For my birthday this year my lovely girlfriend Emma decided to arrange a trip to Italy and not just any old part of Italy but to a town called Riomaggiore think fishing boats, winding streets, focaccia bread and houses coloured by a child with a penchant for pastels. We flew to Genova and then trained our way down the coast catching glimpses of a picture perfect summers day, blue ocean, rocky inlets and a myriad of villages filled with houses piled up high like building blocks as we sped through tunnels.
As we approached Riomaggiore the tunnels seemed to get longer and the glimpses of towns shorter with the station we arrived at being half hidden inside a tunnel. We collected the keys to our apartment we had rented through Mar-Mar and dropped our bags only pausing long enough to take in the view through the village from our terrace. We picked up some deliciously fresh focaccia bread and walked our way down to the end of the coastal path that connects the 5 villages of Cinque Terre. A short walk away was a quiet rocky beach where I sat in the sun feeling a million miles away from London while Em paddled and soaked up the sun. We ended the day with a walk along the Via dell’Amore, dinner pizza and steamed seafood accompanied by wine. A perfect holiday already and it was only the first day!
Although I could have sworn I heard every ring of the local church clock through the night I woke up the next day ready for our planned walk along the coast to Monterossa. The weather was a little grey however the forecast was for rain the next day so we decided to setout, after a little breakfast focaccia of course. The walk follows the coast and is around 9km long taking 5hours. The initial stretch from Riomaggiore to Manarola is a wide paved path perched high on the cliffs so you spend most of your time looking down at the sea or ahead to how far you have to walk. From Manarola to Corniglia the track descends a little and becomes more dirt than pavement but is still easy going. Approaching Corniglia which perches atop a hill you begin to wonder how you are going to get up to the village, the answer is one of the longest set of steps I’ve climbed for a while. Corniglia to Vernazza the path is a lot more like a hiking path and I was glad of my mountain-jandals. We stopped half way along to eat out bread, ham and tomatoes we had brought along seeming to time it perfectly with about 50 school kids all wanting to go past us the other way. Vernazza we stopped for an ice-cream and enjoyed what is probably the most beautiful town along the walk with its picture postcard harbour and castle tower. Vernazza to Monterossa was probably the hardest part of the walk as it came at the end and had some fairly steep sections of track. Approaching Monterossa we found a bar for a quick drink then time headed home to cook a delicious dinner of local fresh ingredients on pasta.
The day of my birthday dawned pretty wet and grey making our plans of heading back to Monterossa for the Sagra dei Limoni or Lemon Festival look a little unlikely. After a morning of lazing around the house the rain began to ease and we decided to give the Lemon festival a go. Arriving in Monterossa it seemed like the locals had also been put off doing much towards the celebration of all things lemon. We spent a few hours wandering around the streets and shops before we began to see a few lemon themed decorations appearing outside shops. It wasn’t long till the sun had begun to glimmer behind the low clouds and we were eating lemon slices while watching a stage being erected for the concert happening later in the evening. After a dinner of fresh seafood and watching other tables get served huge urns of seafood stew with whole lobsters and fish in it we went outside to discover what the music was like. Earlier in the day a local had advised us that the band were the most world famous Italian band ever so we had high hopes. I think it’s safe to say that most other world famous bands have nothing to fear from Ricchi E Poveri although they provided a lovely way to end my most unusual birthday to date.
The next day it was time to head home to London and after a very scenic train ride inland to Parma where we flew out from we had a hectic time getting to the airport involving catching a bus the wrong way, a massive thunderstorm appearing from nowhere and the final football match of the season occupying every cab in town. Em and I arrived panting at the check in desk with minutes to spare only to discover the flight was delayed by an hour or so. The final moment of panic was me leaving my camera on the plane and only realizing after clearing customs, proving once again that this was the perfect holiday another passenger had picked it up, found me in the airport and returned it.
I had one of the most diverse and interesting holidays filled with surprises and best of all was celebrating my birthday yet again with my lovely partner Emma who arranged the whole holiday so thank you so much.