five heavenly lands – cinque terre, italy

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In denial of the fact that my time as a freewheeling, obligation-less, professional chocolate croissant eater are over, I’ve decided to spend this start of the semester downtime drowning in some unnecessary nostalgia. Chronologically, that means we begin with my first and only solo trip, an encounter with the other-worldly — Cinque Terre on the western coast of the land of pizza, 2 hours south of Milan.

It may have been the most beautiful spot I’ve seen on this earth thus far ~

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I tried to write a full description of this brush with the earth’s wonderment, but like a weekend spent alone, it feels more right with fewer words — here are some moments:

  • A missed flight, a lazy, useless, companionable, comfortable 24 hours spent in bed. A day lost but a day gained.
  • Wandering into tiny ghost-town Manarola on a late November evening (Cinque Terre being a summer destination)
  • An introduction to ‘trofie’ pasta, perfectly ridged and swirled little lumps of dough, built to catch each fleck of pesto they’re covered with. Carbo-loading, if you will.
  • 9 hours of solo hiking, getting settled with the sound of only my own heavy breathing (lots of bread, not a lot of burpees), rounding corners hoping not to see another’s face so I didn’t have to wipe my own dripping one.
  • A game of catch with the setting sun – every time I put my camera away and turned a corner, land and sea and sun conspired to create an ever more beautiful landscape.
  • An awkward run-in with a fellow American hiker, who kept commenting on how big my backpack was (As if I didn’t know).
  • Sitting in my sweat and reveling in natures formidable grandiosity. Feeling unironic in doing so.
  • 20 minutes spent trying to beat the rain forecast that was always far too accurate with its precipitous predictions, until I gave up trying, and it gave up raining.
  • Emerging from the trail looking like a (happy) ghost, grey and damp and quiet.
  • Stripping off a day’s worth of shoes and socks. Dipping toes into the swirling Mediterranean waters, pressing rocks into foot-soles, drinking in the evening air.
  • Celebratory lasagna, celebratory wine, celebratory table for one. The first of a few times I sat down to dinner with myself on the other side of the Atlantic pond, and you know, I was surprised at the pleasantness of the company.

  • Logistics

    Sleep: I stayed in Hostel5terre in Manarola, the fourth city down. Hiked from Manarola through Volastra to Corniglia, on to Vernazza, and ended in Monterrosso (the only active town), catching the evening train back into Turin. Though it wasn’t the most comfortable, it was totally doable to hike with my small pack so as to increase my chances of catching the train.

    Travel: I used loco2.com to plan all my train travel, and *should* have booked each train on arrival at the station, which was well-equipped with really easy-to-use machines, rather than through the site. But que sera sera.