Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Italy - Welcome to Cinque Terre: A Little Slice of Heaven

Day 10 of our two week trip to Italy:  We boarded a train in the morning and headed towards the coast and more specifically, an area called Cinque Terre.   


While I honestly cannot say there is one thing I liked the most in Italy because it was all so very good, I can say that this part of the trip to Cinque Terre was the part I was the most excited about.  You see, the Mediterranean and I had met many, many years ago when I was in high school and I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Spain with a group from school.  It was love at first sight.  Well, to be honest, I fall in love with every large body of water I meet, but at that point in my young life, the Mediterranean was the first large body of salt water that I ever saw and I was instantly head over heels in love.  On the last day, I remember standing on the beach as a seventeen year old, my pockets full of shells and rocks I couldn’t resist but to take home, just watching the waves crashing into the beach as the sun sank in the sky and thinking, “I wonder if I’ll ever see the Mediterranean again?”  Honestly, I thought there was a good chance I wouldn’t.  But now here I was (let’s just skip the however many years later part ;) on Day 10 of our trip to Italy on a train with my husband and two daughters heading towards the Mediterranean Sea once again. 
Ah, Cinque Terre - I think I can sum it up by simply saying that it is utterly impossible to not love this place. 

The views – my gosh!  And we didn't even have to leave our cozy little guest cottage to enjoy the views.  We could simply sit out front enjoying a glass of wine with this as our backdrop.

And the five colorful little villages, some hugging the steep hillsides and others snuggled deep down in the valley right on the waters edge – just look at the pictures!  

Cinque Terre means “the five lands” and represents the five villages that sit along the rugged coast in this small section of the Italian Riviera.  The villages, coastline and surrounding hills are part of Cinque Terre National Park and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

It was springtime, citrus season.  There were huge bright yellow lemons hanging heavy on the branches of the little trees.  They were everywhere – in groves on the hillsides, tucked behind cute little houses where the owners could enjoy them as part of their landscape, and as we hiked we would even stumble upon an occasional lone lemon tree high up on a hill or holding on tightly to a steep slope.  We stayed just outside of the little village of Vernazza and at the tiny little grocery store in town, we spied a basket full of these beautiful, juicy lemons with a sign saying they were in fact from this very village.  How could we resist?  Into our shopping basket went several.  Later on that day, I cooked up some simple syrup on the stove, Eric squeezed as much juice out of the lemons as he could, we mixed them together, added water and voila – fresh squeezed lemonade!  What a delicious treat after our long days of hiking the steep hills between the villages.

Oh, and about those hikes - BREATHTAKING!  That is the best word I can think of that even comes close to describe them.  

The sunlight glittering on the deep blue water mixed with the fact that one misstep on the trail at the wrong time would have been a serious problem.  It literally could take your breath away.   

These trails were narrow, rocky, steep and often one side plunging hundreds of feet straight down to the water below.    

Ellie and Leah – they are great hikers.  Some of the climbs up those trails were hard, very hard, but they carried on like troopers, only complaining about being hungry or thirsty now and again but my gosh, they deserved a snack and drink after some of those precarious yet stunning hikes. 

They were cute to watch and listen to as we trekked along because the two of them were making up some story for much of the time we spent hiking in Cinque Terre.  Some fantasy story with dragons and fairies and centaurs among other creatures.  We would hike and hike and hike with those two deep in conversation adding detail after detail to their little fantasy world, rarely an argument or disagreement occurring.   

They hiked side by side the entire time.  Eric and I had to keep reminding them to pay attention to the terrain.  We didn’t need anyone tripping over a tree root or slipping on a loose rock on those steep trails.   

But they just carried on, day after day, adding to their story.  We would make it to the top of one steep hill, 

and after a short break we would start down again on the other side - and their story just kept flowing and growing.  

It was lovely to watch this sisterly bonding.  They're close friends as well as sisters but they don't always get along as well as they did in Cinque Terre.  The magic of that beautiful place seemed to bring out the best in them.   

More tomorrow.  We have so many beautiful pictures and memories from Cinque Terre that I don’t want to rush it, but savor it instead, like a glass of good Italian wine – it should be drunk slowly and enjoyed.  

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