Thursday - Wednesday
20-26 October 2022
Little Mediterranean beach pebbles... Whenever I think about anywhere along the coast of Liguria, I find a surprising emotional yearning. The edges of this coastal region touch the Mediterranean from near Pisa to the southeast, then stretch north west past cliffs and pebble beaches towards the border of France. With smiles inside, I look forward to an entire week here in late October, home-based in new but Italian appointed rooms, with trattorias nearby and such a waitress as this.
Sestri Levante is several towns north of that colorful parade of five interesting villages which form the Cinque Terre national park. Definitely in the neighborhood but out of traffic: accordingly way fewer tourists.
You adventurers would like it very much. Adventurers I mean not in the sense of extreme water sports or bungee jumping above knife-edged rocks, but of ordering food whose description your vocabulary is not able to translate. Rather to suggest that if your notion of leisure includes tuxedos and gowns at posh restaurants, then maybe Monaco or Cannes up the
coast is more your style. But these little assemblages of houses next to the seaside seem designed for people-watching. Like enjoying the expressive face of a patient server in Levanto, above, explaining with animated fingers what it is that un bicchiere d'acqua may be. Afterwards perhaps enjoying the sea air while not minding very much that a sticky torrent of gelato is dripping over your fingers faster than you can lick it.
My happily discovered rental in the seaside town of Sestri Levante, sits between two memorable coastal inlets: the Bay of Fable, which Hans Christian Andersen fell in love with in 1833, and the Bay of Silence, shown here. There is a coastal trail to scuff along, here, that I must revisit this autumn. That pathway calls again.
I have several excellent 4K videos of this view, as well as the panorama towards where I'm standing, taken from the tiny beach seen right in the middle yonder. The day's energetic resolve was to continue out to the southern tip of this peninsula, out a couple of miles past my left shoulder.
There were two approaches one might take, I thought, from yon beach. The one was up countless stairs behind balustrades of what looked like an estate on the hillside; the other was a paved roadway that appeared well-traveled. It was the one I chose. And this marvelous but not very wild looking view, was as far as I could travel—the asphalt route ended in a ganglion of very private driveways. Rats.
The five or so local coast-edge villages of the Cinque Terre national park do resemble one another, yet aren't remotely duplicates. They differ in size and personality, and arrangement along the steep shoreline (from the water those pastel-hued structures appear super-glued to the rocky hillsides). Each is interesting, each a delight to explore. This one, Vernazza, has arguably the most genteel evening mood of the bunch. But also the most tourists.
Beyond Monterosso to the north, Levanto has a gentle personality of its own. One thing I have been struck by in this town, is the relative absence of English speaking people on the streets, in the shops, on the beaches. There are mansions and grand gardens, indeed, but mostly one just notices vacationing Italians. Enjoying.
I love this little cafe right across from a park where locals watch their kids play. Last visit, it was run by a brother/sister pair. She did the work of the moment, while he played with my GoPro camera. An uneven distribution of effort which resulted in some magical, playful footage.
There were several attractive options for living space for these days. Some had a view towards the sea, likely also showing high-rise rooftops in the foreground; others were dark and gloomy inside, with an enclosed feeling. Most others had an unrelenting feeling of an Ikea showroom. This one was the happy exception.
And it seemed important to revisit that little Fashion Cafe, if it might still exist. It must have been 10 years ago, before. Yes, it was there and it was open. Tentatively I stepped across the threshold and peered inside. A pretty middle-aged woman was bustling around, clean apron smoothed, busy hands making all the tiny merchant details mesh. It was she. Same nose, same magical and pretty smile. What could this nosy foreigner want, with his stare and grinning face? Only Italian understood in that room. I explained as best I could and showed her the video that I've put here. Here came the biggest, happiest smile I saw during the entire 41 days abroad. She is married, has three raggazi. Could not believe I had troubled to look her up with this remembrance.
Views from my windows were this amazing, and all in all this was the best apartment of the several I inhabited on this adventure. I must add there was a strange little elevator one had to use in order to ascend easily to floor six. Big enough for one person and one suitcase. You put in your elevator key to summon the little cubicle, step in and follow the directions. Except the ground floor door didn't want to close (needful to activate the floors-buttons). And there was no handle to pull in order to make the thing latch. So I reached out and tugged quickly and pulled my hand in fast so as to avoid being struck by the closing metal door. Not fast enough however to avoid the metal surface raking across my knuckles and peeling away some skin. Yes, a several-paper-towels mess. And still the damned door wouldn't close. Grrr.