Late last week, our friend Caroline told me that she and her sister were planning on going to the Cinque Terra for two days and asked me if I wanted to come. For those of you who haven't made a study of Northern Italian vacation spots, the Cinque Terra (meaning 'Five Lands') is a collection of charming towns perched on the rocky Mediterranean coast. They're only a couple kilometers apart and you can take a short train or hike between them. So, of course, I accepted the invitation! We took the train Tuesday morning from Torino down through Genoa and changed trains in a town called La Spezia. Here the weather started to worry us a little bit--while we were waiting for the train in La Spezia, a full-blown thunderstorm, complete with hail, descended on us. But by the time we made it to the first of Cinque Terra's five towns, the weather was perfect.
Here's Helen (left) and Caroline (right), contemplating the threatening weather behind them.
Like I said, the weather cleared up. Here's Riomaggiore, the first of the five towns we visited. Four of the five towns go right down to the water and all of the towns have buildings almost stacked on top of each other!
Here's the coastline that the few Riomaggiore inhabitants get to enjoy every day (along with thousands of English-speaking tourists in the summer season). Although you can't see them in this picture, the other four towns are between us and that distant promontory.
No cars are allowed in the Cinque Terra towns. The only vehicles visible are the train and boats like this, parked on the road that leads down to the sea.
Of course we had to have a little adventure. Helen dared me to climb out on to the rocks of the breakwater. If you look really closely, you can see that the cuffs of my pants are wet. Lindsey's not quite so coordinated as she used to be; I had wet shoes for the rest of the day!
This is a beautiful picture taken by Caroline of the waves crashing over the breakwater. The rocks where Helen and I climbing are just to the left of these; for those concerned with safety, we were well away from the big waves.
After spending a little time at Riomaggiore, we hiked to the next town along the Via dell'Amore, or the Way of Love. This path provides an easy stroll along the coast, along a graffiti-laden walkway that is a popular place for engagements. I learned that it's an Italian tradition for a couple to buy a padlock, lock it over something, and throw away the key when they become engaged. Isn't that sweet?
Of course, things can get carried away. It's not hard to figure out that this bench is the spot for proposals.
Graffiti is encouraged along the Via dell'Amore as a way for visitors and couples to leave their mark. So, swept along by the tide of tradition and the urgings of my travelling companions, I began my vandalism career.
Fifty years from now, we plan on returning and looking for this tiny pen-scratch proclaiming "Lindsey, Caroline, and Helen, March 24, 2009." We've now officially entered Cinque Terra history!
That's the end of Part 1. Stay tuned for the exciting vistas and dangerous adventures of Cinque Terra, Part 2!