it is just a minute long pause on the way to the region of Cinque Terre.

I did not get off at Pisa, instead I continued to Vernazza, the fourth of five coastal villages on the Italian coast. Each village is connected by rail, boat and trail. I have since talked to people who have traveled to Cinque Terre and found it alright, another stop, just some villages on the coast. Oh sure, they were awfully nice little towns but they were not wowed by this. I think I know why.

Those who did not love Cinque Terre took the trains betweens the towns, finishing one town, hopping on the train to the next. I took another path to see the five villages, I took the trails. They snaked their way through the hills near the sea, parts shrouded by low dusty trees, others open with shrubs and rock. Seeing the area this way made each town a reward, a treasure that glimpsed into and out of view as the paths wound about. The trail changed between stone steps a few feet across to a dusty foot wide path cutting across a forested hills.

My first day I went between Vernazza and Monterosso, the hardest stretch between the towns (hardest along the ocean anyway). At the end near Monterosso stone steps led between vineyards and yards. Along the path was a small shack with two men selling their wine. Dogs and children ran up and down the path, much faster then myself. Monterosso itself was the most commercial, and largest, of the five. As the sun set on the town I started back to Vernazza, I caught up to the sunlight and looked back to see the vineyards illuminated by the fading light.

The next day I walked from Vernazza to Riomaggiore. Luckily by going in this direction the path started out hard and gradually got easier as I approached the end. The best gelato in Italy was in Corniglia: honey (locally made) and cinnamon. At the edge of that town was a steep switchback going down to sea level. Enjoying my gelato I started down and passed some very tired people heading up the path. The looked enviously at my gelato as I walked lightly down to the sea.

On another section of path was a picnic table covered in cats. On the table resided a pail with a sign on it. Written in several languages was the message: “Please use the food in this bucket to feed this homeless and unloved cats. Thank You!”. The cats appraised me for food potential as I walked by, their food dish was full. I wonder how those cats are doing.

My original plan was to walk to the end of the towns and back in one day. Once I reached Riomaggiore I decided to take the train back. The threatening clouds also influenced my decision.

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