L’altro giorno qualcuno mi ha chiesto se io sono mai andata nelle cinque terre in Liguria. La persona era curiosa e si domandava perché agli americani piacessero così tanto le cinque terre. Le ho detto che sì certo, io sono stata a Vernazza. Ci sono andata la prima volta nel 2004. Ho trovato il posto rustico e il terreno ripido. Ci siamo stati in un B&B molto semplice. Però subito mi sono innamorata del vecchio villaggio dei pescatori che sembrava di appendersi pericolosamente sulla collina, catturato tra il cielo e il mare. Io penso che la ragione per cui agli americani piacciano le cinque terre così tanto sia perché c’è un fascino delle cosa semplice che appartengo al mare e terra che non esiste niente simile nel nostro paese.
Le case colorate delle cinque terre sembrano gioielli. La bellezza delle cinque terre (the five lands) chiama ai turisti come il canto di una sirena. Inoltre noi americani, come i nostri antenati pionieri, abbiamo uno spirito di avventura e ci piace andare in posti difficili da raggiungere. Ma la nostra ricompensa è rilassarci in spiaggia, fare gite in barche o camminare lungo i sentieri rigorosi mentre guardiamo un panorama che toglie il fiato. Alla fine ci piace mangiare bene ai ristoranti al aperto, sotto ombrelloni multicolori, con una vista del mare. Tutto questo fa un pacchetto irresistibile agli americani. Ecco perchè ci sono tanti turisti americani che visitano i paesi di Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, Riomaggiore e Monterosso in massa ogni anno!
La domanda fatto dalla mia amica mi ha fatto ricordare un’altra domanda su Vernazza fatto da mia zia alcuni anni fa. Ecco un blog, scritto in inglese, nel quale ho fatto una risposta alla domanda di mia zia “Dov’e’ Vernazza?”
Where is Vernazza?
This was a question I was recently asked by my Aunt Dorothea. A surprising question, seeing as my aunt is a seasoned world traveler and I had expected her to have already sampled the charms of Vernazza. Not so surprising, her thirst to know about foreign points of interest. My aunt is my mother’s older sister by roughly nine years. I was always inspired and thrilled that in the 1930’s she actually trained to be a TWA airlines hostess. Traveling is her passion. After marrying she traveled the world with her husband, sometimes four or five times a year, visiting far-off places like Bosnia and Borneo. Unfortunately, my aunt’s wandering spirit has been weighed down a bit with tragedy, recent and past. She has suffered the loss of two daughters and a husband. Yet despite this, I was recently happy to learn that her traveling spirit was once again buoyant and alive. When I sent her a beautiful photo my friend Charlene’s husband had taken of my husband and me in Vernazza last year during our two-week trip to Italy, she responded to me with an e-mail economically captioned “Geography”. When I opened the email I found her question. “Where is Vernazza?”. So I told her.
Vernazza is a small village nestled along the northwestern coast of Italy, in the province of Liguria, in an area known as the Cinque Terre. Genoa is to its north, and Pisa is to it’s south. Before the train lines were completed at the turn of the century, the Cinque Terre, or five lands, were inaccessible by car or bus and one could only reach the remote villages by boat. Today the Italians continue to shake their heads and complain about crazy tourists that try to reach the cinque terre by car! Che pazzo! What craziness! There are walking paths that connect the five villages that comprise the cinque terre and visiting each on foot is a wonderful way to realize each village’s unique personality. Today the train line connects the towns, and if you don’t feel like hiking the trails you can easily hop the local train and be in the next village in minutes. Walking some of the trails can be arduous and take up to 2 or 3 hours.
The towns are a collection of buildings that start right at the edge of the sea and back up into the hills that rise steeply from the ocean. The houses are placed on top of each other and the hills are terraced and provide a wealth of vegetables, grapes and flowers. In fact there was a funny, one-seat cable car, on a track that ran right past our bungalow window, that was used to collect vegetables and grapes in the fall. When we arrived we were told by our host Juliano, that the vendemmia (grape harvest) would start the next day, and not to be overly concerned if we heard the whirring and churning of the ancient trolley starting up at 6am!
Our accommodations in Vernazza were high up in the hill above the train station. Rather than a hotel room, it was more of a rustic free standing cabin which we had all to ourselves. The roof was flat and served as our patio. Every morning I would climb up and watch the sun come up over the hill and illuminate the village as I wrote in my journal. I would wave to le signore as they pulled weeds in their gardens and passed by with baskets full of the day’s vegetable harvest. In the evening, after a full day of exploring, we would gather our fellow travelers, who were housed above us on the hill, onto our rooftop terrace for a glass of wine and some cheese and watch the sun go down over the ocean. Then we would walk down our narrow, steep path into the village to dine in the ristoranti that bedecked the water front.
During our stay we went on a boat excursion and snorkeled the waters around the Cinque Terre. Today the waters and reefs around this area of Italy are a National Park, as are the hiking trails, and as such are protected by the Italian government. We sailed all the way down to Porta Venere and back up along the coast in order to view all the five villages from the sea. In all they are: Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, Riomaggiore, Monterosso.
Not surprisingly, my eighty-eight year old aunt is thinking about visiting Vernazza next year.