The more time we spend in Italy, the harder it is to leave. The country is familiar and foreign. We can easily navigate the train, the map and the menu, taking the weight of logistics off our shoulders. We always know that we’ll be back, relieving us from that dreaded fear of missing out. All that’s left is being present and mindful (how on trend) of the beauty.
Cinque Terre makes a dreadful first stop on any trip, since whatever follows will surely fall short in both small scale charm and sweeping natural grandeur. We based ourselves in Vernazza, second village from the north. From there we could venture off in all directions by day and come home in the evening to enjoy a gelato on the seaside square lined with pastel houses, the terraced hills of vineyards rising sharply behind.
Our high expectations for lovely Vernazza were met but our low expectations for Kalina’s hiking skills were far exceeded. It turns out that Kalina is a very capable hiker, passing wheezing tourists with ease. But she is not a very engaged hiker. She sees no reason to climb the mountain to enjoy the view. Instead of sweeping vistas (jaded by Monhegan perhaps?), she is motivated by storytelling and would hike all afternoon as long as we ask her questions about her imaginary pet mouse, Tilly. So there we went along the seaside cliffs of Cinque Terre, taking in the views and learning about Tilly’s favorite foods and toys.
With a much larger adventure that would take us across the Mediterranean, the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean in front of us, somehow it was with heavy hearts that we boarded the train from Cinque Terre. We took our last look at Vernazza before the train entered the tunnel and wondered how could such a perfect place exist and how soon can we come back?