Thursday, November 25, 2010

A quiet village on the coast

Village of Vernazza- population 500 (+ tourists)

View from our hotel room balcony!

From Venice on the northeast coast, we drove to Vernazza on the northwest coast, near Genoa. We had no idea how mountainous and wild it would be. We felt like we were a long ways from everything. The road into town was steep, narrow and winding. Heavy rain had caused landslides so we had to detour on even tinier and more spine-tingling roads. There are no cars allowed into town so we parked and walked nearly half a mile (tough to find a flat spot for a parking lot) to the seaside fishing village. It was quaint and picturesque, just as you would imagine it to be.
In summer, Vernazza and the other towns that make up the Cinque Terre- Five Lands- are packed with tourists who flock there for the sun, sea and atmosphere. As we strolled into town on a rainy Tuesday in November, we wondered if we had made a mistake. The three ice cream shops were all closed and we came to find out that only a handful of businesses had regular hours.
But we slowed down and just enjoyed climbing up to the cliff tops for great views, lingering over a morning espresso, exploring all the narrow alleys tucked back in neighborhoods and watching the sun sink into the Mediterranean each afternoon. We pondered how they could possibly plant vineyards on seemingly impossible inclines and how they planned to harvest olives from trees barely clinging to the mountainside. We saw old fishermen repairing nets on the docks and watched women talking animatedly outside the market. Dinner was our evening entertainment. The restaurant owners took such pride in their food and wine. It was a delight to try the local specialties: just-caught seafood, homemade pasta, fresh pesto, and the best tiramisu I've ever tasted. The quiet simplicity of this town in the off-season seemed like it could cast a spell on you and make you never want to leave!