Tuesday, February 06, 2007

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.

14 Comments:

Blogger Cazzie!!! said...

You painted a picture that spoke a million words with your description, and I so want to go to Italy before I depart this dear World of ours!!
I think it is why I love the movie, "Ünder the Tuscan Sun"..the actress did as you were doing, soaking up the atmosphere, getting to know the locals and being treated like a lady :)

6:48 PM  
Blogger KGMom said...

I am so jealous. Even though I have traveled a fair bit, and have written about it, one place I have seen, except in pictures, and would love to go is Cinqueterre. Every picture I have ever seen makes it look like such a magical place. Your description has only enhanced that perception.

7:30 PM  
Blogger Laurie said...

What a wonderful tale you weave. I almost felt as if I were with you on the trip. Thank you.

9:05 PM  
Anonymous claude said...

You're making me feel like I need a trip to Italy!

12:18 AM  
Blogger Ginnie said...

Thanks everyone for the great comments. What I loved about the Cinqueterre also was the fact that it was not overrun with tourists. That was especially true in the smaller of the 5 villages.

4:56 AM  
Blogger Anvilcloud said...

A good memory for you to share on this wintry day.

7:29 AM  
Anonymous John said...

Back in the 80s I was fortunate enough to work for a large Italian company, which meant that I had many visits to Italy. Their HQ was in Bologna, the home of the very best Italian food. I loved it !
BTW I once met an American lady in Geneva who was touring Europe with her daughter and living on steak and Coca Cola :-)

8:27 AM  
Blogger kenju said...

I'm with Cazzie. You described it so well. I really do want to go back to Italy and explore areas we didn't see last year, especially Lake Como and the Cinqueterre.

11:49 AM  
Blogger Pam said...

I'm not a person to be jealous, but Ginnie, I'm positively green! Thank heavens the pictures you paint with words take on form and color in my mind.

As to your comment on my stab at political humor, right on!

3:22 PM  
Blogger Suzy said...

Lovely, Ginnie!

5:48 PM  
Blogger Ginger said...

Wow! This trip to Italy sounds like an absolute dream. Was it all this glorious?

8:48 AM  
Blogger Ellis Nadler said...

I was there last summer...my first time too. I took this photo:
http://flickr.com/photos/nad/211288702/

4:58 AM  
Anonymous Terri said...

This sounds like Paradise Found. I've never been to that part of Italy, but it looks gorgeous. I loved Venice and Tuscany and have to agree on the wine and food. Actually, I found much of the wine to rival that of France.
What great memories you have stored away and thanks for sharing them.

5:32 AM  
Blogger vicariousrising said...

Cinque Terre is magical. I was there in the fall of 1998 and I would so love to go back. Hiking those 5 hills was terrific, but a bit daunting at times. My husband and I loved it, though.

Thank you for this post. It brought me back. One of my favorite dishes from that region is a pasta called trofie, which are hand formed twisted noodles that are perfect for the pesto sauce that they are famous for.

Grazie!

~Judith

10:13 AM  

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