Visiting The Cinque Terre.
One of my many ambitions in life was to visit the Cinque Terre in Italy, a series of tiny villages perched along a steep cliff in Liguria. There is a famous trek linking the five villages, and very popular with tourists.
We planned our week away from our village to explore this region and to complete the eleven kilometre hike. I managed to book a B&B in the village of Coniglia, part of the Cinque Terre region. Our trusty GPS delivered us to the front door of a delightful two storied cottage. The owner, Luigi, greeted us enthusiastically and babbled away in rapid Italian, much to my horror as I had great difficulty understanding him. I begged him to slow down, to no avail. He began to make odd movements, rubbing his belly, under his arms, across his back, continually asking,
We looked on blankly thinking to ourselves that our host was a bit odd, but he happily continued to repeat this strange word that had not been part of my vocabulary in the two years I had been learning basic Italian.
Finally, I produced my phrase book and we looked it up together. Simple. Did we want towels! Yes we did.
We were shown to our apartment upstairs which was a loft. One large room had a kitchenette in the corner, a dining table and chairs, a lounge and a large bed covered with a pretty bedspread. The outside walls were so low we had to bend over double to move around. The bathroom/ laundry was new with a sloping ceiling. We hit our head on the ceiling every time we stood up from the toilet. It took time to become accustomed to lowering our head in different areas of the apartment. Our host was delightful, nothing was too much trouble and even offered to help Rick set up his internet. That was a comedy of errors.
Several bottles of wine later there was still no internet. We decided the internet wasn’t important at this stage. In the meantime, we had become best friends with Luigi. My Italian had improved with the help of the wine, and we enjoyed lively conversation with Rick playing charades.
The following morning, we donned our hiking boots and backpacks to begin our hike with final instructions from our host. The first stage was flat and easy with glorious views.
‘This is a breeze,’ I called out to Rick.
We were at the end of the season which meant we didn’t have the masses of tourists. We made it to Manarola for coffee and pastries to fuel ourselves for the next section.
Now we faced the steps. Lots of steps, but our spirits were high, it was invigorating to be actually achieving a dream. We followed the well-worn path with rough, uneven steps where so many had trod before. The cliffs were steep with no fencing or safety rails. I wondered how many people had disappeared over the edge.
Stopping for refreshments and a break in each village gave us the chance to watch the locals go about their day. Everywhere there were steps, and more steps. Sometimes we saw tiny restaurants tucked along the cliffside, olive groves reached down to the ocean.
‘How on earth do they harvest the olives?’ Rick asked a local.
Much to his delight we were able to observe the machinery in its simplest form which satisfied Rick’s curiosity.
We passed grape vines, goats, and superb rose bushes in full bloom along our way. The path was only wide enough for one person which meant climbing up a steep surface to allow someone to pass.
I was living my dream, walking the Cinque Terre. The eleven- kilometre hike was challenging but exhilarating.
Sipping a glass of icy wine in the final village of Riomaggiore, we felt very pleased with ourselves.We boarded the train back to Coniglia, trekked up another steep slope to our home, to be greeted by Luigi who congratulated us enthusiastically. We fell into bed and slept the sleep of the weary.
Exploring this region by car was quite a frightening experience. The steep, narrow, winding roads offered amazing views, but I found I was anxiously holding the car door while my cool and calm husband negotiated the roads. And then there were the tunnels. I didn’t quite trust the traffic lights and wondered if we would strike a truck coming in the opposite direction. Thankfully this didn’t happen. It was certainly worthwhile, but I was relieved to descend the mountain and enjoy dinner in a ‘ristorante’ by the sea.
We were sad to wave ‘arrivederci’ to Luigi and his family. We departed with bruises on our heads as a reminder of our time in his loft.
BUT… we had done it! Hiked the Cinque Terre. I was ecstatic.
And so, my love affair with ‘Bella Italia’ continues.
Jenny Old AUTHOR
‘Innocent Nurses Abroad’
‘Back of Beyond’ Facebook