Stories about early morning hiking from village to village, tiny pesto plants, picnics along the docks, and finally diving into the waters of the Tyrrhenian sea. Buon giorno, Italia.
Hello Cinque Terre
After two weeks of being lugged around Italian cities without a swimmable body of water in sight, I was happy, ecstatic actually, to be moving onward to the five cliffside villages of Cinque Terre. Taxis, commercialized shops, and fast food chains be damned. Give me the sea, the sun, and rolling hills and I'll happily bask in their simplicity. These towns along the Amalfi Coast are truly stunning. While Rome gets to claim its stake in historical significance, the way that Cinque Terre has clung so well to its traditions and minimalistic lifestyle is applaudable. No hotel or hostel in sight throughout these towns-- they stick with the quaint Italian village vibes.
I arrive at the town of Corniglia, the middle town of the string of five villages on a hot and sticky day, which is starting to feel typical of Italian summers by now. Of course, Corniglia is the one town that happens to be perched at the top of a cliff; I am greeted by 365 stairs to get to the town, with luggage in hand. I've never been more grateful to have packed light.
Waking up in Corniglia
Seeing as the towns are separated by trails, hiking from town to town was on the top of my list of things to do. The mission - tackle two of the tougher of the four trails from Corniglia to Vernazza, then Vernazza to Monterosso, avoid the hordes of tourists that I know I wouldn't want to be stuck behind on the narrow paths, and also avoid the trail fees that started at 9 AM. Crack of dawn, it is.
Somewhere along the way to Monterosso from Vernazza (the steepest and narrowest portion of the hike), I was lucky enough to run into Alister-- or to be more specific, he sprinted past me and in typical insanity, I thought I could keep up and started running through a hiking trail that most people carefully trudge through. After racing through the cliffs for about 5 minutes, I found out that Alister, originally from Cape Town, participates in trail races around the world and that he practices all the time by running through trails. You know. Casual.
I made it to the rocky beaches of Monterosso, met up with Alister, and we went to a local grocery store to pick up food for a picnic on the docks. Together we came up with: a block of cheese, a loaf of bread, a container of the craziest homemade pesto (Cinque Terre is swamped in potted small basil plants by every door and window), and slices of various Italian cured meats.
We laid a picnic out by the harbor that was littered with small boats, swapped travel destinations and stories, sipped on fresh squeezed lemonade slushies, talked about what we missed most about home, and dove into the water. All this while getting burnt to crisp in the unrelenting summer sun.
After an exhausting but extremely gratifying morning spent making my way through trails for hours (as I would do every morning, by the way), I was ready to laze around. Exploring the narrow pathways winding through the tiny towns, going for more swims, tanning to a crisp, buying cone after cone of gelato, sipping on espressos while reading.
Having grown up in the Silicon Valley that always seems to be buzzing with things to do or people blowing up your phone with notifications of too many social media platforms, living without wi-fi and complications was a pretty beautiful thing.
I could stay here forever
saying hello to all the locals day in and day out, watching the sunrise on the trails, and watching the sunset on the docks. Maybe I will.
Until next time, Cinque Terre.