Saturday, April 30, 2011

Cinque Terre

The Cinque Terre are known to anyone who watches Rick Steves’ shows on PBS. His publicity of this region has probably spoiled it for any residents who want privacy and quiet in their daily lives. However, I am forever grateful to him for bringing these towns to light because it has some of the most memorable scenery and panoramas of any place on earth.

We arrived in Manarola after driving through a pretty heavy downpour over the most tortuous roads imaginable. The twists and turns we went through while going up the mountains outside of La Spezia were challenging to our driver Brian, who admirably maneuvered our van Big Bertha through the gauntlet. We arrived at the outskirts of the village, only to find gates closing the road off to traffic. I plead our case to the woman at the check point and she said we could go on down this narrow little road, but we had only 20 minutes to off-load our bags and get back out of there or we would be fined. They are not friendly to vehicles in the CT, nor should they be. Life here is predominantly based on foot traffic because of the abundant hiking trails and the narrow twisty streets.

We found our meeting point with no problem (there is only one street in town!), we took out the bags we needed and Brian and Mike drove the van back up to the general parking area. Unfortunately, as we waited there with our bags, I was unable to get in touch with our landlady. Her home phone remained unanswered and her cell phone went automatically to voice mail. After 20 minutes or so I began to get agitated and worried that we would be homeless! I finally managed to reach our rental agency and they directed me to the steepest set of stairs imaginable, above the Tabacchi we were standing right in front of! From there we were able to meet up with our landlady’s son who helped us tote our bags up to our apartment, Il Baluardo.

We had to walk up a very steep hill, dragging the bags behind us, then maneuver down a steep set of stairs, turn left into a little alley and there was our home sweet home. It was totally worth the trek! What an amazing view this little apartment has! Our lodging is on the bottom floor and consists of a small bedroom, a medium sized kitchen and a little bathroom. Brian and Vikki’s apartment is upstairs and has a big bedroom but a smaller kitchen and bathroom.

We sit every morning and every evening on our terrace and look out over the Ligurian Sea. As the sun sinks down into the water, the sky turns pink and blue and the lights over the surrounding hills sparkle in the gloaming. Our neighbor hangs her laundry out on her rooftop next door to us, and I asked her if she ever tires of the view. She said regardless of the season, there is always something new to see and love. She said that sometimes she doesn’t even notice what is around her, but then she talks to someone like me who has never seen such beauty and she stops to look again, to appreciate the gifts she has been given.

Life here must be hard, with very few conveniences and many difficulties surrounding day to day survival. I don’t know that I would want to have this be my permanent home. But for the few days that we are here, I am reveling in the views, the people, the food and the peace that comes at the end of a long day of trekking through the surrounding towns. We are blessed!

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