We’re leaving Cinque Terre a day earlier than we had planned because there’s a railroad strike tomorrow. It’s more of a work stoppage, I think, because it’s only for one day. But our departure date is coming up (sniff!), and we don’t want to take a chance on not being in Milan on D-Day. So we buy tickets for the five o’clock train.
We set out early on the two inter-village walks we haven’t done yet. The first, from Vernazza to Corniglia, is very pretty, (though of course it pales in comparison to the magnificent one we took yesterday).The only distracting detail is that I keep smelling dead animals as we hike along. I don’t see any vultures circling overhead, though, so I’m puzzled. Then Rick points out the wadded-up pieces of tissue paper on both sides of the trail. Okay, I guess the smell isn’t from dead animals after all. Yuck!
Now we’re done with that hike (luckily we managed to avoid stepping in anything unpleasant), and we’re continuing on to the Via dell’Amore, a short, flat, paved path between Riomaggiore and Manarola.
This is the real tourist “hike” of Cinque Terre, because it’s accessible to everyone. It’s touted as a lover’s lane, and the walls are scrawled with romantic graffiti.
Also, those little padlocks are everywhere. This is a new idea for me—apparently you demonstrate your eternal love for your partner by fastening a padlock to the chain link fence or the guard rail or wherever you can find room.
Then throw away the key, and voilà! Your hearts are locked together, inescapably, for all eternity. Something about that picture doesn’t seem quite right to me—using a padlock to symbolize your love and your commitment. Seriously?
Do I sound cynical? I don’t mean to be. I’m really very romantic! Whatever your views on love, the Via dell’Amore does have spectacular views of the Ligurian Sea crashing against the sheer rocky cliffs below. May your padlocked heart never meet that fate!
Back in Vernazza for our last meal in Cinque Terre. It’s Ascension Day, so the Italian tourists are out in force.
We sit down at the outdoor restaurant right below the window of our creepy dank “apartment.” I’m rejoicing at the thought of not having to spend another night there. We order, and prepare to be patient, since the restaurant is full to capacity. As if the poor waiters weren’t harassed enough already, out of a clear blue sky (well, maybe there are one or two tiny clouds), it starts to rain. And it’s not just a gentle sprinkle, it’s a cloudburst, a downpour! We’re sitting halfway under a beach umbrella and halfway under a stone archway, so we scoot over under the building as much as we can. There’s pandemonium in the square as tourists shriek and run for cover, all those enormous expensive cameras with their huge telephoto lenses getting rained on. The poor waiters are throwing their hands in the air and saying “Madonna!,” as they scurry to and from the kitchen across the square, hunching over the plates in a vain attempt to keep them dry.
All at the same time, the beach umbrellas over the tables start to collapse under the weight of the water. People scream and leap to their feet as spouts of water pour down onto their tables and into their plates. There’s a group of resourceful ladies a couple of tables over from us—I conjecture they must be British because they all have large heavy-duty umbrellas which they calmly unfurl and hold over themselves as they continue to eat.
This is all vastly entertaining, at least until water starts to pour down Rick’s back. I escape with nothing worse than a big wet spot on the back of my shorts from the rain dripping onto my chair.
We finish our packing and take the little Disneyland train to Monterosso,where we catch the five o’clock express to Milan.
We’re tired and ready to get away from the hordes in Cinque Terre, so we doze on the train. Even in my somnolent state, I can’t help noticing a distinguished-looking older man in a business suit with an unhappy expression on his face who comes into our car a couple of stops after we board. Instead of sitting down, he starts lifting up all the little fold-up tables between the seats on both sides of the aisle, including ours, and examining their undersides. He contorts himself into a pretzel in order to look underneath the ones he can’t lift up. He finally takes his seat, looking more miserable than ever. At first I think he’s lost something, but then I realize the more likely explanation is that he has a phobia about chewing gum stuck on the underside of tables. Is there a name for that?