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Saturday, December 4, 2010

Mamma Mia!

Le Cinque Terre – Five tiny towns along the Ligurian Coast – Riomaggiore, Manola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso al Mare - quaint, beautiful, rugged, and......  Was there a full moon on Thursday?

As has become my habit I walked to the train station in Firenze in the pouring rain on Wednesday and arrived at my new destination, Riomaggiore, in the pouring rain.  I’ve become expert at taking pictures while holding an umbrella.  I count everything as a talent these days.  

Stairs to La Casa de Venere
Riomaggiore was my base of operation while visiting Le Cinque Terre.  I had a nice room on the third floor of La Casa de Venere on via Sant'Antonio located at the top of these stairs.  The stairs inside La Casa were also straight up and down.  I murmured a silent prayer that I wouldn't have to leave in a hurry for any reason. 

Riomaggiore is a picture book seaside town hanging on the edge of a cliff as are Vernazza and Manarola.  

I loved Riomaggiore and had a great time at dinner the first night with a couple from North Carolina and another couple from New York.  We were the only tourists at La Lampara, the only restaurant still serving customers.  Le Cinque Terre pretty much closes down in the winter.  The tortagliani di lobster was excellent,  the very tall young waiter was cute and pleasant and the older waiter held my hand and asked me if I was from California every time he came to the table. 
Even though the sun was out the next day, parts of the trail from town to town were closed  so I took the train.  It cost 70 Euro cents to go fron Riomaggiore to the other four towns.  Ya gotta love the trains in Europe. 

Besides loving the towns and the unbelievable scenery, it turned out to be a very interesting day in other ways.

Corniglia is the one town that is not at sea level.  It sits atop a cliff.  I had climbed to the top of the town and stopped at this piazza to rest. 
There was a man, late 40’s, early 50’s I’d say, wearing a brown leather jacket and knit hat sitting on the steps to the right of the church smoking a cigarette.  The steps lead up to a terrace at the edge of the cliff overlooking the ocean.  We were the only two people on the piazza.  I sat on a bench facing the central statue and the church.  Just taking photos and willing my legs to stop aching.  The man stands up and very obviously stares at me for a long while.  I know I’m supposed to be flattered but it felt invasive so I stared back with a ‘get a life’ look.   He cocks his head and motions for me to come up the stairs.  He takes a few steps up, stops, and motions again.  I’m shocked but not afraid.  He goes up a few more steps and motions again.  This goes on three more times until he’s out of my viewing range.  I mean did he really think I was gonna hop up off the bench and run up those steps after him???  Anyway, I would have had to hobble, my legs were hurting too badly.  A few minutes later his work buddies returned from lunch and I saw him slink down the stairs on the other side of the church and join them at a construction site.   For a moment it felt like I had fallen into a really bad ‘B’ movie set. 

Vernazza and Manarola were pretty much totally closed up for the winter, but I enjoyed walking around them. 

Monterosso al Mare is my hands down favorite but then I’m a lover of the seaside and the mountains. The surf swelled and crashed magnificently for me.  It was here on this walkway next to the sea that an elderly gentleman, probably in his 80’s, flagged me down and did the hugging, cheek kissing thing with lots of “mi amore’s.”  That felt sweet. 

I returned to Riomaggiore in the early evening and once more went to dinner at La Lampara.  

The young couple from North Carolina was there again too so we had fun chatting.  Toward the end of the meal, they both said, “Do you see that man staring at you?  He’s been outside the window for a really long time just staring at you.”  I had seen him through the glass on the other side of the room but was just trying to ignore him.  He was a crusty old fisherman and did not leave the window the whole time I was eating.  I said, “Yes, I know he’s there and maybe it’s a form of flattery, but would you mind walking me back to my room when we leave?”  They did.  I said, "Grazie mille!"
Via Sant'Antonio (my room)

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