Sunday, December 29, 2013

TRAVEL | riomaggiore

Confession: I had Italian love affair with the beautiful Cinque Terre.

Given my pick of the five towns (terres), I chose to stay in the first of the five, Riomaggiore. I had picked a 10 bed dorm/apartment but due to it being off season I had the whole place to myself for two full days, except for a traveling artist by the name of Oliver, who rents out the master suite during the summer months, whom I rarely saw but turned out to be an incredibly sweet man.

Since returning to the States, a lot of people have asked me which one of the cities I've visited was my favorite and I always answer "Riomaggiore" without a moments hesitation. That is because it is literally impossible to not fall in love with that place. It is exceptionally charming; from the multicolored buildings to the little fishing boats sitting pretty by the marina. The village itself is tiny; it only takes about 5 minutes to walk from the shoreline to the top of the valley and there are several restaurants, mom and pop delis, and cafés are scattered along the one main street.

A popular tourist activity includes hiking along the coastline from one town to the next. But as I was nearing the end of my European tour, I was painfully exhausted from all the walking and sightseeing I had done for those last 8 or so weeks. Therefore I spent two days in Cinque Terre practicing what the Italians call "l’arte di non fare niente", the art of doing nothing. 

And those two days were some of the best days of my life.

I loved my little kitchen.  I had my first home cooked meal here in weeks. Traveling artist Oliver cooked a delicious meal of salad Niçoise and pasta with tuna, parsley, tomatoes and onions on my first night. The meal was paired with the local Cinque Terre white wine and it ended with a dessert of italian chocolate. It was a humble meal, but so memorable I've replicated it many times since.

Oliver, wherever you are (Thailand, Berlin, Croatia?), thanks for the delicious food!

The beginnings of the hiking trail above Riomaggiore. The view top the top of the hill was absolutely insane! A little Italian grandma taught me a shortcut to get back down into town--the path she took me on required weaving through people's backyards--I must've climbed down at least 20 flights of stairs. What an adventure!

Nothing compares to the sound of a wave crashing onto a pebble beach. I could sit for hours (and I did) listening to it.

As cliché as it sounds, people watching had become a favorite pass time for me on my travels. As a single traveler it was nice to finally have some time dedicated to only myself, to sit quiet with my thoughts and be shut off from social media for a change. I like being alone, for the most part, and especially so in Riomaggiore. One of the best parts of my day was breakfast time, when I got to watch all the locals running all their errands before the tourists from La Spezia arrive in the afternoon--I especially loved it when people shouted greetings from their cafes or delis to the other cafe or deli across the street. It was clear that everyone knew everyone in that town, and for me, getting to sit there, being apart of such insignificant yet endearing events, was an experience in itself.

In the end, Italy proved me wrong. With so many other places in Europe to explore, I thought I wouldn't be interested in returning any time soon, but now every time I about traveling Europe again I dream about stepping off that train once more back into my little slice of Heaven.

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