Contributing Writer: Alyssa Gregory
Like drunken sailors making their way home, the colorful houses in the fishing villages of Cinque Terre lean on each other and cling to the cliffs. Overlooking the Italian Riviera, each of the village’s crooked cobblestone roads lead to the sparkling blue ocean. Throughout the entire town you can hear the Cinque Terre mixtape being played. A soft gentle combination of waves slapping up against the shore with wooden boats docked offshore, laundry fluttering, soft murmurs of villagers, the smacking of travelers shoes against the cobblestone roads and the delighted laughter of children. Not a car sound can be heard. No honking, no door slamming and no screeching brakes.
To preserve the natural and cultural wonders of Cinque Terre, Italy declared the region a park, making vehicles there obsolete (except in Monterosso). Cinque Terre’s five towns, Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Monterosso and Vernazza are stretched along the Italian Riviera and are all home to beautiful views, a relaxing vibe and sublime culinary treats, especially anything made with olives, lemons and grapes because the area surrounding the towns is full of “dry walls” of picturesque ingredients.
Each village is individually unique. Each with its own perks. Many thoughts passed through my mind as I took in each of the five cities. Here are some of them.
- Am I in Greece?
The colorful buildings look like a Greek island. However, instead of being surrounded on all sides by the Aegean Sea, I’m half surrounded by the waters of the Italian Riviera and the half a sea of bright green vineyards.
In Coniglia, during the quiet morning, I kept thinking…it looks like a Greek god’s paradise.
- Is it laundry day?
Dryers aren’t really a thing in Italy. Everything is hung up outside and left to flap in the wind until it dries.
The amount of underthings I saw during my visit to Riomaggiore would make a Victoria Secret model blush. It’s a simpler way of life here. And in simpler I don’t mean things are made simpler. Because just let me tell you, I don’t know how anyone grocery shops here. I couldn’t haul a heavy bag of purchases up the thousands of steep steps without tripping. Everything is uphill. The resident’s don’t seem to notice the struggle. They are too busy enjoying the present.
- The Europeans are a proud people, especially about their bodies.
While lying on the beach of Monerosso I saw everything from teenage girls butts hanging out to 70 year old men in speedos. And while I’m happy they’re so accepting of their bodies, it still causes me to blush when I think of the fiftyish year old women I saw strolling around the crowded beach topless.
- Oh my god look at that cute Italian couple eating gelato…OMG she’s in her wedding dress!!!
Sometimes, as tourists, we forget the places we travel to are people’s homes. The residents, like the newlywed couple in Vernazza, don’t quit living their lives just because you’re there. A whole mind shift happens when you realize these people grocery shop here, they meet their friend at these same café’s and they work or go to school around all this beauty and history. This is not a vacation to them. It is their everyday life. Take the time to talk to the locals, they’ll know all the best places.
- Wait, what was I thinking about?
The slapping of ocean waves, the creaking of small fishing boats and the villagers chatter washed over me as I sat sipping a glass of Sciacchetrà in Manarola. Relaxed, with a bit of wine in my tummy, the sun beating down on my face, a slightly salty wind tickling my neck and this mix of sounds playing as background music to the lights dancing off the sparkling waters quieted my mind. I could definitely get used to this slower, relaxed pace that causes all worries and most thoughts to just roll away like the receding tide.
Do your own soul searching at Cinque Terre. Join a Florence For Fun daytrip and see all these colorful houses from close up. And view the beautiful villages from afar as you travel down the cliffside walking trails that connect all five villages. Let your mind wander as you take in the breathtaking views.