Thursday May 10
The ship docked in Livorno this morning and Sue and I are both taking a tour to the Cinque Terre. I am very impressed with the efficiency of the cruise ship personnel in organizing the tours and we were off the ship by 8am and on a bus with an Italian tour guide named Carolina. The bus ride was going to take almost 2 hours and on the way Carolina gave the group a lot of history and information about the area.
Since we were in Tuscany we passed through Carrara and I could see the mountains which were white, not from snow but from marble. These were the same mountains, the Apuan Alps, where I visited the marble quarries last spring.
Once we got to La Spezia we picked up a local guide named Claudia who would be with our group in Cinque Terre. We then went to Manarola where we walked through the town and eventually arrived at Via dell’Amore or Lover’s Walk, the easiest hiking trail of the Cinque Terre, a little more than half a mile. Of course everything was beautiful here as this is one of the most scenic places on Italy’s coastline with the rugged cliffs going all the way down to the sea.
In Riomaggiore we boarded a ferry boat and the trip along the sea was the absolute best for viewing these picturesque hilltop villages. They appear like postcards as they are all so colorful. Riomaggiore was first and then we passed by Manarola. The guide pointed out Corniglia high on a hill and from this vantage point I could see the big area where a rockslide had caused this section of the trail to be closed prior to my being there and hiking it with my brother last year.
The fourth village was Vernazza, the place that had been pretty much demolished last October 25th with the terrible mudslides and flooding. Only recently have a few of the restaurants been able to reopen and several shops are open too. I wondered how I would react when I arrived, and as the ferry approached the coastline of Vernazza, I could see first hand how different the landscape looked from a year ago.
I felt strongly about wanting to support these hard working people especially when I saw them laboring in every street and place of business.
As I wandered into an interesting art shop, La Buatta, in the square I spoke with the young woman who owned the shop and hand painted the ceramic pieces.
As I spoke to her in Italian expressing my sympathy for what had happened and also my admiration and respect for how Vernazza has made improvements, we hugged each other and both of us had tears in our eyes. Being here was an emotional experience for me.
I bought a beautiful oil and vinegar cruet set from her at a very reasonable price and felt like it was my little part to help rebuild Vernazza. She told me that she thought Gianni’s would be opening soon, so I walked across the square to talk to Gianni.
I explained that I had been there a year ago and how much I loved their beautiful town. They were eager to show me how high the mud and water had been inside their trattoria and they said they would be re-opening in a month.
I could tell that they had worked hard and that they probably were right. So soon there will be one more place to eat in Vernazza besides the three establishments that I noticed were open today. I left there with mixed feelings, sad but also encouraged and with a very strong sense of respect for the people. Every Italian I spoke with said to me that they are carrying on and expressed the basic idea that “it is what it is.” There is still a lot of work to be done in Vernazza.
I got back on the ferry when it was time and Sue and I arrived in Monterosso at 1pm and there was Angela waiting near the bridge wearing a scarf in this heat.
She always looks so fashionable no matter what the temperature is. It was so great to see her again and since we only had an hour and a half here we wanted to find a place where we could have lunch together and talk.
Monterosso was crowded and we had to wait for a table but finally found one at this little enoteca. I tried some pesto bruschetta here for the first time and it was delicious.
The Ligurian region is said to be home to the best pesto and I was not disappointed. I actually didn’t think I liked pesto but this was wonderful. The time passed all too quickly and eventually we said our goodbyes to Angela at the train station. We had to take the train one stop to Levanto where our tour guide would meet us with the bus.
This was the night for the Cirque Dreams and Dinner that I had heard so much about. Well it certainly did not disappoint. The show lasted an hour and was fantastic! There was an additional fee of either $25 or $35 (for premium seating which i chose) and the balcony seats were the best. The venue is small so I could see everything well. The dinner was a fixed menu like most dinner theaters and the coconut shrimp with beef tenderloin were cooked to perfection. A great evening to end a wonderful day.
I will be posting many more photos from Vernazza and the Cinque Terre in later posts. Stay tuned!