Thursday, May 23, 2013

Cinque Terre, Italy

"Just ten more minutes." I called back over my shoulder to our small group for the third time, silently chuckling to myself.  If I had a dime for every time my Dad said that to my brothers and I growing up I would be a rich man.  Whether it was simply a long drive or a brutal hike back to camp and time just felt like it was standing still, Dad would very calmly say the same thing he said ten minutes ago...or twenty.  "Just ten more minutes."  
Thomas, Michela, Nicole, and I were attempting to walk back to our B&B, which is perched high up on a hillside, around midnight.  The path we were on was supposed to lead us back easily, the owner showed me were it was on a map so I was confident. The others were not.  The path, or probably to be more accurate should be referred to as a trail, was also supposed to be a nice, evening stroll after dinner to help us digest and leisurely discuss the evening up to that point.  One problem, there was no moon and the sky was overcast, absolute darkness. One flashlight and three cell phones were all we had to light our way for our, much longer than anticipated, single file trek.  The immensely overgrown trail would be comprised of ancient uneven cobblestones one minute turning into a tiny goat path with a large steep drop off to the left the next.  I was having a blast.  On cue someone grumbled "you said that ten minutes ago!"  I smiled again, I just couldn't help myself.  It was spring on the Italian coast and we were hiking a trail in the middle of the night that has probably been around for generations. The scents and aromas of blooming flowers enveloped us as the ever present firefly's blinked on and off through the trees. We kept carefully trudging along.  A wild boar suddenly snorted and rustled in the underbrush just off the trail.  Everyone jumped. "It's just a pig" I said calmly acting like it was no big deal and then for good measure a quick, "just ten more minutes."  I did pick up the pace slightly, silently hoping it wasn't a mother with babies nearby, never good, especially with boars.  After a few more switchbacks and the immediate danger (from the boar anyway) had passed,  the trail began to even out, eventually turning back to cobblestones as a lone lamp abruptly broke through the foliage.  That lamp signified that we had, indeed made it and our impromptu trek was over.  Victory!  We all high fived and needed to celebrate our conquest! Thomas and I promptly jumped into the freezing pool, got in trouble by the owner, and we all went to bed scolded and spent.  A great start to the trip.  It may have taken a little more than ten minutes....but who's counting anyway.     
That was obviously my personal highlight of trip, but there were many.  The Ligurian Coast is a fantastic place to visit and the options are endless. We chose to be off the beaten path (literally) and stayed above a small town called Sori with only two restaurant/houses within walking distance (for normal people).  The weather was horrible, but we managed to make the best of it and had an amazing time.   Due to the weather and landslides, we were only able to hike the first portion of the Cinque Terre region from Monterosso to Vernazza, but took a boat to the last town called Riomaggiore.  If I was to guess at Thomas' highlight, it would be the boat. If you saw him, you would have thought it was Christmas eve and he was seven he was so excited. There is a picture of him on the boat....he didn't sit down the entire trip! Michela is Italian and Thomas is fluent which made for a very authentic trip that Nicole and I would never have been able to achieve without them.  It seemed like everywhere we went were treated like family.  The restaurant in Riomaggiore called Via dell Amore was one of those places.  We stopped in for lunch and stayed for four hours! The food was to die for and the wine and Amaro (Italian Liquor) were just perfect to take our minds off the wind and the rain outside.  I decided that if I lived in Italy I would way three hundred pounds.  One interesting dialogue does comes to mind with a family that were contemplating sitting down at a table across from us: 
Michela: "Listen, I'm Italian and this is the best food you are going to find in the region."                    Women: "Oh really, well we are just trying to find someplace with the best WiFi. Do you know were we can go?" 
We all just looked at her like she was an idiot and turned back to our table.  I know I am one...but sometimes I really hate American tourists.  It did make for an ongoing joke for the remainder of the trip though so I can't be too upset.  Every time anyone said something was great, someone in the group would immediately say "yeah...but do you have the best WiFi!"   We had several more delicious and personal dining experiences but I have already gone on too long and won't go into detail.  Thank you Italy for always re-confirming your spot as the number one European country! 
 Next stop Turkey, you have your work cut out for you! 
16th Century Pirate Ship in Genoa!  I was looking for Willy's treasure.
This was the terrace outstide our room.
The pool at our B&B above Sori.








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