Venice in Autumn

img_2630Martin and I stayed in an apartment above a canal; the little courtyard even had its own portal to the canal.  At night, we could hear gondoliers singing, lovers laughing and Italian families having dramatic conversations.

We were determined  to live like a Venetian, despite all the tourists.   We quickly managed to make Venice our home when we found the little neighborhood grocery store, the fruit and vegetable stand and the bakery. Three flights up the stairs to the loft apartment didn’t phase us, since we have grown used to arriving at our abode breathless; many flights of stairs per day is a way of life.

img_3078Venice was quite cold and alternated between a few sunny days and days of rain.  Regardless of the weather, we gleefully immersed ourselves in the art, history and beauty of the city.  Venice in autumn had a special kind of light.

img_2629Everyone in Europe wears scarves; it is quite the fashion item.  So I, too, wrapped my neck fashionably and stayed warm.   The incredibly good food in Venice kept us going.  One of our favorite restaurants was right in our little courtyard.

On our last night, we went to a performance  of selections from operas by Venetian composers, in a small theater with singers and musicians in 17th century costume. We loved it.  In the morning, we had the unusual experience of taking the boat to the airport.


Vernazza — My Favorite Gem in Cinque Terre

Vernazza, Cinque Terre

Vernazza is my favorite of all the five Cinque Terre villages.  My pictures tell it best.

img_2612Martin and I did the two-hour hike from Monterosso al Mare to Vernazza, and as we approached the village, we were greeted by a pleasant surprise:  there on our path was our favorite restaurant from two days ago.  We practically fell into the arms of the waiter as we gratefully entered the terrace.  A fresh breeze greeted us. The sea was glistening hundreds of feet below the bluff, absolutely jaw-dropping.  When we recovered control of our jaw muscles,  we dove into the best bruschetta in Italy.


Walking the Sentieri: Corniglia to Manerola

Corniglia to Manerola, Cinque Terre, Italy

img_5997 The path to Manerola began in the village, and then went up, up, up . . . up.  We had spotted the 45-minute trail sign when entering the village.  We ambled through the village to see its sights, fortified ourselves with a healthy dose of caffeine, and were up and raring to go on our first hike in Cinque Terre.  We spotted a sign for our destination, Manerola, and blithely started bounding up the steps.

img_5999The terrain was fascinating.  Ancient vineyards and olive groves clung to the steep hillsides, held by stone terraces, called schiattiati.  These were built by hand by farmers centuries ago, and to this day are maintained by them.  No machinery here.  Transportation to market is by foot.  The path was a series of narrow, rough stone steps and pathways formed by stones of every shape sunk partway into the dirt on the edge of narrow bands of cultivation. We were literally walking on the terrace walls alternating with narrow stone steps from one terrace to another.



img_5987Forty minutes into the hike we were getting higher and higher, with no village in sight.  We encountered returning hikers and they without mercy informed us that we had two more hours to go!  Mistakenly, we had taken the mountain route!  My soul was singing, so filled I was with the magnificent views.  My thighs, calves, knees and feet were screaming for leniency.  There was only one thing to do, and that was for M and P to keep on Treking.

img_5994At long last, we spotted our destination, Manerola, sprawled languidly on a bluff above the ocean.  Below us was the clear azure sea.  Hope restored!  Soon, we were sitting on a beachfront deck with our shoes off and our feet up, sipping chilled Cinque Terre wine.



A Little Village on the Mountain, Cornelia

Corniglia, Cinque Terre

Surprise!  I was not expecting much from the smallest of the Cinque Terre villages, and the most remote from the sea.  Set on top of a mountain, it was necessary to climb about 300 steps to reach it from the train station.  Steep steps — and lots of them — have become a way of life for Martin and I.  It’s the price one pays for stunning views and plates of pasta.

The rewards:   Fresh morning breeze, glimpses of sea glistening with golden sunshine, and . . . Corniglia, a charming place.


The Sun Comes Out in Riomaggiore

Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre

img_2571The tremendous storm of the day before was clearing.  Martin and I ventured out to explore our village, all drenched and drippy, but shaking itself off and coming to life.  The water seeped into the cracks in the stone walls of our seventeenth-century house, feeding ferns and moss.  Sun peeked through patches of blue overhead.
Food stores displayed their vegetables on the street, the wine shop door was open, the bakery already had a full stock of Ligurian pastries and focaccias and restaurants were supplying cappuccino to eager tourists.  We gleefully filled our bags and our tummies.

img_2615We discovered that the street was indeed a river of water.  We could hear it all around us.  However, we could not see it.  It flowed beneath the main street of the village.  Ancient drains from all sides, supported by stone-built arches, fed the contained rage of the water under our feet.  We could hear it roar from beneath the grates placed at intervals all the way down the steep street.
Martin conquered his fear of foreign scissors and ventured into the only barbershop in the village.  Fortified and beautified, we were ready to conquer the trails of Cinque Terre.