Newspaper article Gympie Times, The Qld.

No Time like the First; Ann Rickard Looks Back on the First Time She Encountered the Legendary Cinque Terre

Newspaper article Gympie Times, The Qld.

No Time like the First; Ann Rickard Looks Back on the First Time She Encountered the Legendary Cinque Terre

Article excerpt

THE first time we met the infinite charms of the Cinque Terre we got it all wrong. We'd been staying at Santa Margherita, a seaside town of boundless prettiness on the Italian Riviera. That summer the locals urged us to visit nearby Cinque Terre, that legendary rocky, rugged strip of coastline rising dramatically from the Mediterranean between Genoa and Pisa.

"Take the ferry from here,a' they encouraged. "See the five villages of the Cinque Terra; you will love them all very much."

We planned to walk the track between villages, perhaps lunch in one of the villages, make a pleasant day of it.

The young woman at the ferry terminal took one look at us as we bought tickets and told her our plan.

"Impossible,'' she said in gorgeously accented English. "You need the fitness, and anyway, the ferry does not go today, too much wind.''

A disappointment. And a challenge. We had the fitness. And even though we knew the best way to approach the Cinque Terre was by boat...the views, the cliffs...bellissimo...the train would do nicely.

An hour later we arrived at the southernmost of the five villages, Riomaggiore. We would walk back to the other four villages, Manarola, Corniglia and Vernazza, finishing at Monterosso.

No cars can get into the five villages, only the path, trains and boats connect the villages.

It was midday when we headed off down the romantically named Via dell'Amore a the street of love, from Riomaggiore walking towards Manarola.

"What was all that talk about fitness?a' we laughed as we strolled easily down the man-made path curving around the rocky cliff face, walking briskly, passing ambling tourists. We had not lingered in Riomaggiore, and as we approached Manarola 15 easy minutes later, we regretted it.

"This is easy," we boasted and wandered into the village of Manarola to fall in love at first sight. An enchanting cluster of yellow, pink and grey stone buildings built into the cliffs spilled down to the sea.

We walked a narrow road towards the water, flanked by busy shops, cafes and restaurants.

We bought a bottle of local white wine, the woman behind the counter happy to open the bottle and supply two paper cups. We took our bounty down to the tiny harbour and sat on the rock wall, ate, drank and watched teenagers jump off the rocks into the cool green water and then pushed on to the next village.

"Don't' know why that woman at the ferry thought we couldn't do this," we laughed as we walked and climbed on a rough track past clusters of sweet peas and wild poppies, the views down to the water becoming more beautiful each high step.

On and on we climbed, our confidence slowly seeping with each steep step. We had not brought hats or sunscreen. We sweated and cursed, but we continued. …

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