Cinque Terre

Oops I found Manarola…

Confession. Took a train ride between villages without a ticket! It was a ticket machine malfunction officer.

La Spezia to the first of the five villages of the Cinque Terre – Riomaggiore, Vernazza, Corniglia, Monterosso and later, on to Genoa. Meanwhile just one last village to conquer…Manarola.

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20130822-114204.jpg20130822-114357.jpgThe ‘Via dell’Amore‘ was closed due to rock slides. A shame. The Lovers Walk, a narrow pathway linking Riomaggiore and Manarola, clings precariously to the rocky cliffs along the ocean front and provides the perfect platform for viewing spectacularly romantic sunsets. Hence the name.

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20130822-114844.jpgThe village, again tucked into a tiny crevice has quaint lanes so narrow, the jumble of tall buildings clinging one atop the other almost touch, held strong only by random stone archways. Cool, dark and perfect for dodging the drips from washing strung high above, smiling at Nona’s sweeping doorsteps and searching for the little surprises that whisper of the village personality.

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Emerge at the top of the main thoroughfare, quick glance in the local church, light a candle then on down the promenade past the same linens, lemons and lazy diners as the other villages, and on to the harbor.

20130822-114636.jpgQuaint, sheltered between large jagged rock formations, smeared with bright towels and sunbathers and topped with teens daring to dive into deliciously cool water between rowboats of softy hued blue yellow and red. They do, to the raucous cheers of folk lining the narrow side steps leading to the cliff walks.

Continuing around one of the cliff paths, discover a whole other little world tucked in behind steeper rock formations, again hosting swimmers as well as a number of large yachts anchored in the still waters.

20130822-114928.jpgExhausting the camera’s battery, indulge in a Ligurian style pasta brimming with seafood followed by a tiny scoop of Lemon Gelato then, with a satisfied smile, slip discreetly into a tourist wave and back onto the train.

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And thus concludes my dreamy days in the Cinque Terre…have I inspired you?

Stay tuned for the French Riviera!

Bragging rights in Riomaggiore…

OK! Gonna brag. No. Not the Instagram ‘here are my red lacquered toe nails on a beach in the Bahamas’ kind of brag. No. This is the ‘here are my Coral lacquered toe nails on a sunny terrace overlooking the magnificent Mediterranean’.

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My new home for 7 days is a small studio with a big view, sitting atop a steep winding road just above the castle behind which sloping steps sweep back down to join the start of Via Colombo, the main thoroughfare that leads down to the harbor.

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Riomaggiore doesn’t have quite the same ‘distressed’ antiquity as Vernazza and Monterosso; more fresh paintwork, wider walkways, yet the same tall houses resting against each other like drunken sailors in shades of terra cotta, soft pink and dusty green complemented with moss green shutters, washing lines and flower pots bursting Geraniums. But where are the cats?

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Via Colombo is steep and wide, two or three deep steps down the sides into shops serving fried seafood cones, pizza squares and colorful gelato; Italian linen shirts, sarongs and sunscreens, Limoncello, local wines and home made pasta. As well, little bistros and restaurants, some with outdoor elevated seating. Still haven’t found a cat.

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The road slides to a halt at the tunnel junction – to the right a very long one lined with a beautiful ocean blue mosaic leading to the train station and to the left down steps and under the railway tunnel to the harbor, ferry access and beach.

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The harbor is a sheltered enclave much like Manarola, smaller than Vernazza and crowded with colourful little boats and mossy rocks upon which bathers recline. The tiny crescent beach, accessible via a path carved into the cliff face, has bigger pebbles, smaller space and is wall to wall sunbathers, some attempting to wobble across unsteady terrain into water so crystal clear it belies the depth. A good thing for kids are diving in off the cliff. Easier and much less embarrassing access than the pebble wobble but I ain’t gonna try it. No cats.

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Unlike Vernazza there’s an absence of cats. Like Vernazza there’s the presence of church bells. Right below my door. Thankfully someone sent the memo…keep it down will you? Jane’s in residence.

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Coming soon: Another, possibly fateful, definitely horrendously steep walk from here to Manarola. Fortifying strength as we speak with a pleasant little local (wine that is) over another spectacular sunset. Oops! There I go again….

Day in the life (brain overdrive)…

Trawl La Spezia’s Friday clothing markets – malls of stalls heaving fluorescent jewelry, bikinis, Nonna house coats in 70 shades of blue, Nonno singlets in 50 shades of white, enough cork platforms to stopper Europe’s entire wine harvest, cheap perfume and rhinestone ‘I heart Italy’ tee-shirts (curse at wasted fare, console with large glass of wine)

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Admire deftness with which Nigerian hawkers foist their cachet of designer knock off bags into sheets and turn to shadow within the whiff of a cop (and the styles were all so last year)

Puzzle over chappy cycling by with a plastic shopping bag knotted on four corners over his head (alfalfa sprouts cheaper than hair plugs?)

Laugh at supermarket lady going sparko over exploded coke bottle (whole shop sprayed a pleasant golden brown, matches her tan)

Cringe when same screams ‘Peach you NOT squeeze!’ ‘Get OFF the banana!’ as a hapless Swede attempts to buy a fruit snack (mass exodus of terrified tourists)

Perfect mantra while puffing up countless steps to cemetery for super photo moment (‘buns of steel, burn pasta carb, buns of steel, burn…’)

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20130813-183458.jpgSip ‘Aperol Spritz’ (Prosecco, Aperol, soda water), appears de rigueur, tastes like Campari (gak!) and settle in to admire sunset (and hoover complementary chips and focacia cubes, cheap nosh)

Marvel at the volume of cats under the restaurant chairs (good thing they’re not rockers) waiting for the chips to fall (haa haa)

Hear a beat, explore, get swallowed by a thumping, smoke shrouded, strobe splattered dance party squeezed between the rocky outcrops of the harbor forecourt (say what?)

Gasp at volume of black eye patches (a load of lost eyeballs for such a small village?) learn it’s a Pirate theme (someone forgot to send the memo)

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20130813-183626.jpgStare (discreetly) at skinny brown women usually found standing in doorways smoking, tittering and yapping Chow! Chow! into their mobile phones (until tourists waving money lure them back to their shops), now teetering on tall cork platforms, sporting black on black body cons, blond bouffants and enormous fluorescent chandelier earrings (Er? Fashion police, we have a ‘situation’)

Observe Nonna’s on the benches eating ice cream, old chaps throwing back Nastros and Peronis (not one of ’em pinch my bum, what is that?) and kids trying to set fire to a boat (candles lining the street prove irresistible)

20130813-183518.jpgPonder the fire twirler’s choice of music…a song about Monday when it’s Friday (who cares?) Brain explosion.

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Hear the beat ratchet up a notch, hear Romeo calling ‘Where for art thou Jane? Thou hath warmed the bed for thee!’ (yeah right). It’s 3am and I have 4 hours to cram a sleep before the 7am bells start clamoring again. Twice! Right outside my window (bloody Village alarm clock)

Just another day…

 

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