Sunday, July 11, 2010

Chin-kwa Tear-ruh

I would probably be plotting my return to Cinque Terre at this very moment if not for the petrified, nauseous feeling I get when I remember the bus ride from the Italian port of Genoa (shout out to my boy Chris Columbus) to the UNESCO World Heritage site.
All the words that travel writers use too liberally actually fit here - quaint, quintessential, charming, romantic, adorable, authentic, a dream come true. I’m not messing around when I say the five hillside villages - Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore - are what Italy-infused daydreams are made of.
Even as I write about Cinque Terre's myriad of qualities that make it so worthy of adoration, I am getting flashbacks of the fearsome bus ride. Nothing bad even happened on the ride, mind you. There were no near misses with trucks full of fresh lemons or fender benders with curve-hugging Lamborghinis. We sat on our cozy bus in perfect safety, cruising along the coast and its windy mountain roads, all the while listening to our tour guide Andrea pontificate on terraced farming and local crops.
Is there a valid "aphobia" term for my fear of driving on mountains and/or hills? I was so stressed during the ride, I couldn't look out the window, which meant I missed some of the most phenomenal panoramic vistas God ever designed. When I attempted to sneak a peek or shoot a photo, I'd be ok for just a moment and then would find myself nearly ripping off the armrest and gasping in a fit of panic.
Let’s put irrational fear aside for one hot second though, because chances are good that you aren't terrified of plunging off a cliff to your demise like I am. Instead, imagine yourself in what can only be described as a postcard from the 50s. The colors of the buildings, the bright lemon groves, the verdant terraces and the turquoise sea positively reeked of romance, and there was something in the way the sun glowed through cracks between houses that almost made me feel like hugging a stranger. Lunching in a sunny Monterroso plaza and hiking from village to village made me feel like I was in a movie on TCM.
Despite the worst restaurant service ever, I ultimately decided not to slap the waiter once (90 minutes later) he finally delivered heaven on a plate - ravioli with walnut cream sauce. It's making my mouth water just to think of it! Lucky waiter.
For all the romantics out there, there's the Via Dell'Amore, or 'pathway of love,' connecting Riomaggiore and Manarola. Legend has it that since the towns were nearly inaccessible back in the day, the people from the five villages mostly just dated one another. It wasn't so easy to get from town to town due to topography, so a path was carved between villages so lovers could meet up. Today, this little path is decorated with messages of love (or just graffiti, depending on how you look at it) and padlocks attached to any usable surface. Lovers come to this spot to 'lock in' their love, tossing the padlock key into the sea below.
Knowing what I know about the bus ride to Cinque Terre, would I go back? Maybe... but you should definitely go! You're no wuss.


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Michelle said...

I love Cinque Terre. I went several years ago...and Ange, you do know you can get there via train and it will drop you off in the middle of monterroso (or somewhere nearly there) no bus ride required!

Big Apple Angie said...

Good point, Michelle! You can take the train if you have the time, but since we were on a cruise and had to get back, private bus was really the best option. Maybe next time I will take the train to save myself some stress!

Jamie said...

You look so cute in your striped top, fedora and aviators! So Euro-chic!