Cinque Terre Super Adventures!
Trip Start Jun 21, 2010
34Trip End Aug 23, 2010
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We dropped off our luggage and went to the town center to meet Emily's friend Emilio. She met a few locals when she visited Vernazza four years ago and they became quite close, like brothers and sisters. Emilio greeted us, telling us to follow him. We followed him down the steps to the beach, across the rocks, and around a corner. Soon we hear discotek style Italian music and enter a cove with a huge spring break-esque party. Locals pulled us right in and started dancing. We immediately felt out of place with our backpacks and travel clothes, so we went back to our room to put on our bathing suits and returned ready to party in style. Locals were dancing, jumping in the water, floating on blow-up lounge chairs, socializing, and, of course, drinking. Suddenly we found ourselves with pizza, foccacia, and mojitos in our hands, dancing with the Vernazzians. The Mediterranean, crystal clear, provided a wonderful backdrop for such an exciting evening. We had a major language barrier problem with the Vernazzians, but no problem, we all still had a blast. We got to know all the young townspeople, a great gateway to enjoying the small village deeper than simply tourists who pass through.
As the party ended, we helped clean up, bringing things into a closed restaurant and seeing a side of Vernazza that normal tourists do not experience. That evening, Emily's friends bought us pesto pizza, made with flat foccacia bread and the freshest handmade green pesto sauce. I had a fabulous evening, one I will remember for my life.
The next morning we ate breakfast with fresh homemade focaccia (see a pattern?) and capuccinos. Now I had a chance to look around the town. The Cinque Terre literally means Five Towns. They are a set of five Mediterranean towns connected by a trail, which Kelsey and I hiked after breakfast. Each town has its own character. Locals speak with different dialects and accents, buildings look slightly different, and the beaches are various sizes. We strolled through each town, and each was charming, but Vernazza took the lead by a long shot. My next favorite was Monterosso Al Mare, which reminded me of Nice, only cleaner. Monterosso is more of a resort town with a hustle bustle of activity. We slept on the beach (the only tiny section for which we didn't have to pay) and returned home to Vernazza. Our hike took between three and four hours, including wandering through the other towns. We witnessed kids cliff jumping and ate a fresh picnic on the trail at the last town (or town #1, depending on which direction you are looking).
Because Vernazza is a small town, despite the hordes of tourists, all the townspeople run the place. Our little party shindig introduced us to all the village people, so the following day while walking through town we felt we knew everybody. We walked into the gelateria and knew the girl serving us our ice cream (she suggested we get raspberry and chocolate), we said "Ciao!" to the guy in the pizzeria, we waved to waiters, we knew the people selling fish and catching fish (the night before, a fisherman came by and showed off his recent prize catch, which he in turn sold to a shop). We shared lunch with Emily's friends, one who was constantly on the phone, working as the middle man fish seller, making business sales. One of the locals took us out for a boat ride and rode into a cave where we saw a jelly fish through the clearest water. Each shop carries the town. The people survive off of each other, and when they cannot provide for themselves, they bring goods in from the closest bigg-ish town, La Speziale, which is just a few miles away. Cars are only allowed inside town in the morning to deliver fresh fruit, gelato, and products for shops. Even walking through Vernazza's single street, we constantly ran into the same people who we met the night before, making our experience meaningful and exciting.
People work in their casual clothes or bathing suits, and immediately when they get off work they jump into the water. They play while at their jobs, knowing how to have fun while still dutifully working. Their homes are up steep steps and relatively tiny compared to American suburbia, so their home is the street and the ocean. They speak their own dialect and Italian, two different languages. In the Cinque Terre, relatively remote towns where people are born, raised, and stay, raising generations of families, dialects are still strong, while in more diverse and infiltrated cities are slowly losing their dialects. At night, the tourists leave and the locals roam the town, sitting at tables and on steps, socializing, laughing, and including us in their conversations. The people refer to themselves as Vernazzians first, then Italians. Real Vernazza wakes up at about 8pm. We spent the evening experiencing Vernazzian life with the people, having a wonderful time.