The CINQUETERRE, Italy’s Riviera … 2001
My first blog, "Lodging in Italian Monasteries", told of my dream trip to Italy with my good friend Douglas. We were there for a month and the only place where we did not have reservations was in the Cinqueterre. We had read somewhere that all you needed to do was show up and someone would appear with rooms to rent.
We had a long train ride from Venice but finally arrived at the small town of Monterosso al Mare. I felt disappointed at first & it wasn’t until we climbed the stairs and came out onto the street that I gasped in delight. This was the most spectacular vista that I’d ever seen. Douglas decided to test the “rooms to rent” theory and, sure enough, he had barely let it be known that we were in need when a lady on a bike approached him. We were able to rent a wonderful villa for the three days that we were there.
The Cinqueterre, meaning “five lands” is five small villages clinging to the coast of the Italian Riviera. Each town has a different character and they boast sandy beaches, steep paths, vineyards, walkways, harbors, and staggering views. They are connected by the trains that run from tunnel to tunnel.
We knew that the best way to see the area would be on foot. We were staying at the topmost village so we hopped a train the next morning and started at the bottom in Riomaggiore. The trek from there to Manarola was a cakewalk, but it rapidly changed as we made our way to Corniglia and from there to Vernazza it became rugged, steep, and actually dangerous in spots. We hated to give up but we agreed to be sensible and took the train back from the 4th village to Montrose al Mare.
Both Douglas and I had found the food to be excellent in Italy but he was more adventuresome than I. One night I wanted to rest up, wash my hair, write postcards, etc., so he went out alone. He came back wreathed in smiles. He had gone to our favorite spot and told the owner to “just serve me anything”. He said he was treated like a king. He had no idea what he ate but it was “delicious”, as was the gelato that he brought back to me.
My favorite memory of those 3 days was sitting at a small table sipping an espresso and just soaking up the atmosphere. Then Douglas tapped me on the arm and said, “Oh, look at what’s approaching”. I turned and gazed as one of the most beautiful girls I’ve ever seen walked slowly past our table. She wore no makeup and her dress was modest but she was regal enough to be a queen and on top of her head was a huge wicker basket filled with nothing but bright and glistening golden lemons.