Vernazza

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…

 

Corniglia and cactus toes

Cactus!

That’s what I am, cactus! Don’t you love that expression? Just trekked 4k up mountains, past cactus, through olive groves and down dales then back up more mountains to the dear little cliff-top dwelling village of Corniglia. A pathway so well travelled the erratically placed stones are shiny with wear, or is that sweat?

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Breathtaking! And I’m not talking view. Though you will see that was quite spectacular by the photos, taken at intervals, for self assurance really. Over there on that distant mountain the reward awaits! Of the alcoholic kind.

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Meanwhile Germans with thick brown ankles, backpacks and ski poles are zooming by. A clutch of teens in thongs (Jandals/Flipflops for the non Aussies) are literally skipping up the path chattering away without even drawing breath. With no breath to draw of my own I bleat ‘Ciao!’ No niceties today. I pretend I’m Bear Grylls. Invincible. Nope. Not working.

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Stagger over the threshold of what I assume to be the start of the village, thrusting fist in air in defiance, I am champion!!

The rocky song running through my head I look around for a can of Solo to throw over my face and ‘slam down fast’, just to lend weight to triumph. And then I see the sign. ‘Congratulations! Your half way there’.

 

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Was it worth it? Absolutely! Did I reward myself? Yup! With a double raspberry Frappe, don’t really like Solo! The alcohol? Well that will be my reward for floating down the 450 steps to the train station on the other side of the village without once smugly telling the tourists gasping for breath as they climb heavenward…’Congratulations! Ya half way there mate!’

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