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.