There are a few places in the world where I arrive and simply feel at home. Cinque Terre does that to me; arriving here takes my breath away yet settles my soul simultaneously. Cinque Terre always has a piece of my heart.
A few hours north of Rome and south of Milan, the Cinque Terre consist of five seaside towns: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore.
A local train connects the five towns, or you can walk along the hilly path connecting one town to the next.
The walk rewards you with epic views as you meander between pristine nature and quaint fishing villages-turned tourist havens.
Unfortunately for Cinque Terre, the cruise ship industry has begun dropping too many massive groups onto their beloved shore, creating a miserable situation for locals.
It saddens me to think that these adorable five little towns may one day lose their appeal altogether as the hordes continue to descend upon them, inviting chain eateries and – dare I even say it – Starbucks.
Then again, Italy has an uncanny ability to accept change while retaining individuality.
A walk through any of Italy’s prime tourist cities highlights elegance over boorish behavior and haute couture over buying in bulk.
Yes, there are chain restaurants and stores. But they are intermixed and overwhelmed by family-owned businesses and craftsmen’s displays.
Italy favors originality and entrepreneurship. Italy remains a beacon of creativity. So, hopefully, my fears are unfounded.
Cinque Terre is a delight to the senses. As is the case everywhere in the region, local wine will grace every table while locally grown fare tempts the tastebuds.
In each town in Cinque Terre, the salt breeze dances between the tightly-packed buildings standing watch over the sea.
Sunlight streams into windows while shadows waltz through alleyways.
Music, laughter, languages from around the world all intertwine with the sounds of the sea to orchestrate daily life in these small towns.
Cinque Terre’s west coast location offers stunning sunset after stunning sunset.
Each evening, locals gather to admire the golden light descending upon their homes while tourists snap endless photos, likely blocking their own eyes from the beautiful moment happening on the other side of an iPhone camera.
Consider me to be guilty as well…
Cinque Terre has my heart for its tranquility despite the tourist masses. These five fishing towns have my heart for their steadfastness and rugged beauty, for their intricacy and joy for life.
I love the fresh seafood fawned over in kitchens everywhere, granting us mere tourists a glimpse into true Italian dedication to food infused with love.
I love the endlessly breathtaking views – not simply because the number of stairs and hills can literally take the breath from your lungs, but because the ocean meets the pastel-colored homes in a seemingly natural fusion of human development with nature.
I love the hidden beauty along the path between the five towns – the views of terraced hillsides growing grapes and olives, the sudden appearance of a camouflaged stone bridge, the dramatic emergence from the wooded path to an ocean vista.
I love the Via dell’Amore despite its obnoxious layers of padlocks weighing down the railings and wire mesh, because their purpose and meaning is lovely.
(After a landslide in 2012, much of the Via dell’Amore required reconstruction efforts. Portions of the path may still be closed for continued work until early 2016.)
I love the old men sitting along the tourist-ridden pathway, chatting about their women and the morning’s fishing adventure.
I love the fisherman sitting alone on the rocky cliff, peaceful as he ignores the many foreigners dutifully traipsing along the path overhead.
I love the old women gathered on the street corner with their baskets of fresh produce slung over their weathered arms, catching up on the day’s gossip before heading home to prepare dinner as the sun sets over the sea.
Cinque Terre has my heart. It is another home I have chosen along my journey thus far, and it is a home I feel drawn back to repeatedly. Perhaps it’s time for another visit soon…
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