You know those pictures of the bright dwellings perched becomingly by the sea? It’s like some giant in the sky dropped a handful of sweet candies and decided they were too beautiful to eat, so he left them just as they were.
I never knew that place truly existed. It was too picturesque to be real, another place where people lived and did their laundry, hung it outside to be dried and lightly starched by the sunny salty air.
To them, the beauty was commonplace and mundane. To me, it was heaven on earth. Plus, seaside kitty with deformed ear. Awwww….
Cinque Terre. Five villages on the Mediterranean. Unesco World Heritage Site. The Italian Riviera.
No matter what you call it, it sounds as alluring as it looks.
Finding Our Way to Cinque Terre
Rome was relentlessly sunny, well over 90 degrees for three days. Mind you, one of those afternoons we silly Americans attempted a three-mile run in a park. Sucking back end-of-summer park dirt in your Nikes while everyone else relaxes in the shade with a cold drink is really something—you should try it. (Kidding, don’t.)
Florence played nice, with gentle rain that soothed our sunburns and spirits, making the city even more of a looker at night.
With the promise of sunshine and mild temps lined up in Cinque Terre in the middle of our Italian trip, we were giddy the morning we climbed onto the tour bus to make the trek to the sea.
It was by chance that we even found our way to Cinque. I was looking for day tours from Florence when those bright dwellings perched by the sea caught my eye. And color me happy, it was a hiking tour!
Consumed by enthusiasm, my articulation was worse than usual as I rattled off the idea to Mr. H in what would have made someone else think “perhaps English isn’t her first language.”
At the same moment, Mr. H was coming at me with the same excitement, saying he had an Italy recommendation for us from someone he met.
“Cinque Terre” we both said in our pathetic Italian. And, we booked the day-long hiking tour without a second thought.
Freddie Mercury Returns From the Dead
You just never know what you’re going to get when you go on a tour with a bunch of adults. Is it going to be fun? Cheesy as f*ck? Are people going to pretend you don’t exist, or barge into your conversations?
We had a two-hour bus ride through Tuscany, a hike, seaside village train-hopping, a boat ride, and then we had to bus it back home. I was majorly skeptical about how the tour company, Walkabout Florence, was going to pull it off.
We were lucky to have two incredible tour guides, Giada and Matteo. They not only magically corralled tourists all day, they injected just the right dose of history and jokes, which included our nicknames.
Mr. H’s nickname was coined at lunch when a waiter asked me to take a picture of them together after gawking at him throughout the entire meal.
The waiter thought Mr. H was Freddie Mercury, back from the dead.
Our guides found out, because the guy was pretty damn excited about the chance encounter. He was telling everyone, jabbing them in the sides with his elbow wearing a conspiring smile: “Freddie, eh? Don’t you see it? He’s Freddie Mercury!”
Er…Freddie wasn’t quite this burly, but yeah…TOTALLY!
Because our Italian tour guides thought me, Freddie’s wife, needed a nickname too, they continued with the music theme. So, I’ve always been a big fan of hers…but…meet Annie Lennox?
Hiking, Swimming, Slushies…These Are a Few of My Favorite Things
Anyway, the punchy nicknames and unfairly delicious seafood pasta energized us for the hike. Because we were allowed to split off, we hike-loving Portlanders left our group in the dust, working up a nice Italian Riviera sweat to go with our fluffy humid do’s.
(Remember when you guys voted for my worst San Francisco hair last year? The Hair Basket was pretty epic though.)
Like the hair, everything grows right before your eyes. You can breathe in the freshest rosemary and thyme on the side of the trail, and pick delicious capers when you need a snack.
Unlike hiking in Portland, the people coming from the other direction didn’t say hi, because they weren’t sure which language to speak. Once we passed them, their melodious foreign chatter continued on, transported down the winding dirt trail by the cool breeze.
Halfway, at the highest point on the hike, the sparkling view had some competition. Lemon slushies.
One rickety restaurant sat alone, making bank on the thirsty tourists and hikers staggering inside.
The reason we high-tailed it through the hike was less about the workout and more about this…
Swimming in the Mediterranean had always been on both of our “wow that would be awesome” lists.
When we heard rumors about seafood cones, we crossed that one off the list too. Check.
The Cinque Terre You See Online is a Sham
You may have noticed my Cinque photos look different from others you have seen. That’s because—except for the lunch image above, which was too dark—I didn’t “enhance” these images, not even the header.
The first thing I thought when I stepped off the bus and caught my first glimpse was: Aren’t the buildings supposed to be a lot brighter?
Nope. They’re actually softer, practically pastel. And Cinque Terre in its natural state—like most things—is even more stunning.
It’s funny how saturated our world has become with well…everything.
Then we make it a point to saturate the world even more with cool effects and filters in the photographs we share. We try to make things seem more perfect by photoshopping out whatever it is that is taking away from the shot.
This is one of the first blogs I’ve ever published where I didn’t touch the photos. It doesn’t always work, but Cinque is an easy subject.
When I first saw this image, I considered not using it because my tag was sticking out of my shirt.
Then I thought how ridiculous that was. It was a real moment in time—no effects, no filters.
An Unexpected Pit Stop in Venice
That evening the bus back to Florence was very different from the ride out to Cinque Terre. A day of bonding by the beautiful sea can break down anybody, even the most stubborn adults.
With the navy Tuscan scenery flowing effortlessly in front of our heavy eyes, everyone was talking about their next stop…Venice.
It wasn’t on our itinerary. We had chosen Cinque Terre as our one day trip from Florence to avoid racing from place to place. Mr. H and I turned to each other, shrugged, and said…
What the hell? When will be here again?