I love reading those lists of the most beautiful places on earth or the top ten bucket list spots. I like reading them, because I want to feel good about having seen some of the places I have already been on the list and because I am always looking for those places to add to my list of great places to go. I hope I live long enough to see all of the places I have added to my list, and on the other hand, I hope I never say my list is complete. It is good to have wonderful things to look forward to and this earth provides unending beauty. I want to be 100 years old and still be adding things to my list, but as most of you know I am an eternal optimist. I know I will not run out of places to go because as much as I want to see new things, there are also many places that I would not mind returning to some day with more time.
It seems that one of the areas that seems to make every list and for good reason is the Cinque Terre in Italy. If you have not seen it in pictures or in your travels, you need to look it up. I saw it online for years before we actually went to experience it. It truly is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Cinque Terra means five lands and is compromised of five villages of Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso located in the area of Italy known as the Liguria region. It is five beautiful villages on the Italian coast, full of colorful historic buildings set on the cliff sides along the blue, crisp Mediterranean Sea.
It is picture postcard beautiful. We take a lot of photos on our travels, and sometimes we accidentally capture the true beauty, and sometimes…not so much. We did get some great pictures at the Cinque Terre, but it is still nothing like the real beauty. It is one of those pictures that I have framed on our wall going up the stairway with a collection of other favorite travel photos. I walk by it many times per day and each time I pass it, it reminds me of that calm beauty and relaxation I felt when we were there. There are some places that just leave a strong impression and invoke strong feelings and great memories, and this is one of them.
People come from all over the world to see it. There is a train that delivers tourists and locals from city to city and runs regularly. You can hop on and off as you explore your way through each village, taste testing their food and drinks. There are also hiking and biking trails between each village, and one can spend weeks relaxing and swimming and exploring each of the cities. We were on a larger trip and only had designated a few days to this area. This would be an area that I would love to go and spend a few weeks soaking in the food, the sun, and the cool waters of the Mediterranean, while getting to know the locals. It would be fun to bike from village to village. It would be like living a beautiful old movie. Even with our short visit, we were totally in love with the Cinque Terre.
The villages are built on, and into the cliffs, and have a rich and long history rooted in the fishing industry of Italy and the Mediterranean. The buildings are very old and are crowded together, because the cliffs rise so close to the water that little land is left for beaches or buildings. The historic structures shine in the summer sun, painted in yellows, bright blues, greens, and oranges. The narrow streets are lined with shops bustling with the locals and tourists buying everything from purses and jewelry, to fresh fruits and vegetables. The cafés are welcoming and casual. They serve some of the finest sea foods caught fresh from the Mediterranean and the prices are modest. It is Italy, so the wines are smooth and dark, but delicious and compliment any dish. The pastries and desserts line glass cases and people are three deep pointing at their sweet selection that is delivered sitting atop a plain piece of parchment, so one can carry and eat it as you walk and explore. There are boats a plenty that line the beaches and people fishing, swimming and basking in the summer sun on the rocks. There is no evidence of any stress, just people enjoying the day and enjoying life.
This is a naturally beautiful area because of the deep blue sparkling waters of the Mediterranean and the colorful city built on the beautiful cliffs of Italy, but what made these cities so special is that they have remained fairly unchanged for many years, other than some rebuilding they had to do a few years ago after some flooding. Despite the volume of tourists and their success in being named many times over as one of the most beautiful places to visit, they have remained humble. The food and wares are reasonably priced and the people are welcoming and have maintained their relaxed attitude. People live modestly and carry on their daily lives, appearing not to just tolerate the tourists that overrun their city on a daily basis, but welcome and embrace their guests to share their piece of heaven on earth. They appear to appreciate each day, and enjoy the simple pleasures of great wine and food. As visitors we can learn a lot from the people of the Cinqua Terre. They have an attitude towards others and towards life itself that should be emulated. Appreciate the simple pleasures of life and embrace the beauty of each beautiful day as it comes.