Tuesday, November 01, 2011

cinque terre

I was toying with the idea of doing some posts about places we've traveled, in part because I'm going to try that NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month) thing again, and in part because I've not talked much about it (although I always mean to), and it's a big part of our lives.  Then last night I heard about the flooding in Cinque Terre, and my heart broke.  This is such a beautiful region of Italy. The people were lovely, and each town was really special.

From Wikipedia:

The Cinque Terre is a rugged portion of coast on the Italian Riviera. It is in the Liguria region of Italy, to the west of the city of La Spezia. "The Five Lands" is composed of five villages: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. The coastline, the five villages, and the surrounding hillsides are all part of the Cinque Terre National Park and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The floods have devastated Monterosso al Mare and Vernazza completely, cars pushed into the first floor of buildings by the force of the mud and water. 

Vernazza October 2010
Vernazza post-flood (source)
Vernazza October 2010

Vernazza post-flood (source)

Monterosso October 2010

Monterosso post flood (source)
For more images of the flood, you can check out this slideshow.

We stayed in Manarola, the second most southerly town, and it appears to have been unscathed by the flooding.  But there are two ways in and out of the region, and the train can't get through Vernazza currently, so the only way to get around is by ferry.

We were in the region last year about a week or so before the flooding happened this year.  Our weather was mixed, but we were able to hike parts of the trails, we took the ferry from town to town, and we took the train, too. We rented a studio apartment, ate some spectacular meals, and just spent time wandering. Enjoying the sunshine, and the beautiful sunsets.

The first day we took the ferry from Manarola to Monterrosso, then hiked to Vernazza.

We got slabs of pizza in Vernazza and scoops of gelato, and then sat on the sea wall and watched the hustle and bustle.

Then we took the ferry all the way down to Portovenere, the end of the line. It was just before sunset and as we passed Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore, the brightly colored buildings shone out from the shore.  The next day we rode the train back up to Vernazza.  Our ill timing meant all the places were shut for lunch, so we ended up having "the best dessert of your life" according the proprietor of Il Pirate delle Cinque Terre.  Spoiler alert: it was good, but it was not.

I put my toe in the Mediterranean. Spoiler alert: it was cold.

We were there for three nights, and at the time it seemed like too long. But now I'm glad we lingered. Our last day in the region we took the train up to Sestri Levante, a town just north of the region that the tour books said was more work-a-day in hopes that we could book our train to Venice. We spent a wet morning wandering under the umbrella we bought earlier in our trip in Urbino. I deeply regret forgetting that umbrella on the bus to the airport in Milan. The Italians know how to make an umbrella. In the afternoon we came back to our apartment and made espresso on the teeny stove, watched a movie on our laptop and played cards. Wrote in journals. Puttered. Watched the rain fall outside our window.

That last night the sounds of the stormy sea crashing into the harbor and the sea wall were spectacular. We left the windows open in our apartment so we could hear it, and I woke up several times in the night, maybe because of the sound of the waves crashing or because I was nervous about our travel day the next day.  In the morning it poured, as if our sadness about leaving was mirrored in the weather. It rained so hard our train was so delayed from La Spezia to Florence that we missed the connecting train to Venice, and had to be rebooked on another train through Pisa.  We thought the rain delay was bad. I can't imagine the kind of havoc the train schedule is experiencing there now.

When we were there the trail from Manarola to Corniglia was closed because of a landslide that had happened in the spring. We didn't hike the trail from Corniglia to Vernazza because I tweaked my shoulder pretty badly dragging a suitcase on the trail from Riomaggiore to Manarola.  Any sane person would have taken the train, but there was a mix-up with the train tickets and I didn't have the right fare and I was terrified that I'd get caught on the train without a ticket. (In hindsight the ride from Riomaggiore to Manarola is about 2 minutes long, and that was unlikely, but I'm no rule breaker.)  So we walked the portion from Riomaggiore to Manarola several times, and the portion from Monterosso to Vernazza once.

I regret that we couldn't hike the whole thing.  I try not to have travel regrets, but that's one of them. Maybe we'll go back.  I hope we do someday.  I hope the people there are able to restore their way of life. It may take a while, but you can't live on a cliffside and not be resilient.  I'm saving my pennies to support their economy through the purchase of gelato, wine, and seafood.

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