Monday, October 7, 2013
Rio Maggiore Italy– Not Recommended for Stroke Victims & skate boarders!!!
At first I thought it would be absolutely a must to go south to the Amalfi coast, but then after chilling in Cinque Terre…a series of 5 towns accessible only by foot via steep vertical climbs– there is really no need to travel for hour and hours to see another Italian Riviera. The Cinque Terre is pretty much the best Riviera I’ve seen, if you don’t need to go swimming and do beachy stuff. It’s chock full of stunning views, friendly cats and dogs, delicious fresh sea food and wine shops, and cardio igniting hikes. Apparently Italy doesn’t provide much for the physically challenged aside from a small slot for one at the bottom of the hill.
After spending 3 days in Florence which included a hair raising drive through steep, narrow, winding, wild boar inhabited roads– we took the train to Rio Maggiore . I had to stand on line for an hour to buy a ticket for the local train to Riomaggiore, the first little seaside town in a string of 5 towns hanging over the Ligurian sea. From there, you can explore the other villages loke Vernazza, Monterosso and Portovenere..plus a tiny cluster of Islands called Tino, Tinetto and Palmaria. I know, these names sound like appetizers on a menu at an Italian restaurant…but hey, they could be the Italian equivalent of Alcatraz, or Rikers Island. Just don’t get arrested there.
There’s a hop on hop off boat that goes to all the towns, and the day we arrived it was pissing rain. So we slogged around with umbrellas, doing the best thing there is to do in a little village…eat hand made pasta with local mushrooms and local sea creatures…like octopus, shrimp…and a bunch of other tasty fish.
I’m excitedly sampling sea food dishes because I stopped eating fish since the Fukushima nuclear power plant explosion. On the west coast, you’re pretty much going to absorb pure radiation horrors from anything that lives in the pacific ocean. So it was fun to think about seafood that doesn’t have a third eye or fish and chips that won’t make your DNA produce mutant babies. Plus it was really tasty!!
Luckily it only rained for a day. The boat we took to the other Villages, Monterosso, Vernazza, and Portovenere, was PACKED with herds of chubby, lumbering guided tourists. Looking at them, I felt relieved that I can read a map and go places without the need to follow condescending tour guide holding up a paddle. Their cameras were bigger than their asses. I overheard some heavy New York accents, tawking loudly about the small portions…and about the pancho’s they bought, as they knocked back shots of Lemoncillo.
A gaggle of Italian ladies from Calabria who couldn’t figure put why we were American but looked Italian, grilled us about our ancestors until we explained came from Sicily. One lady sternly reminded us not to go to Calabria…because of course , the Calabrese and the Sicilians still hate each-other. Then they all giggled about it.
Monterosso, one of the few towns you don’t need a carabiner and mountain climbing gear to stroll through –had a surprise around every corner, all sorts of hidden shops and bistro’s, wine shops and friendly cats everywhere. These cats must have been runway models in a previous life. They enjoy getting their picture taken, and even strike sultry poses when there’s a camera pointed at them. I guess if I was a runway model, Id come back as a cat so I could eat, and still look pretty with a fat stomach.
We wandered into the gay neighborhood. The rainbow flag and Obama 2008 stickers in windows confirmed that you’ve arrived at the right place. Even the local church had a distinctive ‘Liberace’ touch–chandeliers hanging from the ceilings. Saint Liberace’ must have declared chandeliers obligatory in the Cinque Terre.
Any extra calories accumulated by the handmade pasta-to-go and the pudding-like drinking chocolate will instantly evaporate just walking to my hotel room–which is a vertical trek straight upward. How we found our ‘bat-cave’ like room in the dark I have no idea. Good thing there Was a pile of cement bags that marked the many twists and turns of stone stairs. Make a left by the cement sacks!
In Cinque Terre, there are no cars allowed. You can hike through the towns, take a train or a bus or a boat…or just pretend you’re a mountain goat and see what happens.
This a place where you can buy an expensive tasting red wine for about 5 euros. Wine tasting doesn’t have to happen at a winery. Just go to a local wine shop, and sample away. If you’re in a hurry, just randomly pick any bottle off the shelf with your eyes closed and it will taste great. In Italy, you cant take a bad photo, or eat a bad tasting meal, or have a bad tasting wine. EVERYTHING looks and tastes delicious.
You also cant have a bad cup off coffee. Its against the law. So far, I haven’t seen a single Starbucks logo (thank god!) This is the only time I feel like getting religious– when I have to thank God there’s no Starbucks in Tuscany. I don’t know about southern Italy…but here in the North, you can even get a fresh ground espresso in the laundromat!
Every time I travel abroad, I always love going to a local laundromat to figure out how to wash my clothes. The signs were pretty dumbed down, for us foreign idiots who don’t know how to operate machines with coins. The laundromat attendant was a large cat. He meowed in Italian, toward the signs that say it’s forbidden to wash shoes.
I guess your shoes can get pretty dirty if you’re acting like a mountain goat —trekking through Cinque Terra.