[Earlier today, we passed through Pisa]
May 31st, 2009
The drive from Pisa to the Liguria was short, about an hour or so, along A12. The multilane autostrada allowed me to really open up the throttle touching speed in excess of 200 KM/h and gave us our first glimpse of the Mediterranean.
Our hostess in Riomaggiore has asked us to call her once we reached La Spieza, about 20 minutes away from Riomaggiore. Finding a public telephone in Italy is as difficult as finding a clean toilet in Egypt, so we just blew through La Spieza.
As the Alfa Romeo bent over the top of the mountain, and started the descent into the valley, a policemen cautioned us that the parking down there was full. We bluffed that we had a reserved spot and ignored his indignant shake of his head.
Later, we realized how full the parking was and had to go through a major charade. At the base of the mountain , we got our luggage out of the car, hired an open van and sent the luggage down the sloping main street to our apartment along with Gayu and Rhea. I drove the car all the up to the hill and halfway towards Manarola before I found a roadside parking spot. Then I took the scenic steps down to the village rather than wait 30 (Italian) minutes for the shuttle. Once I reached the village, we had to lug our 180 odd pounds of luggage up several very, very steep flights of steps. By the time we were settled in our apartment, we were all pooped. I wished we had planned this a little better repacking out bags to leave everything minus one piece in the car.
Well, on a vacation staying pooped is not an option. Several dollops of gelato catalyzed a fast recovery and we set out to discover.
Riomaggiore is one of the five villages together called Cinque Terre – Five Lands - that UNESCO declared a World Heritage Site. Cinque Terre erupts where the mountains meet the Mediterranean. The sheer lack of real estate forced natives to use ridges and terraces to build the villages vertically into the mountain somewhat reminding me of Mesa Verde (also a World Heritage Site) in Colorado, USA. Riomaggiore is the smallest and the quaintest of the five villages. The main street slants down from the base of the mountain (which is where the parking lot is) to the waterline. The street is lined with ristorantes, cafés, boutique shops, apartments for rent, amidst houses inhabited by the locals.
This is where, I was told, the Italians vacationed.
We walked alongside the Mediterranean with the waves occasionally splashing us until the sun disappeared over the horizon. The warm lights of Il Grotto and a waft of tender cooked fish swept away our last resistance and bravado.
Somehow that night, I do not remember climbing those steep, very very steep steps…
[Read on. Tomorrow we hike the Cinque Terre National Park Trail]