Sunday, May 1, 2011

Catching up... the Cinque Terre

So, tomorrow night Ryan will be home!  Yeah!  It has been forever since I last saw him and can hardly wait to hear first hand some of he and Emily's latest adventures and see lots of pictures.  But most of all, I truly want to just enjoy him being home - enjoying his laugh and smiles, his music - the piano has been calling you - and even his laundry.  I want to enjoy my family being around the table and maybe even playing a game of Chinese checkers or two.

I also, want to finish my story of my trip to Europe to visit Ryan and Emily and Michelle before he returns home... so onto the Cinque Terre.  I am quite sure I never knew of this enchanted land hugging the rocky coast of northern Italy - but I am very thankful my daughter did.

The Cinque Terre are five small towns - maybe even considered villages - that are only connected by train or trails.  Each one can be individually accessed by narrow, winding steep roads but  there are no roads between them.  They grip the edge of the sparkling turquoise sea dotting the cliffs with pastel hued homes and shops as if in a fairyland.   Carved into the steep hillsides are vineyards and small farms.  Fishing boats bob gloriously in the bays waiting to be  hoisted up to the towns narrow streets before the tide changes.  No one is hurrying.  Italians and visitors linger outside in the evening savoring the sunsets and cooler temperatures.  Daybreak comes and the shop keepers open their shutters and welcome you in with genuine warmth.

A small balcony over looking the sea in Corniglia
We stayed in the middle town, Corniglia.  It is teasingly referred to where the mountain goats live because it truly is clinging to the hillside.  If I remember right it was 370 stairs down to the train station!  It had a wonderful cove for swimming and jumping off the rocks.  They had built a cement jetty where everyone gathered to soak in the Mediterranean sun.  We had a delightful little apartment - the proprietor did not even ask for our payment up front - "just find me before you leave"  (she worked at one of the small bakeries).  Our first afternoon we spent in the water - swimming, jumping off the rocks and soaking in the sun.  We made our own dinner of pasta and fresh local tomatoes and basil, which we enjoyed so much we made it again the following evening!  Add a glass of wine and of course a short walk to the gelatorie and we felt we had tasted a little of heaven.

One goal was to actually swim in each of the towns bays - Riomaggiore -is the furthest west - the train takes you the edge of the town, where you can take a elevator up to the town.  Each town had its own distinct flavor - I could have settled down for days in any of them. (But Corniglia did turn out to be our favorite.)  From Riomaggiore you can "hike" towards Manarola along the lover's walk.  It really is a paved walkway along the edge of the cliffs and part way through there is a statue of two lovers kissing.  People attach locks to the fencing behind it which is to prevent them from being torn apart.  Of course we had to have Emily and Ryan sit in front of the figures and kiss for us:)  A little further we came upon a musician playing in the tunnel part of the hike - where  Emily and Ryan enjoyed a sweet dance!

We took the train to Vernazza and Monterossa.  Monterossa is furthest north and edges the Italian "Riviera."  It has a wonderful long beach - but nearly all of it - one has to pay to enjoy and use the lounge chairs.  We walked to the far end - still lots of sand  and swimming but tucked in with fishing boats.  We all took a short nap, I think, and cooled off in the water.  Monterossa felt much more like a tourist town - it is considerably more level, has several large hotels and shops.  We did a little grocery shopping before heading back on the train to Corniglia for the night.  Tired and warm but I wouldn't have changed anything.

Our last morning we cleaned up the apartment, paid for our stay and headed out to play in the water again - only to find out the wind and waves on the Mediterranean were huge that morning.  No chance of going swimming - the waves crashed over the cement jetty and found Michelle and Ryan testing my nerves as they stood out on the edge!  We watched for a while and then headed to Vernazza to swim  (it has a more protected bay- but still parts of the walkways were closed to pedestrians) enjoyed lunch, a  little shopping and more gelato!

None of us were really ready to leave - but Ryan and Emily had to get back for work the next day - so off we headed back to Garmisch.  We all fell in love with the beauty and simpleness of everyday - especially in Corniglia.  Fortunately for Ryan and Emily - they were able to enjoy visiting this magical land of pastel homes, bright sapphire seas and delicious tomatoes again.  Maybe I will too, someday.

P.S.  So I didn't get this quite done before Ryan arrived - but he is home and we have had a wonderful weekend enjoying being a family.

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