One of the sites on my " to do'' list before ' tourist overflow and too hot' season begins was Cinque terre. Last Saturday was set as the official date for the day trip to the North west coast of Italy with weather forecast promising ideal conditions for a day at the seaside.
I jumped on the first bus to Parma, equipped myself with a Napolitanese pastry for the road and a quick cafe normale before boarding on the first train to the coast with fellow hungries Chris and Meghan, with whom I share, among other things, a common food obsession and thus anticipation.
A couple of hours later and we arrived at monterosso, the eastern village of the five along the Cinque terre path. The sun was shy, still hiding behind the clouds, but the turquoise sea and the terraced landscape were unabashed. We took a stroll around the village, before stopping at the local focaccia shop for a supply of focaccias (with a selection of local toppings) for the picnic break. Not before the hike. During. Damn.
Ready and able we began the hike to Vernazza, also known as 'the difficult one'. It clearly became evident to me that
a. I was not in shape at all
b. I had clearly been doing too much eating and too little exercising since I arrived in Italy.
It was tough and at one point it seemed as if going up will last forever, as every turn revealed what seemed like endless, uneven steps. As much as I hate the damn things, climbing each step brought the gradual revelation of the magnificent landscape; rows of vineyards, ripe lemon trees, cherry blossom , bright colored wild flowers and a sparkling blue Med. Overwhelming and indigestible, it was worth every muscle now aching in my body.
Skipping to Riomaggiore, to a lunch by the harbor eating a plate of locally fished small fried fish, Pesto Pasta and a plate of pretty little clams, accompanied by a chilled white wine.
Our final destination was the village of Manarola, just in time for the setting sun to bring out all the colors. The trail, the scenery, the sun, the sea, the climate, the company, the pesto, the lack of tourists, the perfect timing; everything was just right. My aching body and dozens of photographs are proof it all happened, or I could easily think none of it was real.
Who invented Disney World when this place exists??