the cinque terre

Saturday morning Joey and I woke up early.  We'd planned to hike the Cinque Terre; therefore, the broken strap on my walking shoes could be ignored no more.  Good thing Santa Margherita has such cheap shopping!  For yacht owners...

Luckily we managed to find a cute pair of flat sandals with black and brown straps that seemed comfortable enough and didn't break the bank.  Unluckily, I chose not to follow my sisters', parents', or best friend's advice to skip the fashion for the Cinque Terre and just wear tennies.  Even more unfortunate for Joey was my decision not to share this piece of advice with him.  So a flip-flop clad Joey and I, in my cute new shoes, boarded the hour-long train to Vernazza.  Good thing I always carry band-aids in my purse.

Despite the bazillion other tourists who descended upon those same five remote towns that day (seriously, Europe in the fall), the bright colors and stunning views of each tiny village and its surroundings seemed to become more vibrant and more incredible as the day progressed.  I could not believe how blue the water was. 

Halfway between Vernazza and Corniglia.  That's Corniglia in the distance.

The first hour of the steep climb up the mountain between Vernazza and Corniglia was the easy part.  Try going down the other side of that mountain in inappropriate footwear when you are already spatially challenged and uncoordinated.  Even Joey, who is pretty hard to fluster, was mortified at my method of balance as I spread out my arms and hands and plopped one entire leg at a time down each step of the mountain.  I really tried to go down the steps like a normal person, but grace isn't one of my strong suits.

Although we'd scaled a small mountain in flip flops and 90 degree heat while dodging other sweaty people on narrow stairs that should not be shared, the scenery was well worth the effort.  We ambled through the second (technically third, but we skipped Monterosso) town, Corniglia, before we faced "more stairs than line the side of a Mayan pyramid," according to my guidebook, down which I would have to "flop," according to my husband, to reach the next town.  Off I flopped, and we were on our way to Manarola.

The trail to Manarola from Corniglia continues behind the Cornigilia train station, where we found several signs that the trail was closed.  Of course this all didn't register until after we watched the only train for the next half an hour leave, so faced with climbing back up the Mayan pyramid or a bench at the train station, we sat.  I'm not going to lie: I was considerably, disgustingly, sweaty; probably just as smelly (I wasn't about to put my nose in my armpit to find out); my feet were blistered; my shoulders sunburned and my stomach growling (I'd read in my guidebook to find a cafe in the next town so we'd only grazed through the morning - ha, oops).  So as much as I'd originally wanted to hike all the way from Vernazza to Riomaggiore, I wasn't devastated that we had to cheat a little. 

While we sat and waited for our train, the number of would-be hikers increased, and another girl, maybe about 14 years-old, sat next to me on the bench.  Joey and I continued our conversation, and as it reached a lull, the girl looked over at me and said, "I'm from Norway." 

That's all.  Completely matter-of-fact and even more out of the blue. 

Not much for small talk with people I do know, I replied with the nicest thing I could think of: "Okay?" 

And that was the extent of our conversation. 

Joey gave me the "Do you know her" look, to which I replied with the "WTF" look, after which we stifled our snickering until the train came.

Outside Manarola

In Manarola we stopped for gelato.  I ordered a large cone of my favorite: Amarena.  The gorgeous Italian woman behind the counter blessed with long legs and the ability to eat pasta all day every day in her Gucci size 2 pants replied, "you know that's three scoops, right?"

Are you saying something?  Because I just hiked a mountain and I live in Africa.

We drifted from Manarola along the "Via dell'Amore" to the last town, Riomaggiore, where we saw a bride posing for pictures with a huge bouquet of lavender.  Then we took the last train back to Santa Margherita, for naps, showers, and another romantic evening along the Ligurian Sea.