Day 4: Liguria (Cinque Terre)

Well we missed breakfast, so that was a bummer. As promised, however, a more complete recap of yesterday’s events…

Cinque Terre (Five Lands) is not to be missed, period. The coastal villages in the Liguria region of Italy are some of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. We’re talking about towns of as few as 250 inhabitants, making Arkport, NY seem like a booming metropolis. These are the types of small, Mediterranean towns you see represented in the movies and TV shows: Milk carts making deliveries in the morning and bread makers running (literally) across town with hot bread and pastries wrapped in towels. It’s a simpler way of life, something I think… I know, that we take for granted living in such a “now, now, now” country back at home.

We started our day as Sarah and I usually do, perfectly on-time until we actually got to the site where the bus was supposed to pick us up for the tour/trek. We were lucky enough to book a hostel less than 1Km from the Stazione Garibaldi in Firenze, so our walk to catch any of the main buses, taxis, trains in or out of Florence is literally 5 minutes, 10 if we stop at any one of the million gelaterie in the surrounding piazze. Though we got to the station 20 minutes early, it took us about 19 1/2 minutes to actually find the tour company that would be showing us the region throughout the day (and by find I actually mean running laps around the station and stumbling across our guide and his bus by dumb luck). We ended up being, in prime Fiannaca fashion, the last couple on the bus, and, in prime Peter-specific fashion, I was pissed that we almost missed the tour that we spent 200 bucks on.

It took me a few minutes to catch my breath, but eventually turned to my unnaturally positive life-partner and said, “this had better be the trip of a lifetime”. Let’s just say that what we were able to experience in the Cinque Terre was nothing short of Sarah waving her magic wand to make my wish come true.

Then, immediately, Freddie happened. For the purposes of this memoir let’s just say that Freddie is a descriptor for what happens to somebody when they want to get off the grid. Freddie was our guide for the day, a French-born American citizen who grew up in Philly and had been living in Italy for the past decade: A guy who did the finance thing, the successful American Dream thing, the 9-5, suits and ties thing. He was “that” guy, who had everything except freedom; a freedom that he found (making much less money and giving up the traditional American comforts) in Liguria showing people the Cinque Terre 4 days every week and watching as facial expressions morph in unison at each new view of the sea, the coast, and the mountain-side villages. If he ever stumbles across this blog I would want to him to know that he has touched my life in a positive way. Sometimes that’s the best gift we can offer each other; positivity, perspective even. His freshness was in perfect harmony with the steaming bread I had seen earlier in the day and the milk that had obviously been gathered earlier in the morning. The theme of the day would present itself in new, exciting, ways over and over again.

The trail was wet. It rained all day, thank God. Had it been a traditional coastal day, 85 and sunny, the trek would’ve been exponentially more difficult. The bus leaving Florence took about two hours to arrive in La Spezia. Then, via a combination of trains, boats and 30-60 minute hikes along the steep grade of the hills, we would find Riomaggiore, Manarola, Monterosso, Vernazza, and Corniglia (3 of which are illustrated in the included pictures). Lunch was perfectly timed in more than one way. Not only did the octopus, sardine, crab, and potato antipasti and il piatto primo (fresh spaghetti con pesto) perfectly quench our need for fuel, but Sarah and I were blessed enough to find some pretty awesome company during our meal. We were introduced to Bernard and Ela, a young couple from Jersey and I was (happily) reminded after spending the rest of the day as a foursome instead of a twosome that nothing happens by accident. Friends find their way into your life via routes that you sometimes expect the least. It’s refreshing… go figure.

Pictures below include 3 of the 5 terre that we visited, train tracks cutting through the mountain side, Sarah and I at the port in Vernazza, and the only pair of shoes I brought on our 3-week journey waiting patiently, peacefully, in the train tunnel of Monterosso.

Florence again today (6/10) and leaving for Rome tomorrow night.

Much love to everyone keeping in touch with us while we’re here. Especially Mom and Dad Thompson for watching Coast. Miss that stupid dog…