All I wanted to do was to lay on the beach and soak up the warm, Mediterranean sun.
I shook out my little hotel towel, sat down, and began to breathe in the fresh, ocean air.
I was interrupted mid-breath by a lady selling massages. I politely declined.
Once again, I took a deep breath, looked out into the ocean and marveled at how beautiful this place was.
Then, a man selling sunglasses blocked my view, asking if I wanted to buy.
“No thanks,” I replied.
These propositions did not stop.
A man came by selling beach blankets, and then another came by peddling bracelets.
I had refused all until I saw the man with the beach blankets.
Shifting around uncomfortably on my hotel towel, I asked, “How much?”
“Thirty-five,” he said.
Still reeling from overpaying in Venice for those whirly-gig toys, I told him no, then asked if he would take ten.
He looked at me with mock incredulousness, then said “twenty-five.”
I shook my head and tried not to make eye contact.
He started to walk away then turned around and asked, “fifteen?”
I told him no again, narrowed my eyes, and repeated my number.
He smiled and said “OK. Ten.”
I was in Monterroso al Mere, one of the five villages that make up the Cinque Terre (The Five Lands). While we only did a day trip from Lucca to this region, It is worthy of two days and a night. Worthy not because of museums and churches and art, but just to relax and be present in all that is Italy. We started at this northernmost town and worked our way south by boat. Each of these five towns can be accessed by train or on foot. Hiking paths that vary in difficulty, and trains with village stops, connect the Cinque Terre to the outside world. We decided that traveling by boat was the best way to go. Unlike trains, the boats were timely and it only took 5-10 minutes to get from town to town while breathing in the fresh, salty air. Besides, the view from the boat was breathtaking.
Each of the villages in the region have their own unique stamp. I Loved Monterroso because of the wide, sandy beaches and shallow waters.
I loved Manarola because of the quiet, hilly streets that began at the dock and passed by churches, gardens and homes. I found that the higher we climbed up the hill along the streets, the more local it seemed.
We walked into this peaceful church, and heard the bells ring forth.
We could feel the fresh breeze coming off from the ocean below.
I loved Riomaggiore because of what I learned there. While we were walking up the dock toward the village, we saw several people swimming out to rocks that were about 30 feet high. They were jumping from them.
We stopped and watched for awhile, as one by one they gathered up courage to jump into the clear, aqua seas. A girl approached our group and asked one of us to video her jumping. She joked that her mom was not going to be happy when she saw the video, because the last thing her mom said to her was, “Now be safe and don’t do any thing crazy!” She handed us her phone, swam out to the rock and climbed to the top. She was visibly nervous, and she kept telling herself aloud that she could do this. Finally, she jumped. She had conquered her fear and done it. Everyone was cheering and clapping. She came over to us to get her phone, giddy and shaking with excitement and adrenaline. I was proud of her, and I learned that we all need to push our own self-imposed boundaries sometimes to see where it may lead us.
As the sun set on Cinque Terre, and we boarded the train back to Lucca, I thought what a wonderful place this “five lands” is. Each village is just waiting to teach the visitor a thing or two about beauty, boundaries, and life.