Cinque Terre, Tiamo!
This was my 2nd visit to C.T. My 1st one was in April, and I remember saying that I wondered what it would be like there in the summer. I also remember seeing restaurants like Ciak, who serves some of the most amazing looking seafood dishes, made by a man that looks like Popeye, with an animated personality in his kitchen, and thinking that my husband and kids would LOVE to eat there. So here it is August, and I am visiting Cinque Terre with the plan of taking my family to dine at Ciak, swim in the sea, hike the hikes I was unable to, and see all of the miracles that the locals in Monterosso and Vernazza performed from October until now.
I was excited beyond belief to arrive on the train in Monterosso. It was like I was there only days prior, as I got off the train and knew exactly where to go, which was a very nice feeling, rather than having to establish yourself in a new place once again.
We checked into our room, with one queen bed, 1 twin beside it, and 1 set of bunk beds, a small bathroom with 1 toilet, 1 bidet, and a shower. Our room also had a balcony with enough room for 4 chairs, and a small table to set our drinks on, and another window on the wall facing the beach so if there were ANY wind, we would get a cross breeze to cool off our room. There was no wind… Luckily though our room was cooler than ours in Carcasonne. Enough said.
Our first stop in C.T. was to share a few dishes at Gio, on the boardwalk, where Kathy and I had dined at many times in April last year, it was that good. We ordered the pesto gnocchi, pesto lasagna, and bruschetta, oh and of course I had a Spritz. The Spritz was great, but the rest of the food was a bit disappointing unfortunately. Our next stop was for gelatto, and then the old town to check out the flood damage and repairs.
As we passed through the tunnel that connect Fagina (new town) and the old town, I tried to explain to the kids once again the extent of the damage from the floods of water, mud and rocks that had swept through this small town, and buried part of it, in late October, but it is hard to visualize. We reached the old beach and it looked like it had in April. The overpass and underpasses that took us to the old town looked amazing. I was shocked at had I not known about the tragedy that struck this town only months earlier, I would have never known from how things looked.
What was different was how new many things were like the interior of the shops in the old town, the restaurants, and kitchens. They were all shiny and so modern.
Day 13: We hit the beach in the morning along with the locals and it was lovely to relax on a beach that had more sand than rocks. Also the water was less salty than in France. The beach we went to was under the Gigante, and it was chosen because it had a big rock in the water that Kalyna and Noah could jump and dive off of.
In the afternoon we took the train to Riomaggiore to explore the town, and show the kids, and Kim the real wonders of this area, which is how the homes are built into the rocks and cliffs over the sea, which Monterosso is not known for.
It was HOT,so no one was into too much exploring where there was not any shade for a reprieve from the intense heat. But I did somehow convince the troops to walk the Via dell ‘Amore high above the sea to Manarola. We saw the many huge Agave plants growing on the cliffs, jelly fish in the sea, and of course the many locks left by those in love as a symbol of their love.
Manarola was a place that Noah wanted to revisit because it had a HUGE rock that people were jumping off of- the next day’s plan.
Tonight, we must eat at Ciak!!! And YES, it was everything we thought it would be and more! Our BEST meal yet!!!
As a result of the floods in October, I found a blog belonging to a now friend of mine, Nicole. who lives in a city just outside the Cinque Terre, called La Spezia. http://culturalcomments.blogspot.it/ We have been in touch and I was able to meet her in Vernazza after our morning of hiking and cliff jumping armed with Ziploc bags to leave behind for Nicole. Can you believe you can not buy Ziploc bags in Italy! We had a great visit in the Piazza Marconi, and I know that is just the first of many visits for us.
It was interesting talking to Nicole and someone else we met through Nicole, Christian, who grew up in Vernazza and runs some rooms and apartments there. Nicole met her Italian husband in Vernazza, so between her and Christian we heard first hand some stories of the floods, after math and the rebuilding process that is still happening. The situation in Vernazza is quite sad and uplifting. As you walk own the main street they have blown up photos of the exact location you are standing in after the flood. In many pictures you can not see the door to the shop or restaurant because it is literally buried. What you see are the windows to the apartment 1 floor above the shop and dirt below it. It looks like the apartment is on the ground floor. That is how much they had to dig out to reclaim their lives. Plus EVERYTHING had to be replaced, including tables, chairs, ALL food, and retail items once they dug themselves and their neighbours out. So as I sat in the Piazza and looked around, I realized the extent of having to replace EVERYTHING. Every postcard, t-shirt, umbrella, towel, napkin, glass, cup, picture that I saw just at a quick glace was ALL new in every store and restaurant.
You have to understand also that this community received very little money from the government and then more money that was promised was not delivered because of the earthquake that happened in another part of Italy in June. Also if any of the residents had insurance, this was not covered because it was a natural disaster.
However, the uplifting part of this story is that a community that had become disfunctionally divided before the floods for several reasons had been brought together to rebuild and start from scratch together as a community. They are also still helping each other out financially where and when they can, through paying each others rent, etc.
I have to say that I was moved to tears when I stepped into their church, because I felt that I was a witness to the resilience of this community that all came together through their mourning, suffering, sweat and tears, and kept themselves grounded through their strong faith in God.
So, long story short about these communities. They still need help through donations and tourism. It is especially evident in Vernazza, as the Piazza or the restaurants were not full. We must tell everyone that they are open for business as they desperately need our tourism dollars. If you did not know about the flood, you could be there and honestly be oblivious to their needs, as they cleaned up and rebuilt so much for the tourists. But still in Vernazza alone, a hotel that has 30 rooms is not yet ready to reopen, and those potential guests help the rest of the businesses to survive now, and eventually thrive. Also there are other businesses still under construction, plus many residents unable to return to their homes.
For more information, go to:
http://www.savevernazza.com. and http://www.rebuildmonterosso.com
So, we survived the heat. We hiked, explored every town, swam in the ocean, jumped off rocks and such,drank Spritz, ate foccachia, pesto, and Amazing seafood at Ciak, and spent time just relaxing. And we survived getting caught in a tourist trap restaurant in Corniglia. Never eat at the first restaurant you see, and Always check the prices first… Believe it or not we had way over priced Horrible pasta in Italy. One bad experience out of 100’s of good actually made it comical.
Once again, Cinque Terre did not disappoint. Except when it was time to leave, there were tears in my eyes.
Until next time…