Irregular Post; Cinque Terra, Italy

Tuesday, April 25 2017  Riomaggiore, Italy


Well, that was a FINE visit. Some places are “GoBackTo”, Cinque Terre especially Riomaggiore is one. I had been here in June 2015 while Meg was hiking in Spain. I knew she would like it, so I brought her here. Last time I was in Riomaggiore, I had a single small room up the hill of the village. beyond the restaurants and shops and harbor. This time for our 47th anniversary, we had a sea view upscale “top floor” room on the harbor. We overlooked the narrow protected harbor the small boat launch, restaurant, and out towards the sunset. ;~}We arrived on Thursday afternoon on the local train. It stops at all of the villages; Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and my favorite Riomaggiore. A long tunnel through the hillside leads into the village. A musician was playing; the songs echoed greeting thru the tunnel.

The village has a long street leading up the ravine. Buildings are brightly colored, tall and not wide, sharing common dividing walls. Narrow walk-alleys separate some of the buildings with stairs that ascend the ravine slope to other tall narrows above.

There are a lot of visitors! Holidays! Last weekend- Easter and Easter Monday, this LONG weekend – National holidays, school vacation time is USA and elsewhere. I did not see these people midweek in early June. We decided to hike the villages from Riomaggiore to Monterosso on Friday, to avoid the Saturday crush.

It was a LONG day; 9 hours on the trails. I had forgotten that I took the train between two and did not hike some land slided trails. The toughest trail is #531 from Riomaggiore to Manarola. It claims the be one kilometer (5/8th mile). It doesn’t say there is an elevation gain of 400 meters (1300ft) in a half km and then a descent of 400 km in a half km!!! The ravine slope is terraced with small vineyard and vegetable plots; stairs and stairs and stairs. Great views of the Ligurian Sea and the now small buildings far below. I had a nice long running conversation with a fellow hiker, a Policia from Turino. He wanted to speak English; he reads a lot of John Grisham but doesn’t get to converse much. He had studied to be a teacher but became a policeman in the traffic division. finally asked about “…your president.”. “Not mine. You can have him.” I replied. “NO! NO! He is crazy. You must keep him.” Meg had been conversing with a young woman from St Petersburg Russia. She was on vacation studying wine. We told her of the wines of 5Terre; assertive whites, fruity in front, tart, and the slight salt taste/aroma of the sea in the back. We talked of terroir and the emotions of the wines. I love talking with fellow travelers.

Did I mention the trail was long? The older easy coastal promenade had been closed by landslide and not yet repaired!? over the past several seasons. Trails are steep with rock “steps” at irregular intervals and heights. They pass thru little terraced vineyards, short forest, overlooks to the sea 300 meters below and then down into a village. Now the streets with the holiday visitors who do not hike, shops with local product and shops with souvenirs and small restaurants and …. Narrow stairs ascending between tall narrow colored buildings, visitors and locals in the walk-alleys; foto-heaven.

The last 1 ½ hours from Vernazza to Monterosso was WORK. Legs tired from the ascent…descent. I did remember the stride of centering work weight off your ankles forward to your balls of feet. It takes pressure off the quads and moves you more fluidly over the “flats”.

The train back home was welcome. The restaurant under our building with great food and local wine; welcome. It was 6P and they had just opened for dinner. “Reservations?” “No.” “OK we have a couple of tables available.” Immediately another young couple; same conversation. They were seated beside us. They were from Detroit; he had studied at Tufts in Medford and she at BU in Boston. She celebrating becoming a doctor!; a trip before residency.

Again the wine with the taste of the sea’s aroma. Grapes grown on terraces in the warm sun with cool nights, with reflected light off the sea, and the salt air infusing the fruit. High alcohol, 13%, because of the high sugar content of the grapes. “No, the reds are not very good.”

Saturday our quadriceps moaned; rebelled; protested the short walk/climb to the church 400 m above Riomaggiore. It is on the top of a promontory We could have walked to another coastal resort town about 5 hours away BUT….! It was good that we did not because the way home was the ferry and it had been shut down because of rough seas.Sunday we trained to all the other villages to fotograph. We had hiked in and then out on Friday, now we needed to be there for some exploring time. It had become showery and cool. I wanted the “atmospheric” shots. Really, there was no sun for the day, so it had to be the atmospherics. I must say the holiday crowds were IMPRESSIVE and not in a good way. There WAS lively crowds in and out f shops and restaurants and on the streets and on the TRAIN!!!! Still, I love this 5Terre. Best if I return some September/ October for grape harvest.

Foods? We never had a bad meal. Not high creative or gastronomical. But well done and consistently GOOD. Pesto is a local invention from up the road in Genoa. Here it is not heavy basil taste but a more even cheese/pine nut with faint basil sauce. It holds onto the pasta, coating the folds and indentations of the favored local pasta shape. Fruiti del mare; seppie (a squid relative), bream, swordfish , mussels, clams, and fresh anchovies! They will have some beef and vegetarian for those not into fish. There is ALWAYS pizza, dozens of kinds of thin crust yummy pizza! There is also some thick crust/bready single pieces for take away.

Monday was leaving day. ;~{ But the good thing was that the ferry was running again. “Cash Only” said the ticket window sign. One way for two to Monterosso; stops at Manarola, Vernazza and Monterosso. No stop at Corniglia which is on top of a 200 m cliff over the sea. Trains to Genoa and our hotel near the airport? We find a couple of OK alternatives that give us time for a last lunch in 5Terre. Up a side street away from the resorty beach and shops. For me; panasotta (like a triangle ravioli) with walnut cream sauce for the pasta and then grilled swordfish for secondi. Meg pesto on local shaped pasta and salad for secondi. OH! and wine as well. Taste the fruit and the sea before the train back.
Our business 4 star hotel was, by local bus, inconveniently located near the airport in an industrial area. BUT near enough to a neighborhood with a fine pizza menu! 6 pages of pizza varieties. 6 PAGES; life is tough. “Not too much to eat since we have an early flight and we do need to get some sleep.” I have a tough time sleeping with a very full stomach. Must be the age!

Cinque Terre, I am returning. It might be a couple of years but I am going back.

“Travel light and wear a smile.”

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