Sunday, October 18, 2009
The Walk of Love-Via dell' Amore
More about Cinque Terre: We took the train down to the most southern town on the route, Riomaggiore. The towns look gorgeous from above, falling down the hillside, and the sea and the rugged mountains are beautiful. Only two of the five towns have any sort of beach, and the towns themselves are pretty bare bones except for the places set up to serve the tourists. These are closest to the ocean. Of the towns that don't have a beach, one has a hollowed out stone cove for a port, which is no port at all, for a boat can't really enter it and tie up, and because it's so rocky, they probably can't anchor, either. In this town, the boats are put on dollies, like the large carts at Costco or Lowes, but without the handles. The fishermen push them up a steep stone ramp into the town to stow them. It must be hard work to do that each day, requiring several men to get the boat (with the outboard motor) out of the water and up the hill.
College kids, their bodies slick as seals, swim in the rocky cove. We watch their rituals from above: the girls pulling at their tiny suits, the boys acting as if they don't notice.
About the railroad: I knew that the train runs up and down the coast, far further south than Cinque Terre and far further north. The local trains do stop in each of the little towns so that tourists can hike or visit and get on and off the train. I had envisioned something like (as a woman sitting across from us put it) a chug-a-chug train. Or something that would allow us to look out the window at the beautiful countryside as we traveled from town to town. Silly me! The terrain is so rugged that the rail is cut through the mountains, so the passage from each town is mostly in black tunnels. Even if it was light, the windows on the train are so smudged that it's hard to get much of a view.
The trails: beginning on the first leg of the trails from south to north, The Via dell' Amore is by far the most sedate and least interesting. The way is paved, and as Marie White told me, “It's not a hike, it's like walking on the sidewalk.” For this I was worried about my shoes? There were old ladies (older much than I) in flip flops. There is also an astonishing and off-putting amount of graffiti. It's on the rocks, it's carved into the leaves of the agave, and it's on every wood surface. Lovers have taken the opportunity to immortalize their love, or at least immoralize it (a venal sin, surely), by carving and tagging everything. This is not what I envisioned on the way of love.
The second section of the trail is much more interesting because it's actually a hike. There are places where the ground is rough and it's even a little scary (if you're an acrophobiac like I am). The incredibly blue Mediterranean sea is splashing below on the rugged cliffs, which are shot through with so many complex layers of rock that they look like petrified wood in places, whorled and gnarly. It was much more satisfying because it was a slice of nature, and by then 2/3 of the strollers had dropped out, so instead of a section of Disneylandia, it was just a well-traveled path.