An Intro By Shane
“I wonder how,
I wonder why,
Yesterday you told me ‘bout the blue, blue sky
But all that I can see is just a yellow lemon tree...”
-Lemon Tree by Fool’s Garden
And another one, and another, and yes, some more. This is the Cinque Terre for me. A place filled with wondrous beauty, yet at the same time, a constant taunting. As far as the eye can see, and in every direction astounding beauty...and lemon trees. LEMON TREES! FILLED WITH LEMONS!!!! Anyone who really knows me, knows my love for the king of citrus. As far as back as I can remember I have been eating lemons, often to the surprise of those around me. I love anything tart or sour and lemons are the end all for me. Every house, apartment, or condo in every village here in the beautiful Cinque Terre, comes fully equipped with a garden in the yard complete with at least one olive tree, and a minimum of one lemon tree. And these lemon trees are currently PACKED full of the biggest, tastiest looking lemons I have ever seen in my entire life. And through all the winding paths and staircases these lemons are always behind fences, just slightly out of reach of my tiny, T-rex like arms. I feel like I am constantly being taunted by fences and locked gates. I mean even if every one of the lemons throughout all of the Cinque Terre was used to make lemonade, limoncino, lemon sorbetto, or some other lemony flavored goodie, surely there would still be enough for me to take just one...? I broke down and bought one. We put half of it in a bottle of Coke (euro-style). I will eat the other half. I still want to steal one. Stealing is wrong, I know. But so is taunting a lemon-lover...
And now to the real story: We awoke at a reasonable hour ignoring the church’s chiming bells at 0700, favoring a later start time closer to 0900. We woke up very at ease in our surroundings, feeling more content than we had at any other point in the whole trip. The sun was streaming in through our window and the little dove-like birds were cooing in the trees. We dressed and made our way down the ‘stairs of doom’, finding a short cut to the village side of things. The coffee place I had scoped out yesterday was without power this morning so we opted for the place across the street. We elbowed our way to the counter, despite being shoved back a few times(which is apparently how people roll in Italy). We asked for two macchiatos and bought a delicious pastry stuffed with lemon curd(presumably made with the afformentioned local lemons). The service was indifferent at best and a curt “ciao” was all the thanks we received for our business.
We walked back through a long cold tunnel towards the train station and the storefront selling passes for the trails. We paid our 18 euros for two, two day passes. We then proceeded onto what turned out to be the trail packed full of tourists, tour groups and fat slow old people (also tourists) and the easiest walk of the four trails. It’s called ‘via delle amore’ , in english, lover’s lane. It’s an easy cliffside, beauty of a walk along the ocean. This was clearly the reason for the endless waves of tourists, which detracted (only very slightly) from the stunning ocean views. Thirty minutes later we escaped into the refuge of Manarola, the next awaiting town.
We grabbed some lunch, our first of what would be inevitably be many, focaccias. Although they were all great, our favourite was the onion focaccia, because of it’s beautiful simplicity and deliciousness. We knew, after we finished lunch, that the trail between Manrola and Corniglia was closed (due to a land slide) but decided to walk the trail a bit to see how far we could go. It ended up being a very short walk, but just before the gates closed the trail off there was a path leading to a large collection of rocks with the waves smashing all around. We, of course, found this very inviting. We spent the next 30 minutes sitting on the rocks being sprayed with the occasional salty mist blown our way by a rouge wave. We made our way back to Manarola and waited for the train to come. We took the train after a 30 minute wait, to La Spezia, the town just outside of Cinque Terre. We booked our tickets to Rome (direct, I might add) for Sunday. We waited an hour (!!!) on the platform at La Spezia for the next train to take us the 3 minute ride to Riomaggiore (where we are staying.) I was quite annoyed at this point for spending so much of my day waiting for trains.
When we got back to Riomaggiore we got a bottle of local wine (4 euros) and a whole whack of fruit from a little store. We also proceeded to get one piece of pizza and another slice of focaccia (we got a little carried away!) We slipped back up to our room for a shower and a bit of rest. We drank a few glasses of wine on our patio enjoying the warm air and the smell of roses.
We decided to go to Corniglia for dinner. While we were waiting for the train Shane helped a few hopeless travelers decipher the somewhat confusing train schedules (he seems to have a knack for making sense of these things). When we got off the train we took the wrong route, doubled back and then noticed the numerous flights of stairs we were required to take. By the time we got to the top we had done 365 (long) steps (not regular steps, the length of each step is closer to two feet.) Corniglia, to our surprise, was a very quiet town. The only town of the five without a harbour the town is perched atop a cliff overlooking over the ocean. It had about 5 restaurants to choose from and we went with the busiest. We enjoyed a bottle of house wine and the best pasta to date. Mine was a seafood spaghetti (maybe with a wine sauce?) and Shane’s a plate of spaghetti with tomato sauce and mussels. Both were amazing!
We waited for the train for 45 minutes (notice a pattern?) on the platform. In all fairness, we did know what time the train was coming before we got there, but had negected to check the time as we left our restaurant. House wine can have this affect on you. Luckily, this train station had a distinct feature; there are two bells that ring constantly. One bell will ring (it sounds like a fire alarm) for a few minutes, then the other will join in (though not on the same beat) then the first one will stop a while the second one continues. And so it goes, on and on, never giving your head a break. We thought this might be to deter people from trying to sleep there overnight, but we decided the following day that it was probably not the case, as even midday with a platform full of tourists, the bells still rang incessantly. We wondered if people who work at this station get some sort of hazard pay due to the increased chance of INSANITY!
As soon as we reached our home town we grabbed two bowls of gelato (lemon and raspberry sorbet!!) for dessert. The gelato here in Italy is everything we ever thought it would be, better than we’ve ever tasted and cheap. We fell asleep soundly only 15 minutes after we arrived home.