Dispatches From Italy -  Visiting Cinque Terre and Portovenere, watching the World Cup

Saturday early morning, 8 July 2006.  Outside Lerici

This campground is the sweetest yet and, amusingly, is an olive grove – a nice connection with our first night.  The ‘pool’ is a Mediterranean bay, 60 feet away.  Hot showers, excellent walks nearby, quiet and beautiful.  I’m awake, as usual, while the light gathers.  Fuzzily, I’m realizing that the sky is on fire.  Something brilliantly pink is going on.  Go Peter, grab clothes and camera!  Do the picture moments ever stop here?  I’ve burned through almost 30 rolls of film so far and there is no sign of anything getting less picturesque.  In truth, the space and quiet in my head makes life more picturesque.

Saturday morning.  Cinque Terra

The sea is calm, racing past the bow of our boat, surging occasionally.  We are pushing our way north along the Cinque Terra coastline, headed for Monterosso.  The ease with which we watch coves and cliffs move past will not be the same on our return.  Even with our legs and lungs limbered by four long hiking days, today will be hot, sweaty and long.  I wonder if Italian life is different at a 45 degree angle.

Saturday afternoon.  Cinque Terra, Vernazza

I was suspended mid-air again today, departing rock and on the verge of meeting water.  I was hot.  This time I had a proper swim suit on instead of sandals and street shorts, but that only makes the moment between rock and water better.  Sweaty beautiful hike, refreshing swim, scrumptious lunch, and now a relaxing moment or three.  Kevin and I are draped in chairs, casually eyeing people passing by.  Explorer Karen didn’t stay draped for long.  She’ll be back at some point.  A ragged band of friends are gathering at a table behind us, preparing for a proper Italian lunch.  This is grand.  Do we have to leave?

Saturday afternoon.  Cinque Terra, Riomaggiore

Our last stop on the Cinque Terra trail, Riomaggiore is settled in a gully, ridgelines careening above, buildings teetering.  We’ve just found out that there are roughly 600 full time residents – and we’ve met two of them, three if you count Layla the dog.  But the town swells by 2500 or more in the summertime.  I think it would be more interesting to be part of the 600 than the 2500.  Soon we’ll be catching the train back to La Spezia, then bus to Lerici, then feet to the campground.  In the meantime, we try to be locals.


The timeless Portovenere boat announcer

The town of Riomaggiore slithering down the gully

What else but lemons! We are in Italy, after all.

What decade are we in?  Very cool to watch their patience.

Classic Cinque Terra image

Preparing for lunch

(image by Karen) Peter silhouetted by the sun

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Sunday early morning, 9 July 2006.  Outside Lerici

Yesterday the sky caught fire while I was racing from my sleeping bag to the water’s edge, camera in hand.  Today, the sky is catching fire while I’m thirty feet out from shore, gently treading water.  I need to buy a set of swim goggles and snorkel.  Imagine watching a sunrise from underwater.  I have a favourite rest-break ladder that I’ll swim to soon, but in the meantime, I’m content to watch the sunrise extinguish its pilot light in the clouds.

Sunday afternoon.  Portovenere

My hands are tanned.  My feet have sandal tan lines.  My brow is tanned.  I haven’t enjoyed this much sun in years.  An Italian wedding crowd is gathering at the church below me.  Pavarotti (of course) sings arias for the sound checks, cut off mid-note, heartrending.  I have a boat to catch, back to Lerici, back to a World Cup game, back to our last night in Tuscany.  The last day.  What a phrase, bringing both joy and tears to mind.  I’ve thoroughly, immensely, enjoyed my time here.  I usually think and almost exist a day ahead – thinking about what I need to be dealing with in the days to come, weighing scenarios and needs.  This time, though, I’m not thinking ahead.  I’m not going back a day early.  I’m here.  In fact, I’m so here that a glance at my watch sends me careening down the stairs towards the boat!

Sunday night.  Lerici

This town is going bonkers.  Nuts.  Smoke bombs, burning rubber, patriotic flags ripping by, people crowded into the fountain, horns incessantly beeping.  Full tilt.  Italy just won the 2006 World Cup.  A tight, tense game has exploded into wild celebration.  A city bus is enduring a crowd of people marching through the front doors and out the rear, waving flags and cheering as though on parade behind the glass.  A pair of big Ducati motorbikes is having a rubber burning match behind us, revving and swaying from side to side.  We could probably stay here all night watching the crowds.


The campsite ladder in early morning waves

Cinque Terra coastline though the window

The crowd awaits the wedding procession


A tense moment - watching the penatly kicks

Part 2: Noise, smoke, lights… action!

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Peter Newbury's Published Adventures