It might be a bit strange to start a post about Cinque Terre by saying that Vernazza was our second stop. Shouldn't I have started writing about our first stop? I promise, that post is coming. Then you will also understand why I change the order of the story. Sometimes the story gets better with a little laying on of hands.
Vernazza is the second most northerly of the five Cinque Terre villages. Perhaps it is also the most famous, as images of the sweet little village often serve as a model for not only Liguria - but the whole of Italy. Here are all the ingredients needed to mix the perfect mix of Italy. Pastel-colored houses with dark green shutters that shut out the warm rays of the sun. The laundry that shamelessly hangs on clothespins outside the window. The small terraces that are bursting with pots of citrus fruits and olive trees. Outdoor seating under large umbrellas and more gelato shops than 7-eleven kiosks. Italy simply. Enjoyment of life on all levels.
We begin our visit with a lunch in the small port. The sea is as calm as a file bowl, the aperol glasses clink and some visitors sit on the rocks and dip their toes in the cool sea water. There are quite a few tourists here today, but it's not crowded at all. Everything is very pleasant. Maybe even a little idyllic.
We get a table in the sunshine and each order a pizza. It's not cheap, but it won't break the travel budget either. Life is not unpleasant right now.
We can look out over the small square down in the harbor from our lunch spot. Most of the boats are pulled up and covered by pajama-striped tarpaulins. A few boats are at the quay. However, there are more passenger boats that drop off and pick up visitors in the port. Going between the villages by boat is probably the most popular way. In any case, it is much more beautiful than going by train. Traveling by train is incredibly smooth, but the journey goes largely through tunnels. Fast, but not scenic.
Along the steep terraces of the Cinque Terre are well-kept vineyards. Wine has been grown here for over a thousand years. It has never been easy, but over the years people have learned to shape the soil and the slopes in order to cultivate them. It reminds a lot of the wine slopes of the Douro Valley, although they are a bit more expansive. We actually bought a bottle of Cinque Terre wine at the grocery store one of the nights, but I can't say that wine went down in history. Mostly green grapes are grown here – vermentino, albarola and bosco. Not some of my favorites.
We walk up between the houses, in the small and narrow alleys. It feels like all the streets in the village go uphill. Step by step. Everywhere, well-tended flowers hang in ampels and Madonnas adorn many of the house walls.
There is a smell of tomato sauce in one of the alleys. Sun-ripened, long-cooked tomatoes. A scent of the perfect tomato sauce. The way only tomato sauce made from Italian tomatoes can smell. It's really strange that we don't more often just eat a simple tomato sauce with pasta here in Sweden. A well-made tomato sauce with freshly grated parmesan is definitely more enjoyable than a quick-made minced meat sauce.
We begin to gain altitude above the rooftops and the church. The church tower of Santa Margherita d'Antiochia has stood here looking out over the sea from its cliff since the 14th century. Countless storms and floods have crashed at her feet, but she still stands with her (seemingly) fish scale-covered dome. Appropriate in an old fishing village from the 11th century.
The view of the village from the hiking trail is adorable and definitely a deja vu feeling from many of the travel inspiration Instagram accounts I follow. We are not walking over to Monterosso al Mare today, that will have to be another trip. Today there will be more enjoyment of life and less hiking.
There will be a few laps along the small alleys before we finally head towards the train station to get on to the next village. It's hard to believe it can get more beautiful than this. But you know what? It can 🙂
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