A Storm in Cinque Terre

Nova Scotia is a province that is almost entirely surrounded by water, with a cultural and historical connection to fishing. As a Nova Scotian,  I marveled at the distance fishermen traveled in their sturdy and graceful vessels.

Bringing in the boats

While we were visiting Cinque Terre a storm blew in.   I stood with the rest of the tourists and watched as the men of the community worked together to pull all the boats out of the harbour.

The men from the town worked together

It was fascinating to see how the winch system worked to pull the boats up on the square.

By the evening the square was full of the beautiful fishing vessels of the area.

As the day went on the waves became more violent.  We were amazed to see one young fellow body surfing in them, scary. 

Yup, he is still in the waves. He gave up after awhile and swam to shore where his friends were waiting.

By evening the rain came and it poured.  After we ate we walked through a maze of alleys and up the stairs and made our way back to our room.

We were nicely tucked in bed for the night when I heard the singing.  A large group of tourists didn’t allow the rain to dampen their fun and were in the square way below us singing Waltzing Matilda and other familiar songs.  It was surreal to hear the violence of the rain and wind with all those voices raising over it all the way up to our room.

A year after our visit Cinque Terre was hit by a devastating storm.  The communities are still recovering from the damage.  For more information please visit www.savevernazza.com.

Cinque Terre

Vernazza, Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre is a UNESCO World Heritage site on the northwest coast of Italy.   It is named for 5 towns Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore.  Cars are not allowed in the 5 towns, so visitors must arrive by rail, ferry (April to October) or by hiking trail.

We arrived in Cinque Terre from Nice, France.  There was a bit of switching of trains and much travel on the slower regional trains before we got to our destination.  Sometimes the best places are the most difficult to get to.

Along one of the trails

Cinque Terre is also a national park.  When you go there you should purchase a park pass.  Passes are available at different prices depending on how many days you plan to use them.  The pass gives you access to the hiking trails and allows you to travel on the trains between Levanto and La Spezia.  This is great because if you are not a great hiker you can take the train to one village and hike to the next or even take the trains from village to village.  Cornigila is the only village that is not directly accessible by train and you will have to wait for a bus, hike up a hill or walk the steps.  The park pass comes with a map of the park including the hiking trails with the distances and times for walking the trails.


We stayed in Vernazza.  Our reservation at Vernazza Rooms was not honoured and we had to scramble to find other accommodation.   We went to the cafe just down from the train station called The Blue Marlin, where they also serve a great breakfast.  The bartender suggested we check around the waterfront square for someone renting rooms.

The alleys of Vernazza

The father of Martina Callo, who also rents rooms, was sitting on a bench in the square, and although his daughter didn’t have any vacancies, he found us a room right on the square for one night.  We couldn’t believe our luck.  We had a beautiful room overlooking the harbour and square.  The next day he introduced us to a young woman who had a room available for the duration of our stay.  It was a bit more expensive and not on the square, but was a lovely room and we were happy we could stay.  Vernazza has tall buildings built along a narrow piece of land near the water.  The towns narrow alleys are fun to explore and lose yourself in.

The view from our room

It was early October and the water was still warm enough for swimming.  I was quite excited to be able to swim in the Mediterranean in Vernazza’s sheltered harbour.  We did a few of the hikes and took the train as well as the ferry and visited the 5 towns.

The festival in Monterosso

We were fortunate to arrive for a festival in Monterosso.  It is always fun to join in the festivities in a different country, even if you don’t quite know the reason behind them.

The Cinque Terre was an unforgettable place and well worth a visit.  The only problem was that lots of people felt that way.  During the day the towns could be fairly busy, but by evening most people had left for hotel rooms outside the park.  There was always something to do and three days was not enough time to spend here.

In October 2011, Vernazza was hit by a devastating flood.  It was heartbreaking to see the damage that was caused to this beautiful town.  Efforts to help restore Vernazza are being supported by http://www.savevernazza.com.


Getting Lost

Siena, Italy

This started as a post about doing your research before you travel and veered off course in a wonderful way.

I love the research part of travelling.  I suppose years of working as a theatre tour coordinator taught me to be an organized traveller.  Don’t get me wrong.  I leave everything open when I arrive at a place.  I just like make sure I have my accommodation booked and know how to get to the room so I can dump my knapsack and explore.

I think I spent as much time researching places to visit, where to stay and how to get there as we spent on the trip.  It was worth every minute.  My husband was always a little dubious when I would hop off a train in a new city and start looking for the next bus or subway, or even more unnerving for him, start walking to our accommodations.  We usually ended up right where we were supposed to be-or pretty close.

The red carpet was for the New Pop Festival, in Baden Baden, it was a bit helpful for finding your way around.

The times I didn’t have our route figured out so well were also ok, because  we were able to meet the people who lived in a new place.  It always amazed me that no matter where you went, you could always find someone who was willing to help you find your way.

In Siena, Italy we had gotten on the correct bus at the train station to take us into the city, but didn’t know when to get off the bus.  I asked a younger woman, who I figured would speak English, where we should get off the bus to get to Via della Sapienza.  While she was pondering an answer an older woman and man jumped into the conversation.  By the time our stop came, lots of helpful people were telling us to “go, go now”, or something like that in Italian. The man who had made suggestions earlier met us at our stop, we must have looked incredibly confused on the bus, because he had gotten off one stop earlier.  He very kindly walked us part way to where we needed to go.  We were still in trouble.  The old city is full of narrow alleys and streets.  After conversations with shop owners and a police officer we found our accommodation, Albergo Bernini.  It was worth getting lost for.

Civita di Bagnoregio-pretty hard to get lost here

We also ran into a large crowd of very helpful people in Naples who helped us figure out which train to catch to Sorrento.  A wonderful young couple on the express bus from the airport to the port of Athens (Piraeus), used their blackberry to find directions to our hotel and even talked to the bus driver to make sure he was aware of our stop.  These encounters with people are what make travel worth while.  There is natural beauty and wonderful examples of art, architecture and engineering all over the world.  But, when you travel and are blessed by the kindness of strangers it reaffirms your faith in humanity, and the memories of these encounters become more remarkable than the sights you have seen.