On Sunday morning the thin, tinny bells rang for church service and on the hour, though the clocks had moved ahead the night before and the times were off now. It wasn’t that early but I could smell beef slowcooking from one of the neighbouring homes. People greeted each other below my windows.
After two days of climbing, my calves and legs were tight and sore, but I also felt that the stairs were getting easier! I was becoming a Cinque Terrean!
Today I would take the ten-minute train ride to visit Vernazza, the Cinque Terre village where my brother Kelly and sister-in-law Wendy had stayed a couple of years before. It was the weekend, and a beautiful, sunny one, so foot and rail traffic was quite busy. I was pleasantly surprised to see many Italians holidaying in the Cinque Terre and tried to imagine the craziness that must come at high season, as it was busy now.
Vernazza is much more chic than Riomaggiore. I felt it was also, surprisingly, much smaller than its sister village. It was definitely flatter and had a wide, open plaza on the seafront that was covered with tables and tables of glorious-looking food, fully inhabited with people relaxing under umbrellas, sipping their wine, twirling their seafood pasta. There were chic shops and upscale shopping and a defnite sense of refined tourism. I sampled a gelato — but — Riomaggiore got the nod for gelato.
Vernazza was the place to settle and dine and live ‘la dolce vita’ — ‘the sweet life’. A larger-than-life American disembarked from the train with his wife and son, and in a loud, sprawling accent thanked the good people of Vernazza for the view presented before him. ‘They even hung the laundry out for us,’ he grinned in appreciation.
I walked around town and thankfully, there wasn’t too much to explore. I was tired. I took some photographs and headed back to the train platform. There, a small man with exquisitely tiny hands and fingers flew them up and down an accordian, creating a festive, joyous air. I thought he looked Peruvian, not Italian. He was a master musician and I gave him a euro as I listened and watched and waited for the train to take me back to Riomaggiore.
Back in Riomaggiore I headed to the marina to just sit in the sun and watch a local man fish from the rocks. I usually holiday by myself, but this time, in Italy, I was finding it difficult. Italy is so challenging in so many lovely ways that I really wanted to share it with people one-to-one. So, as I did the day I climbed the summit to Manarola, I got my phone out and called Kelly and Wendy back in Michigan, to share with them my visit to Vernazza.
It was my last night in the Cinque Terre. I went to my favourite sunset spot and then chose, more wisely this time, a better restaurant for dinner and had a fine calamari appetiser and seafood pasta. The next morning I would catch a train ride to Turin for an overnight stay before the final day’s stage to Wales .