Torre Aurora in Cinque Terre

Having just returned from holidays in Italy, starting with Sardinia and ending with beautiful moments spent with friends and family in Cinque Terre, I have much to share from the last three weeks. Let me begin with the newest addition to my Insider’s Guide to Monterosso. A must for anyone planning a visit. Torre Aurora has quickly become one of my favorite places for an aperitivo with a view. In all my travels I have yet to discover such stellar cocktails combined with such stunning views.

Opened just two months ago, this bar/restaurant is set in a historic 13th century tower, and run by a local.

From the many terraces you have stunning views of Monterosso, as well as all of Cinque Terre in the distance.



You also have a direct view of one of my favorite restaurants L’Ancora della Tortuga, as well as the beaches of Monterosso.

So what’s on the menu at Torre Aurora? Aside from custom cocktails including the famous Aperol Spritz, you can order small plates of local anchovies or octopus salad. Arrive for dinner and feast on Ligurian specialties including fresh pasta and fish. Just be sure to make a reservation!

In case you’re looking for me during the early evening hours next spring or summer, this is where I’ll be.

Insider’s Guide to Monterosso

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I first encountered Monterosso during my around-the-world journey in October of 2007. On a whim, I took the train from Santa Margherita and immediately became enamored with this soulful village set upon the Mediterranean. I spent five blissful days swimming in the sea; exploring the old town and tasting its culinary specialities; hiking from Riomaggiore to Vernazza, awed by the views. As I wrote in my travel blog, “I had discovered paradise.” As chance would have it, the handsome Italian I serendipitously met on the streets of Soho, NY in 2009, comes from this very land. Monterosso has since become a place I know and love well, through its people, culture and traditions. It was the scene of our wedding in 2011 and every summer we live ‘la dolce vita’. I feel grateful to call this part of the Italian Riviera my home, and to share it with those dear to me. As a Monterosso insider, I’m often asked where to dine, sleep, etc. Hence, I’ve decided to put together this Insider’s Guide to Monterosso.

TRAIN TRAVEL. Arriving to Monterosso al Mare from Pisa or Genoa takes about 1.5 hours via Trenitalia. From Milan allow for 3 hours. I would not recommend driving as aside from taxis and delivery vehicles, the village is car-free, and parking is sparse. Stepping out of the train you are in Fegina, the newer part of the village. Exiting the tunnel on the left will bring you to Monterosso, the old town, and what I consider the most charming.

WHEN TO VISIT. The Cinque Terre is composed of five vibrant villages, Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso, built upon cliffs and once upon a time accessible only by sea or train. The region didn’t become a major international tourist destination until the 1990’s, thanks in part to Rick Steves who fell in love with the five lands, making his home in Vernazza. Now these villages, some with populations as small as 250, are bustling with tourists during the summer season, mainly due to day tripping visitors and those arriving to La Spezia by cruise ship. My advice is to visit during the quieter yet equally sunny months of April, May, September or October. The season is long and it’s always best to book accommodations in advance, especially for the summer months.

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WHERE TO SLEEP. There are numerous hotels and B&B’s in both Fegina and Monterosso. Here are my recommendations in the old town, all family run and filled with charm, rooms ranging in price from 100€-200€/night.

La Casa di Andrea: Five tastefully decorated double rooms with a garden and views of the village. Well worth the many steps up!

Bellambra: Four comfortable double rooms and one family apartment located in the heart of the old town, overlooking the main street.

Il Timone: Three cozy double rooms classically decorated, with sea views from the breakfast terrace. 100+ steps up from the village.

Il Maestrale: Several double rooms including a superior duplex room, all with views to the street below. Beautifully restored building from the 18th Century.

Hotel La Colonnina: Many double rooms including family rooms, some with terraces and views of the village. (Ask for a renovated room.) Lovely rooftop terrace with sea views.

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WHERE TO DRINK. The aperitivo is an integral part of life in Italy. Just before dinner, it’s a time to meet friends and engage in the life of the village. You’ll always be served a small snack to complement the drink.

Enoteca Eliseo: Follow the classical music to find this upscale wine bar in the heart of the village. With a wide selection of wines to choose from, including a Cinque Terre selection. I suggest the Lemon Spritz, a concoction they created in recent years. (Closed Tuesdays)

Eldorado: Want to mingle with the locals? Head to this pre-dinner or late night hotspot for one of their many cocktails or my latest favorite, the Saint-Germain Spritz.

Bar Alga: Before sunset, make your way to this beachside bar for a fresh Pina Colada served in a pineapple.

Bar Eden: Located right on the beach in Fegina, the sea views don’t get much better. If you’re not in the mood for a cocktail, ask for an affogato al caffe, a coffee with ice cream.

Hotel Porto Roca: For the best aperitivo views of Monterosso from above, climb the path leading to Vernazza and you’ll arrive to this 4-star hotel with an outdoor terrace.

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WHERE TO DINE. With so many restaurants serving similar dishes that look equally appetizing, it’s hard to know where to dine. I can’t say that I’ve tried them all, but I do have my favorites that continue to top the list, year after year. During the busy season reservations are a must!

Ristorante Ciak: Opened in 1974, the owner and chef Ciak will usually be found in the open kitchen wearing his signature sailors uniform. Ample space to dine both inside and out. Make sure to try his famous seafood risotto! (Closed Wednesdays +39 018 781 7014)

Il Casello: Situated seaside, this picturesque dining spot for both lunch and dinner serves local specialties including trofie al pesto and fresh anchovies. The owner Bacco will be happy to suggest a dish and might even share the recipe with you. (+39 333 492 7629)

L’Ancora della Tortuga: Located inside a cliff on the path between Monterosso and Fegina, this restaurant is one not to miss. During the summer months you can dine al fresco, away from the crowds of the village. Ask for their divine seafood antipasto misto, you’ll thank me! (Closed Mondays +39 187 800 065)

Ristorante Miky: This elegant family run restaurant opened in 1980, was once a pizzeria, and has since evolved into the destination for ‘haute cuisine’ dining in Fegina. The presentation alone will impress you, not to mention the cooking. I’m a great fan of the constantly changing antipasti and grilled calamari, or try the tuna, or the seafood risotto. Honestly, you can’t go wrong. (+39 0187 817608)

La Cantina di Miky: If you’re looking for something more casual in Fegina, the Miky family more recently opened another restaurant with both seaside seats and a spacious cantina. Their dishes are a creative take on the classics, with a wide selection of local wines to choose from. If you run into the owner’s wife Christine, she’ll be happy to advise you. (+39 018 780 2525)

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LOCAL SPECIALTIES. All twenty regions of Italy boast local products and dishes. Which ones are the Cinque Terre known for? Here are the must try specialties in Monterosso. I tried to keep it short, as you could easily spend all day eating!

Focaccia: The best can be found at Il Massimo de la Focaccia in Fegina.

Anchovies: Fried, stuffed, salted, with lemon, in pasta… try them in all their preparations.

Farinata: Head to Il Frantoio in Monterosso’s old town to try this chick pea delicacy.

Pan Frito con Formaggio: Fried bread with cheese? Yes please! Also found at Il Frantoio.

Pesto: One of Liguria’s  healthiest specialities, a must try is the pasta dish ‘trofie al pesto’.

Rice Cakes: A perfect option for lunch. Go to Midi Bar in Monterosso for a taste.

Sciacchetrà: A delicious local sweet wine. Read all about how it’s made here.

Cannoli: The Northern Italian version of heaven, the best can be found at Pasticceria Laura.

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BEST OF. I couldn’t put together a list of favorites without including my ‘best of’, could I?

Focaccia: Il Massimo de la Focaccia has ‘right out of the oven’ focaccia in many varieties. Perfect for lunch.

Pizza: Il Fornaio is a focacceria in Fegina that recently added pizza to its menu, made with all natural local ingredients.

Gelato: Midi Bar in the old town makes its own artisanal flavors, while Slurp in Fegina will awaken your taste buds with flavors including lemon and fig. Why not have two?

Pastries: Pasticceria Laura is THE spot for anything sweet. Must tries are the aforementioned cannoli and the torta Monterossina. Freshly baked by Laura herself every morning.

Cappuccino: It’s hard to find a bad cappuccino in Italy. Midi Bar and Bar Eden are two of my favorites.

Souvenirs: You can certainly take home jars of pesto and a lemon or two, but what about ceramic anchovies? These and other pottery, all handmade in Monterosso, can be found at Fabric d’Arte‘s two locations in the old town. I already have quite a collection!

Of course you’ll want to explore the rest of Cinque Terre too. You can take a train, boat or hike to the neighboring villages. Definitely worth a visit! If you’re already familiar with the five lands, I suggest a train to the less touristic and charming villages of Camogli or Sestri Levante. By boat you can visit historic Portovenere or Portofino. More information on day trips and hikes can be found here.

In case you need help planning your trip, my friends at Bella Vita Travels will be happy to assist. Buon viaggio and enjoy my home in Italy!

life on the sea

Ever since my first visit to what I then called ‘paradise found’ during my year of travels, I fell in love with Monterosso al Mare. Little did I know that I would meet a man from this very land and come to call it my home. Recently we spent nearly two weeks living on the sea. Blissfully. Days began with yoga beneath a kiwi canopy and visits to the bakery for cappuccino and a fresh cannoli, followed by picking capers in the garden, or lemons in the grove (that task was left to my Italian). A family lunch followed a siesta beneath the shade of a beach umbrella. Evenings spent with friends. Every night I fell asleep to the lullaby of the sea, some nights it bellowed to us, other nights it whispered. I rose to the church bells.

IMG_5638IMG_5932IMG_5374IMG_5277 As I wrote five years ago during my third visit, I have come more deeply to cherish this land where nature reigns and life is valued in the most basic and beautiful of ways.

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Until we meet again… and life on the sea continues.

time travel

As many times as I’ve stepped onto an airplane, crossing a continent, it never ceases to amaze me how in mere hours you can be transported through time, or so it feels. Most recently I flew from Pisa, near Monterosso where my Italian and I spent the weekend with his family and friends…

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…to New York City, to visit my family and friends. From what felt like the past, to the future.

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Could there be any two places on the earth more different yet equally loved? Yes, certainly there are. But these are mine. Two very distinct and disparate parts of the world I call home. One for it’s calm and beauty, and one for it’s energy and innovation. And both for their culture. Not to mention all the other parts of the world that became home even for a brief moment. Ah yes, and then there’s Paris…

sweet harvest

This time of year I look forward to the grape harvest in Italy. My first real experience paying homage to the grape was two years ago, and still I drink the wine in memory of those days. This year the harvest was not as plentiful, but my Italian and I set to work and picked every grape we could find.

We decided we would make the local sweet wine, Sciacchetrà, made of select, dried grapes. A real delicacy, and my favorite domestic wine from the Cinque Terre region.

The views alone were reason alone to tangle my way through the vines.

We set the 50 kilos of grapes to dry on a metal net and covered them. In six weeks time the dried grapes would be pressed, natural fermentation would take place, the wine would be filtered, and voilà! Ready to be savoured during the Christmas holidays, to compliment a good dessert.

Cheers to the best Sciacchetrà of Cinque Terre!

following the sun

Adventures on the Italian Riviera continue. This time upwards. The sun was shining and we decided to follow it, all the way from Monterosso to Levanto, the neighboring village. A two-hour hike high above the calm of the sea and into the wild of the woods. Ready. Set. Go! A long way up…

Finally we arrived to the top. A moment of awe.

A slight detour into the remains of a historic church.

The journey continued into the woods…

Until we reached the other side, met by the setting sun.

Over two hours and many awes later, Levanto at dusk.

Now it was time to follow the moon.

village reborn

On October 25th, 2011 Montorosso, one of the most charming and picturesque villages in Italy (yes, I’m slightly biased) experienced devastating flash floods. Over 20 inches of water poured from the sky in a matter of three hours, leaving the ground floor buried beneath mud and debris. Neighboring Vernazza suffered even more severely. The days following would never be forgotten.

My first trip back to Monterosso was during Christmas. My heart sank at the state of this once picture-perfect village. Already the hard work was well under way and sounds of opera filled the air as the local wine bar made a toast to the village. Resilience redefined. I returned again for Easter, my second Pasqua in Italy. What I discovered was a village reborn. Much like I remembered it.

The beach cleaned up, with several remaining boats resting upon it’s shores.

A street once ravished by the flood, bustling back to life.

The much frequented wine bar resting pre-aperitif hour.

A village in bloom, ready for the spring.

The famous pasticerria newly renovated and re-opened.

An acclaimed restaurant, ready again to serve it’s regional specialities. (Mmmm, pesto!)

The main road no longer concrete, but a mix of wooden planks and grates.

There remain parts of the village that have yet to come back to life. In time.

Crossing from the new part called Fegina, into the historic village, it’s difficult to imagine the scenes that took place just months earlier. The waters now calm and clear, the sun smiling down upon the growing numbers of tourists… a village filled with vitality. What the last 6 months have proven is the incredible strength and unity of a village and it’s people. Next stop… Vernazza.

Click here to find out more about Monterosso’s continued progress. Better yet, come to visit!

the heart of a village

view of Monterosso from the sea

Much like with a person, it’s possible to fall in love with a place. I experienced this several times during my journey around the world. But it was Monterosso al Mare, and the breathtaking landscape of Cinque Terre that captured my heart. A serendipitious encounter, or coup de foudre as they say in French, much like the meeting with my Italian. Little did I know this place, that I had promised at least a piece of my heart to, would in time become my home.

Monterosso as the sun sets

This weekend, my Monterosso born Italian and I should be serenely tucked away amidst this dramatic landscape, celebrating his parents’ wedding anniversary upon the same setting where we recently celebrated our own. Instead, the ever unpredicatable mother nature had other plans. As the world is well aware, these 5 towns, particularly Monterosso and Vernazza, have suffered terribly due to intense flash floods.  Global warming being the cause. Several lives lost and many people without homes and businesses, being the result. Within only a few hours, this past Tuesday the region was suddenly hit with 20 inches of rain, causing rivers to overflow and sweep through the villages. Thankfully, my Italian’s family, friends and most villagers are all safe.

enroute to Vernazza by boat

My heart breaks for these people who I have gotten to know through the last few years. Amidst the language and cultural barriers, I have been accepted into this land, not only by my Italian’s family but by the many kind-hearted and hard-working locals. My thoughts and prayers are with all those going though such hardship in Monterosso, Vernazza and neighboring villages.

view of Vernazza

Why I am writing this is not to post photos of the devastation and mourn the loss of a village, quite the contrary. My purpose it to celebrate the strength and resilience of this village and it’s people. Already, only a few days after this natural disaster, so much has been done by the locals and their neighbors, to assist in the clean-up and reconstruction. Even my Italian’s sister has been aiding in cooking for the many left without homes, food, or gas. His aunt, uncle and cousins too. Proof that the heart of a village can overcome even the toughest of obstacles.

a vision of natural beauty

Cinque Terre, and my beloved Monterosso, will remain one of the most beautiful places on earth.

homemade traditions

One of the most memorable chapters of my life took place on a recent sunny day high up on a cliff, overlooking the Mediterranean. Throughout our Greek island-hopping honeymoon (many adventures which I will soon share), thoughts of our wedding left me feeling warm and somehow, complete. All the many months of planning this international affair (with the aid of a certain gracious Italian sister and uncle), were well worth it. (Originally we were tempted to elope!)

As so well articulated in my Italian’s speech, our love story is a cross-cultural one, with roots in the US, France, Poland and of course Italy. This was represented by our mix of friends and family as well as in our celebration.

We enacted the beautiful Italian tradition of the groom greeting the bride at the door of the church and handing her the bouquet. (What a moment!) The church service was a religious tradition which we had both grown up with. No bridesmaids or groomsmen but rather, four witnesses to acknowledge our union.

Being covered with congratulatory cries of “Auguri!” and rose petals was a moment to cherish.

So many other details set the scene, each proving how much love and care was expressed by all.

Compositions of pale blue hydrangeas mixed with white roses and a touch of lily of the valley, representing innocence on the sea (my interpretation), carefully selected by the local florist.

My bouquet of white roses and white ranunculus composed by my mother, flowers being one of her passions. (This designer mom also made my veil!)

Following an apero, a 12-course meal began (Italian style), filled with tastes from the sea. Apparently an Italian wedding is not a good one unless the guests have eaten more than enough.

The meal ended very sweetly, with a local dessert wine, sciacchetra, expertly concocted by my Italian’s father (with our names on the label – surprise!)

The cake was a special (secret) recipe from the local pasticceria, delicious! My Mom lovingly crafted the ceramic couple to top it off. Perfect.

What my Italian and I were happiest with in the end was all the fun that was had. Evident in the singing and even, dancing! Someone once told me Italians don’t dance at weddings. Certainly we challenged this tradition. The revelry began as the sun set beyond the cliffs. And it went on, and on…

Only to arrive home to the final surprise – a bed filled with rice. Another Italian tradition.

queen for a day

On June 11th, I will be a married woman. A madame. For this one day, I will feel like a queen.

What exactly does that mean? I have been thinking a lot about what happens in the process of ‘getting married’, other than a lot of chaos, planning and stress. Followed of course by much celebration and excitement. (Looking forward to that part!) In preparation, if one can actually prepare for this new chapter of life, I have been speaking with the experts. Namely, my married friends. (Wise women!) One of them, Andi Fisher, put me in touch with a real marriage expert, Alisa Bowman. Several months ago she sent me a copy of her book Project: Happily Ever After, and I read it eagerly. She tells the story of ‘saving your marriage when the fairytale falters’. Did I need to read this? No, though I am living what truly feels like a fairytale. But why not live ‘happily ever after’, even before the actual wedding? (I do recommend this book for any married women.)

As I ingest all the advice and prepare for festivities to commence, I also picked up Elizabeth Gilbert’s follow up to Eat, Pray, Love, her latest book Committed, all about the history of marriage and her own personal journey. An insightful read which I am indulging in mindfully.

But as I tend to believe, life proves the greatest teacher and I will soon enough discover for myself what it means to be married, and the many feelings that come with my madame status.

Until then, I plan to cherish every moment along the way. With friends from as far away as Seoul, Dubai, Istanbul, Tel Aviv, New York and New Jersey… Paris, London, Florence… The world (my world) is meeting in Monterosso, Italy to celebrate life and love. This is the meaning of it all.

journey complete

When I first discovered Cinque Terre in 2007, after several days spent in Monterosso under the Mediterranean sun, I was ready for a hike, 12 kilometers to be exact. I took the train to Riomagiorre at the opposite end and my journey began.

I fell in love with Manarola, set so enchantingly upon the sea. (How could you not?)

I became taken with each village and it’s views. Within the Cinque Terre a new world unfolded and I found myself thinking about the lives of these people so isolated from the rest of the world. How inhaling the sky and the sea was part of their daily ritual. I continued on my path, climbing up the steep steps and down again. Corniglia soon became my vista.

When I reached Vernazza I was not only physically spent from the hours of hiking but was in need of a little time to reflect. And a glass of local wine. The sun was setting, and I joined the many stray cats lounging on the rocks for the most spectacular natural light show. (Incidentally, I had heard that the hike back to Monterosso was the toughest part of the trail.)

I was not meant to finish that hike. It wasn’t the right time. (And I’m a firm believer in timing.)

Until now. My Italian and I ventured via train to Vernazza, beneath a temperamental sky, to brave the trail I had left untraveled. The views were even more breath-taking than I had remembered.

Between intermittent rays of sun and rain with barely a soul in sight, we followed the steep 3.5 kilometer path, laughing, singing (not a talent I possess) and a little story-telling. We slowly made our way to what I consider the most beautiful panorama of all.

Home. Journey complete.

fruitful days

I am beginning to know the seasons according to the fruits they bear. For the past two years I have looked forward to the Fall for the grape harvest, one which I whole-heartedly participate in, picking, stomping and eventually, drinking the wine. Now, as Winter has turned to Spring, the last of the oranges and many a lemon fill the landscape, ripe for the picking, and tasting. The olive trees patiently await their turn, as do the grape vines, barren of any signs of life.

As I busy myself picking the most succulent of fruit, careful not to step on a strawberry patch as I admire the view of the sea, my Italian’s father carefully grafts the grape vines, anticipating the upcoming harvest. He returns daily to the land, to nurture seeds he has planted, or to plant new ones. I am fascinated by the evolution taking place before my eyes, and understand well what drives the soul to the seed. Very simply, it’s the satisfaction of assisting in the miracle of creation. And certainly, enjoying the fruits of your labor.

In the coming months the yellows and oranges will be replaced by the reds of strawberries and cherries. These blossoms will have metamorphosed into peaches. And I will be there to pick them.

scenes of a village

I first discovered Monterosso during my trip around the world over 3 years ago. It was a seredipitous encounter, completely unplanned. I fell in love immediately. It’s hard not to, being surrounded by so much natural beauty. Little did I know, it was a place I would come to call home.

These days, my Italian and I are settling into life in a village. Home on the Mediterranean. Spending time with family, making wedding arrangements and taking time to taste the oranges hanging in the trees and listen to the sounds of the church bells. It is these scenes that currently compose my life.

Paris feels very far away.

homage to the grape

This past week I learned how to harvest wine grapes. In Monterosso. With my Italian and his father, who has been harvesting for decades. Last year, I merely assisted in stomping the grapes, surely as much fun as it sounds (and largely a tourist attraction I might add). This year, I became a true laborer of the land. Little did I know the travail of such sweet work. And the fulfillment that follows.

Harvesting began at 8am. The view itself was worth the early rise. Acres of stepped land, locally referred to as poggi, covered by vines and olive trees. I was wide awake, as were all other forms of wildlife, namely flies resembling wild mosquitos and sneaky little salamanders. No fear. I took to the task at hand and in meditative rhythm the grape cutting began. With intermittent tasting, to ensure quality of course.

The picking continued for three hours, filling over 12 huge crates. We had finished one piece of land but two more remained. It appeared this harvest was much larger than the last, though the grapes were not as high a quality. Thus sciacchetra (my favorite local dessert wine of Cinque Terre) could not be produced. But white wine would flow!

After a well earned home-cooked meal of pasta and fish followed by a nap on the beach (harvesting is exhausting!) it was time to press the grapes. This part I love. I feel fortunate that my Italian’s father has not modernized the technique. It’s still a very hands on, or in this case, ‘feet on’ experience. 

With great care we crushed the grapes as my Italian’s father collected the juice to add to the 300 liter boiler. Almost as quickly as we finished our grape dance the container was filled. Soon the boiling would begin.

The following day our ‘homage to the grape’ continued. Picking. Eating. Stomping. In 3 months time we drink! I will forever appreciate a glass of wine. Especially one from the Poggi Harvest of 2010.

the dreams of a seven year old

On a recent trip to Monterosso I felt like a movie star. Not because of my Jackie O sunglasses or the many tourists photos I am (accidentally) appearing in, but because of a little seven year old girl named Emma. It turns out that Emma, the beautiful product of  an ‘American girl on holiday meets local Italian boy’ love story that originated on the shores of the Ligurian Sea, is completely enamored with Paris. Why? Simply because it’s Paris. (On that note, who isn’t?) I understood her very well, and she could feel it. If I correctly recall, that’s about the age when my love affair with Paris first began. 

When I encountered this little Emma, already quite a cultured and curious, not to mention naturally bilingual girl, she was star-struck. I was met with a grin from ear to ear. After all, she was in the presence of a real live walking and talking girl, (quite a bit taller and older than she, minor details) who lives in the city of her dreams. In her young and impressionable mind I was a movie star. Okay, perhaps I’m exaggerating just a little, but I felt flattered to indulge this little girls fantasy. 

We spoke about Paris with sparkles in our eyes, while I dreamt of youth and she dreamt of adulthood. Both of our fantasies grew more colorful and with the gap of a generation, we understood one another perfectly in the unspoken language of the dreamer.

Emma and her mother are planning a trip to Paris soon, where surely we will rendezvous. Emma in fact, already she has her outfit picked out. (I hope she’s keeping track of the Parisian trends, I don’t want her to experience a fashion faux pas!)

I left Emma with a knowing smile, and these few words, “Be mindful of what you wish for, it may very well come true.” She smiled back.

What did you wish for at seven years old?

the life of a village

I recently spent a week in Monterosso, home to my Italian. My first taste of this Ligurian village, hidden on the Mediterranean coast, was during my year of travel. I’m not exactly certain who or what propelled me to visit this cluster of villages, known to much of the world as ‘Cinque Terre’, known to me as paradise. I fell in love immediately, particularly with Monterosso and it’s landscape. It’s difficult not to, as anyone who has been to this part of the world knows well. I remember during those days imagining the life of a local, living in a population of no more than 1,700, recognizing each face that passes by in the streets, the only foreign faces being those of seasonal tourists. How would it feel living so isolated from the world, in constant familiarity, a lack of privacy in social affairs, the life of a village. At once fascinating and impossible to imagine coming from a place like NYC.

During this week spent eating, meeting, and always observing, the village appeared to wake up from its winter slumber. I began to look from the inside rather than as an outsider or tourist. It was my third visit and this one felt much more like being at home. All thanks to my Italian and his family. I began to understand the people and the way of life, to feel the intimacy that they shared, if not understand what they said. Each region of Italy contains its own dialect, and one day when I speak Italian (after mastering French of course) I will still not understand the Ligurian locals. But I will continue to say ‘Ciao’ in passing and smile as though I have lived here all my life.

There is much to explore in this region, a true haven to hikers and nature lovers. As I did during my first visit, but now with much greater an appreciation and insight, we took the local train to Riomaggiore, the eastern most village.

From there we hiked to Manarola, considered the most scenic of the five villages. Breath-taking!

Back ‘home’ to Monterosso, saving Corniglia and Vernazza for a Summer tour via boat. It was time to climb the terraces, known as ‘poggi’ and pick lemons and oranges in the family orchard….

 Do as the locals do. Well, almost.

foreign flavors

The beginning of my Parisian life has proven a proper foreign adventure. The first few weeks have tasted of many flavors other than French, the sweet and savored tastes of family. We traveled to the South of Poland where my roots are firmly planted. Deep in the woods of Bykowce, the place of my youth and still now, my place.

A brief return to Paris and away we flew to taste of Northern Italy. More family and feasting, the setting of this dream in Monterosso on the Mediterranean, his place. The experiences defining dreams and reality are becoming more vague, and I willfully allow myself to be taken. The adventures seem endless as our respective cultures meet and mingle, creating an even more resplendent reality.

Cinque Terre

As Lisa returned to the normalcy of life in NYC and Sooji ventured to Barcelona, time was now my own and I decided to remain on the Italian Riviera. A short stop away from Santa Margherita I embarked on the village of Monterosso, one of the five villages of Cinque Terre. Hidden in the mountains overlooking the Mediterranean, I had discovered paradise. A day on the beach with my thoughts and a myriad of fond recollections…followed by a day of hiking through the most breathtaking vistas my eyes have seen (at least in this part of the world), followed by another day of the beach. A sunset upon the calm of a turquoise sea in a land far removed from anything that resembles reality is not easy to part with.