….in Monterosso al Mare, the first of the Cinque Terre villages coming from Milano. Thank the goddess, when I booked my train reservation Saturday, after standing in line for close to an hour, I learned that there was an earlier train departing from Milano, allowing me to arrive here at 11:00 am, thereby having a full twenty-four hours in my idea of Heaven on Earth. I’d hoped to stay here three nights and to explore all five villages by boat, train and famous cliff-side hike. But alas, only one night in my exquisitely perfect, single room with a view onto the quaint old village and Mediterranean Sea.
It’s Tuesday morning and I’m sitting in the quiet corner of the sun-filled breakfast room, full of American tourists, sipping my second cappuccino as I type this.
Yesterday I followed Rick Steve’s self guided walking tour and restaurant recommendation, to enjoy numerous photo “ops” and a luncheon on the harbour of risotto al mare (with clams, mussels, and octopus tentacles) and stuffed anchovies – both local favourites – and a half litre of local house vino bianco.
Had I been with at least one other person I’d have relished having the famous terracotta crock of fresh seafood bouillabaisse – chock full of mussels, shrimp, lobster and a whole octopus! I witnessed a table of friendly women from Iowa delightfully “wrestle” with that one!
I walked through the tunnel to the “new town” to learn the trail from Manoralo to Monterosso was suddenly closed due to a landslide throwing the devout hikers with daypacks and trekking poles in a tizzy. I sampled a rosemary and salted fresh foccacia, and then sat by the sea, sipping another local specialty, limoncello on ice, accompanied by a dish of roasted pistachios. More subtle in both flavour and colour than what I buy at home.
I sat on the terrace of my room for hours, watching the sea, feeling the coolness, and hearing the village grow silent except for the cooing doves and chirping crickets. I slept with the French doors wide open, and awakened at midnight to a sky full of stars and silence. Such a sweet change from the heat and noise of the city.
And this morning I woke at dawn to a sky softly pink against the slate grey calm sea thankful for these twenty-four hours of simple, natural beauty and tranquility.
In a few hours I’ll pull myself away and make the four-minute train trip to the next village, Vernazza, where I’ll stay for two days and tour the rest of the Cinque Terre.