Last week was a crazy adventure. It had been on my calendar for months and dreamed about for months even before that: a trip to Italy's Cinque Terre region for a holiday with my hiking buddies. No family, no computer, no obligations other than to hike, eat pasta, drink wine, and enjoy. And that's exactly what happened. Of course, there were a few unforeseen events. Like the unseasonably cold and windy weather the first day out when the temperatures were so low that the water in our bottles became chunky with ice and the Swiss army knife we brought for our picnic lunch froze shut. Or the fact that the famous low trail linking the five towns along the Ligurian coast was closed between Corniglia and Monterosso due to landslides. Not to mention the general strike in Italy on Friday afternoon that left several of us with no flight out until 30 hours after the originally scheduled one.
But it was going to take a lot more than that to knock the stuffing out of 11 strong women and one incredibly patient man. The weather improved as the week wore on, our aches and pains subsided as we became more adept at climbing what must have been thousands of steps up and down, and we had one delicious meal after another. There were scarcely anyone else on the trails and we were rewarded for all the uphill climbing with spectacular views of the coast, terraced with vineyards, with tiny villages, pink, yellow, and white with red tiled roofs, nestled in the crevices.
And if you're ever stuck in Pisa, go see the Leaning Tower for sure but then hop on a bus. Just 2.80 euros will get you to Lucca, a walled town in the foothills of Tuscany where there's plenty to keep you busy for a day, the wine is cheap, and service is given with a smile.
Coming down the mountain on a steep rocky path, we turned a corner, saw this view of the town of Vernazza, and gasped.
Hearts with locks marking the entrance to the low route between Riomaggiore and Manarola. As tradition has it, you and your sweetheart leave a lock and throw the key into the sea.
Lemons everywhere. The one I couldn't resist putting in my suitcase did a fine job of countering the aroma of my dirty hiking duds.