Part VI | Vernazza

"We woke when we were ready and rued our indulgence only slightly. Breakfast was hearty as usual and then we embarked on our great adventure of the day - me in boots and dress, JD in Lunas and swimtrunks. Our feet found the footpath that would take us to Vernazza and we began our hike through Cinque Terre National Park. It was beautiful and also treacherous. We ascended stone steps that sprawled the terraced hillsides, bursting with grape vines and olive trees. I praised God for shady paths and lookouts of sea breeze and rest. Native flowers clung to stony walls and sprouted from every crack in the rocks, a defiant chink in the trail's armor.

Winded, we stopped often for me to catch my breath. My right knee was already filling with fluid and I was sucking air on the constant flights up, hikers behind and before us. At one point, I cursed choosing to walk such an obstacle course, but then we would clamber through and earn our badge of honor - a jaw-dropping vista just when we needed it. A mirage of a miracle turned into reality when we encountered a stand selling freshly squeezed lemonade for a mere 1.50 E and that became reason enough for me to take a sit and sip a spell. 

All told, we spent the better part of two to two and half hours spanning the trail and were relieved to the Vernazza, a tiny jewel of a city on the sea, become bigger as we approached. Slowly the washed out steps and tight passes gave way to brick-lined paths and colorfully stuccoed houses, and my flushed cheeks and aching knees looked forward to a soak in the water below. We acquired a couple of frozen coffee slushies and takeaway from Lunch Box.

Armed with focaccia sandwiches, chips, water and lemon juice, we carried our goods to the marina where we made a temporary home on a cobbled ledge, ditching boots and dipping warm, sore feet in the cool water below. *Aaaaaaahhhh*

We ate and hopped the water-covered rocks, marveling at a small school of silvery fish and feather sea things. After cooling off, we packed up and wandered the streets, window shopping and eating more focaccia, pizza, and frozen coffee slushies. One shop had perfume outside and as soon as I smelled it I knew that was the scent of Italy I wanted to bring home. It was lemon and floral and amber...and perfect for me. I stowed away my treasure and we boarded the train for our last town, Corniglia. 

Poor Corniglia! And poor tourists. It is not worth visiting and most of its local residents appeared rather tipsy in the afternoon shade. We hiked. And hiked. And hiked and hiked and finally we made it to the top of the stairs. By this point, the sun was mocking us and my knee was becoming more swollen by the step and I was resenting Corniglia's distance from the train, but then the public restroom sealed the deal - literally a porcelain-lined hole in the ground with no TP...the second of the day! *Sigh*

After my balancing act, I found JD we grabbed gelato (nutella, tiramisu and limone) and a lemon granita from Alberto Gelateria and sought shade in the plaza before trekking back down for a train and change.

Currently, I am lounging on a blue chair protected by a bright orange umbrella, sand between my toes, breeze in my hair. It sounds like waves breaking and seagulls chatting, Italian snippets of conversation and bell chimes. Cigarette smoke perfumes the air like incense and fresh sea winds bat it away. Vacillating between fierce sun and breezy shade is our only exercise and journaling my pastime. JD just came up from a swim and is drying and warming on a towel in the sun. It's a good life :D

After sun-soaking, we cleaned up and grabbed a caffe shakerato con Bailey's at the already closing bar of yesterday and the Mister got himself a creamy blended ice cream coffee drink to go. We strolled along the banks to the Old Town and sat ourselves down for drinks at Enoteca Bar Elisco - the place in Monterosso for those seeking a beverage. The hostess was kind and we were thirsty, so a succession of sangria, limoncone, antica limoncone and grappa were called for, the latter three endowing their drinkers with fire-breathing capabilities. They were much cleaner and clearer than their southern counterparts and very good. Accompanying this line up were olives, peanuts and the most intriguing drops with stems - briny and savory - and unknown. Finally our server revealed the mystery - they were caper berries grown only in Cinque Terre and Sicily.

After many fortifications we moseyed all the way across the street - a dozen steps all told - and sat down at Da Eraldo for dinner. It was small and cozy and we started the night with an antipasti platter filled to the brim with various meats, cheeses, herbed green beans, zucchini, pesto, a caprese tomato, and small round bread discs. First plates were carbonara and bolognesa (JD's won). We befriended Charlie and Sarah - fellow Americans - and joined them for one more drink at the enoteca (Irish coffee - holy whiskey!). Much chatting later, we parted ways and headed back for a night of sleep."


Heather Hall