A spontaneous hike through the Cinque Terre

22 Nov 2019

It was a usual Friday night in Turin, with the options of going to a few bars, clubbing or drinking vino by the river Po. Almost all weekends in Italy revolved around 2 euro bottles of wine. Our choices led us to Mexican and ‘Irish’ bars full of infused conversations, card games and French practise (ironic I know). Before we knew it 3am had passed and we were sat in a kebab place waiting on our falafel pittas.

And through a little encouragement, this was the point where we decided to join the boys on their hike through the Cinque Terre.
4 hours later we were on the train to Genoa, backpacks on and raincoats at the ready. We hadn’t realised at the time but weather news were reporting high risk storms in Genoa.
When we arrived, needless to say it was raining, I can vividly remember the way the palm trees swung and our impractical inside out broken umbrellas pulling us in forceful motions. After 20 minutes of zipping round the city, running to each arcade of shelter, we decided that was enough tourism and took cover in a small cove bar. The relief of sitting down in the warmth of our teas and hot chocolates with a selections of nuts, breads, cheeses and carrots radiated through our damp clothes. I introduced the group to a fun card game, working in pairs using secret codes that left us in hysterics. The 70s music played in the background and the bar ladies singing along.

To our luck, the next day in La Spezia was dry, after planning our hike we left the hostel en route to the train station. On the way we past markets of fruit and veg. I picked up a couple of bananas and a big bottle of water for L and we were on our way. The 15 minute train journey painted a picture of blue waters, cliff edges and soon to be the first village of colourful outpour.

Since it was November, the hiking paths were practically empty, even the villages we walked through felt deserted. But as the day opened up, so did they sky and the wind settled. We took the ‘closed off’ route which we initially were sceptical of, but we followed behind walking up shallow streams until soon formed a path hugging the cliff side where bamboo shoots, cacti and permission trees grew. At the third village of the Cinque Terre we stopped for lunch (in Vernazza). It was a beautiful scene walking down these wide open steps through the centre of the colourful block buildings to where the shore line met the rowboats. The streets were narrow and tall, where fairy lights and laundry hung low above our heads, tied to olive green window shutters where cats paws dangled as they slept from above, watching new encounters every hour. It was a maze of narrow alley way streets that occasionally dropped down into backstreet passageways and other times elevated steps that would lead to new openings or more often leading to old ladies’ apartment doors. As we ate our mixed seafood by the water the boys managed to throw the frisbee into the sea. Without hesitation R stripped and went after it. For a hiker it wasn’t just a worn old frisbee, I witnessed him use it as a dinner plate, a chopping board and a serving platter.

By this point in the day we had really bonded as a group of four and felt like close friends exploring a beautiful part of Italy. The sun was beginning to set and the colours enhanced this warmth feeling as we walked along the cliff side. From here to Monterosso the sun formed oranges and yellows behind indigo blue clouds, reflecting onto the sea. The four of us stopping every minute to see the transition of colours. Once the sun had set, we were walking in the dusky light, across dainty bridges and wooden stairs, into flowing streams out of walls, surrounded by cacti families. We climbed and snacked on tangerine trees that were sweet and slightly more bitter.
It was dark by the time we’d made it round to the next village (Monterosso al Mare). Where we stood from above we could see the ambience of restaurants glistening over the waves and above seeing the iconic colourful brick buildings layered on top of one another, forming this rustic tone from the street lamps below. The sound of waves rolling in and the hum of chat was soothing as we made our way down.

After a long day we slept on the train back to Turin, something quite comforting about everyone feeling the same, another way of connecting with a human without words, another way of relating and knowing that they understand.

An au pair in Italy : PT1

The summer I turned 18 I flew out to Italy to become an Au pair. Of course in a nutshell this was the most expressive experience so far of my life as it was all completely and utterly new. Yes, the responsibility for another families’ children, where language barriers meant that communication and understanding was crucial. But this was also the first time living away from home (in the countryside), let alone in a foreign country (in the city), where freedom thrived and my opportunities were endless. This was so far out of my comfort zone it quickly became an out of body experience.

September 08
3am alarm set for my morning flight to Milan. I like to think I hold quite a calm and collected strategy with nerves. I tend to keep myself busy during the build up and simply play a game of denial. Until I’m on the plane sat in my seat having a nose bleed. Perhaps that was the moment where my body told me to snap into reality and face the nerves. I’d say that this was a strategy I tried to use throughout the 4 months. You see I know that sounds like I restricted myself from emotion, but really each day felt like an explosion going on inside of me. The first couple of weeks are honestly quite traumatic. I didn’t prepare myself for the over thinking. It’s all you do, analysing myself, every move I made in the house; Was that the right thing to do? Should I have been more enthusiastic? Can I help with this or with that. Am I getting in the way? In fact you have to separate yourself in some way. It’s like you become two bodies, one being the panicked mess and the other being the casual accept me for me, the one that tries (emphasis on tries) to numb down emotions. I was worried I’d have a heart attack within the first month.

But I knew from the start I wanted to make the most out of this experience and so whilst on the coach from Milan to Turin, I decided to take the opportunity and start my adventure right here. Turning to the Japanese man next to me and offering him my gum. To my surprise he accepted the gum and told me he was a science researcher. His broken English limited our bonding experience but I felt happy to have made my first acquaintance in Italy.

A Devonshire morning

Reminiscing of sunrise in Sardinia
by the sound of waves crashing, and the aura of early morning,
that blissful knowing
it’s just you.
Hidden sounds of the motors to the boats, unnoticed by the eye, but present to those aware.
The smell is different at 5am,
perhaps,
or is it this absence of distraction that allows me to indulge in this fresh seawater air.

Just on time
sun signals the lighthouse to relax as it’s role has been taken over,
a great big ruby ball rolling over the sea.
The only time you’ll ever see the waves blush,
the houses across greet the sun with a warming glow
addressing the birds to set off in formation.
Post sunburn from yesterday, keeping me warm
as I am accompanied by a brisk breeze.

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