Sunday, March 04, 2007

Cinque Terre

Today it's not raining, but there is a light mist. It's humid, but not cold. I must be off early. I am visiting Cinque Terre, on the Riviera di Levante in Liguria. The trip will be quick as I am expected to arrive in Zurich this evening on the 9 pm train. I could easily forgo this out of the way stop, but that would be to miss what I am told is breathtaking scenery that has inspired many a poet. I must go. I make my way out of town following yet another narrow road that snakes its way up the mountain side. I hope I am going in the right direction.

I stop at the crest of the hill to ask an elderly man for directions. The exchange is short as neither of us is quite sure what the other is saying. However, after a series of jests and pointing at the map, I'm pretty sure I am on the right track. I sneak one last peek at La Spezia before continuing on.

As I get further and further off the beaten path, the fog thickens. I wonder if I'm perhaps wasting my time. But I'm hoping the fog will burn off by the time I arrive. I travel through dense forest mastering one hairpin turn after another. Tiny, sleepy villages cling to the mountain side. I can't but wonder how people first came to such remote out of the way places. It's hard enough to get here by car...

I can feel the coast approach, the smell of salt in the air. The forest abruptly breaks open and the sky opens up above me. Then suddenly I see it. Nestled on the coast, where steep cliffs and hills drop precipitously into the Mediterranean, is the first of the five villages. It is stunning and I take a few minutes to breathe it all in: the terraced hillsides, the vineyards, the rocky cliffs, and the colourful houses.

I continue to make my way down the mountain side until I reach the city gates. There is no car traffic in the villages and all vehicles must be parked at the entrance. The village is tiny but bustling with a flurry of activity as the locals make their way through the narrow streets, or greet each other from the front of their shops. There are few tourists at this time of year so I am a noticable oddity. The locals, however, are quick to say hello and show their wares.

When I reach the coast, I realize that I can look in both directions and see all five of the villages. It's supposed to be a nice walk from one to the next, but I only have time to take a brisk walk to the one neighbouring village on this trip. Unfortunately my time is short. I will have to come back on another trip to more throroughly explore the coast that links these five charming villages. But right now, I have a train to catch.

Cinque Terre is a designated UNESCO World Heritage site.

14 comments:

The Fool said...

H'lo Carla...I was just at JBelle's and Paris...and now I get to flit through Cinque Terre. Life is good. I get quick escape travelogues on prep, and they make great introductions to some beautiful spots. I am not familiar with this location, which makes it even more enticing. I admire your freelance wandering...as time schedules and itineraries are their own intrusions. Very nice post. Thanks for sharing. Are you traveling over spring break?

rowena said...

Wow! You did the hike?! I've only gone from Riomaggiore to Corniglia...the "easy" side. ;-) Indeed, Cinque Terre is gorgeous when the summer crowds are gone, but the food! Ligurian cuisine is great!! Thanks for stopping by.

Carla said...

Fool, I wish I was able to get away during springbreak this year, but chances are I'm just going to lay low. But I am thinking about where my next travels will take me...ah, to dream.

Rowena, I didn't have time to do the whole hike, but yes, I did part of it. The scenery is spectacular. And yes, we can't forget the food. Italy is very much about the food. Thanks for your comments.

JBelle said...

ahhhhhh. I have never been. Until this morning. And I agree: Ligurian is sublime. Lovely, lovely post.

Carla said...

JBelle, Ah, the food. Isn't it everyone's first love? Okay maybe second.

Cheryl said...

What a nice way to start my day! I have to agree with Rowena about the timing and the food. It was November when we went, and we felt like the only non-locals there (although this was 12 years ago, so maybe it's busier now). The food was incredible too, the best tiramisu, foccacia, and pasta with clam sauce that I've ever had.
Thanks for taking me back there!

Carla said...

Cheryl, I thoroughly enjoyed traveling off season and there weren't too many crowds anywhere. I kept getting mistaken for a German tourist. I think they were surprised that someone was visiting from so far away at that time of year. I will definitely do it again if I get the chance.

Toby said...

I need to get out more, I didn't even know you were gone. Sounds like you're having a great time. I wish I was there... or anywhere warmer than it is here.

Barnes said...

Hello Carla.

Another beautiful Italian story, and great photographs. I feel that I am closer to Italy with each of these posts.

Thank you. :)

Carla said...

Hi Toby, actually, I was gone in December. This is just wishful thinking and reminiscing at this point. It was a great time, though.

Barnes, I am happy that you feel the beauty of Italy. It was a fabulous experience.

Mone said...

You just added another spot to my long list of - must see places in this lifetime - list.
Wonderful pictures, I'm of googeling some more about that wonderful place :)

Carla said...

Mone, I too have a very long list of "must see" places. I often wonder if it's doable, but it's nice to dream.

Fede said...

Hi Carla, Cinque Terre is a precious place. You might not be there any more but if you are you may consider spending the night in one of the many family houses offering a room for rent. Happy to know that you liked my home country. Take care.
Fede

Carla said...

Hi Fede, unfortunately you are right and I am no longer in Cinque Terre, however at some point I will undoubtedly return. When I do, I will make sure to stay in one of the family houses that you so kindly recommend. Thanks for dropping by.