Every once in a while, I get to spend a weekend somewhere while I’m travelling for work. In July, I was fortunate enough to get a weekend in the Cinque Terre region on the Ligurian coast of Italy. “Cinque Terre” translates into “Five Lands“, the lands being 5 villages. I spent Saturday morning in the villages of Riomaggiore and Manarola, which are the first two villages you encounter when heading Northwest from La Spezia. I then went to Monterosso, Corniglia, and Vernazza, then returned to spend the early part of Sunday in Vernazza prior to catching a train back to Napoli for work on Monday.
The combined experience of the Cinque Terre region and La Spezia were inspirational to me. As much as I enjoyed Florence, and as much as I love the people of Napoli, the “CT” or “5 Terre” just felt like a second home to me. What follows is the beginning of a nearly chronological series of posts of my travels through the Cinque Terre.
I left my room in La Spezia around 6:30 am. After stopping by a local caffeteria to enjoy a cappuccino, a chocolate sfogliatella, and washing those down with a caffe espresso, I headed towards the train station. That’s when I saw the traditional brooms on the street cleaning cart. The light was low, I had Ektar loaded, but I had to try to get a shot of it! It’s a little blurry, but I have the memory captured on a negative.
I bought a 2-day train pass at La Spezia station. The pass allows unlimited rides between La Spezia and Levanto, ad every stop at the CT villages. The transaction went smoothly. The elderly lady at the ticket counter understood all I said, I understood her, I was even able to ask where to get the ticket validated. 30 minutes into my day – everything had been in Italian with no repeating what I said or misunderstanding other people. It was going to be a good day!
As I got off the train in Riomaggiore, I was happy to finally be visiting the Cinque Terre. I just took a few minutes to soak it all in and “be there”. As I headed towards the marina, my first real glimpse of what I expected the CT to look like appeared in front of me:
Even though the light was low – this is about what it looked like to me – walking through a dark, narrow passage in the ancient buildings, the soft, cool light of pre-sunrise accentuating the blue and whites and banishing the red and orange into the shadows.
Sunrise had technically happened, but the hills rise so sharply out of the sea that it is a few hours before light actually filters down to the coastline. I hadn’t thought of this, so I had Svema 64 and Ektar 100 loaded in my two Maxxum 5’s. A disadvantage of film – you can’t just change ISO settings for the light conditions. I took one photo of the houses on the rocks at the marina, and happened upon a couple locals preparing for a day of fishing.
I then decided to head up the Eastern slopes and explore the village while getting some photos as the sun gradually worked higher in the sky. I remember thinking as I walked up the countless steps and pathways to reach the road high up on the hill that comes into Riomaggiore that I probably got my 10,000 steps in before 9 am! This was a great way to explore the village, and it seemed most people weren’t really active yet.
By the time I had completed my circuit and arrived back at the marina, I looked like I had gone swimming while fully clothed. It was already hot, and it was humid. After I took a few photos I sat down, took my shirt off, draped it on some rocks to dry a bit, and relaxed for about half on hour while I drank a liter of water. I also snapped a few pictures, and spent much of that time watching a sailboat anchored just outside the marina, which I think inspired my newest early retirement objective to live on a sailboat. In my next post in this series, I’ll retrace my visit to Manarola via the “531” trail.