Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Languid Pace of the Cinque Terre

We collected our bags from the train station in Pisa and caught our train to La Spezia. (Can you see glimpses of the Dolomite Alps in the back of the picture?)
We switched to an even smaller train to get to Vernazza, one of five tiny little towns clinging to the oceanside cliffs of the Cinque Terre. Cinque Terre means "Five Lands," referring to five little towns towns set along the rocky shore of the Ligurian Sea. The towns were completely isolated from each other and the outside world for many years, only occasionally attracting attacks from pirates. Eventually roads or paths connected the towns, but even now you have to park a car in a parking lot above the city before you can visit. 
We stayed in Vernazza, an extremely vertical little village, that winds its way up a steep cliff. It is nestled along the shore with a tiny breakwater and harbor --and an even tinier beach. There aren't really hotels in Vernazza. They pretty much only have affitacamere (individual rooms to let), usually up over a store or restaurant-- and up a gazillion stairs. 
Of all of the places we stayed on this trip, only our Paris lodgings had an elevator (and a tiny one at that). This place was no exception, but it added a whole new meaning and adventure to the task of taking a few bags up stairs.
It's hard to tell from the pictures quite how steep these stairs are: in some places it felt more like a ladder than a staircase. Even the height of the individual stairs was not uniform. 
We settled into our room overlooking the main street of the town, Via Roma.
The place did not come equipped with air-conditioning, but it did come with our very own, handy-dandy clothesline hanging right out our window. Luckily we were near the ocean and high enough up to get a reasonable breeze. 
We settled into our new --actually quite old-- digs, changed into cooler clothes,
and then set out to explore our environs. 
Vernazza is simply beautiful. The town, the water, the coastline... It is all breathtaking.

And even better, there was not a single museum in sight or really even anything to do besides eat, hike, swim and enjoy the scenery. 

We walked along the water front. Dinner was an amazing seafood risotto (more like a brothy tomato-seafood stew) and pesto-- made in the region that invented it-- in a tiny restaurant next door to our rooms. We sat outdoors and listened to the owner and his friend serenade us on the guitar. (Okay, the picture is from the next day. I didn't have my camera with me when we ate that night.)

After dinner, Dave and I walked to the waterfront. We sat on the rocks to listen to the ocean and watched the moon sink below the horizon, blazing a strange unearthly glow of red and gold. The sky glowed with thousands of stars and the Milky Way stretched across the night sky like a foamy wave on the ocean. There is something about Vernazza that is just magical. It is almost like the town itself is inviting you to surrender to the languid pace of the Cinque Terre. 

No comments: