Sunday, June 6, 2010
The use of cars and bikes is restricted here, which helps preserve the cobblestone... and the overall feeling of tranquility. The train makes travel between villages very quick, but serious hikers opt to use the connecting trails between hamlets.
Many of the churches are well-preserved, others are falling into neglect., but all seem distinct and unique. One was dark, cool, with candles flickering in the heat of the day. Another was filled with marble and glowed in the sunlight. Yet another had statues of macabre skeletons and skulls waving down at you from the ceiling, reminding you of your mortality. Another had a portal to the sea - I can imagine the priest blessing the villagers' fishing boats.
The views everywhere are stunning. We found ourselves peering down the rockface into crashing waves and then staring up into the green terraced vineyards.
The art of Silvio Benedetto appears throughout the villages on murals or mosaics. Birds, fish, waves, sea, sky. In one mural, he's captured the backbreaking work of people constructing the terraces. It is no accident that the villagers depicted here are older. Like many towns the younger generation is flocking to urban centres, looking for easier work.
These terraces were first built without the benefit of heavy machinery. Rocks gathered and carried, lifted, and then buried in place by men and women working on their hands and knees.
Now grapes are grown here. The most famous wine of this DOC is its namesake - Cinque Terre - a dry white wine made of Bosco, Albarola and Vermentino grapes. Absolutely delicious. There was the taste of the cliffs and the Mediterranean sea in the glass I sampled. Unfortunately Cinque Terre wine isn't easily found in Toronto... I've looked for it since I've been back, but it is bottled in too small a quantity and apparently doesn't travel well.
In Manarola we had the most amazing pizza. Basil pesto, tomato sauce, and white cheese painted in swirls on a delicious crust. Every bite a different flavour combination. We enjoyed the taste sitting in the warm sun, watching the water bobbing the boats.
We didn't get to see Cinque Terre at night, so I guess we will just have to go back some day. Now there are direct flights from New York to Pisa. A great itinerary would be a few days in New York City, followed by flying to Italy to spend a week at a Tuscan farmhouse, and then a few days by the sea in Cinque Terre. Harvest time would be ideal!