No longer an unknown collection of sleepy coastal towns on the Italian Riviera, the Cinque Terre still holds all of its natural beauty and charm. I'm not sure I've ever felt more generally at ease as I have sitting in our rented apartment overlooking the pristine blue waters of the Ligurian Sea from the town of Corniglia. It was just a few days after our wedding and I'm sure some of the stress subsiding after the fact didn't hurt, but the atmosphere was a huge help.
Up, Up and Away
Each day we climbed the steps up to Corniglia (thirty-three flights of steps to be exact) and walked around the beautiful little village that felt like time had forgotten about. It was early May and the large tourist crowds hadn't arrived en masse, so we had a bit of the tiny streets to ourselves. Coffee by the sea. Local wine and cheese on a terrace. All with a pristine view of water like I'd never seen before. Boats whizzed by taking early season tourists to the more accessible towns of Vernazza and Riomaggiore. At one point the entire village shut down because of a loss of power. The Entire Village.
We ate a cold breakfast on our last day in Corniglia and basked in the feeling of extreme calm. As we sat and sipped on juice, I couldn't help but feel the pull of a simple life. The power was out and everyone in the town generally seemed to not care. Their senses were attuned to life at a different pace, one that I seem to crave more and more with each passing day.
But What About WiFi?
The more I travel, the more I recognize my ability to complain about even the smallest things. I've been in hotels with slow wi-fi and uncomfortable beds and it's thrown off my whole trip. But for some reason, in Corniglia, nothing mattered beyond the fact that I was there with my bride. I accidentally booked the apartment at the bottom of the hulking stairs so we got a great calf workout every day. It rained on us a couple of times. The wi-fi at our little place was spotty at best but we were together and that's all that mattered.
Every destination brings with it different quirks and living with them is half the adventure. We definitely didn't validate our train tickets on the platform and got a stern talking to from a railway attendant on how things work in Italy. The truth is, if everything ran smoothly, what kind of stories would you have to tell.
I recently read How Not To Travel the World by blogger Lauren Juliff and her stories of travel adventures captivated me. She's been robbed, found herself on the wrong side of an intrusive massage and even got caught in a tsunami during her travels. But what kind of life would it be if we never ventured beyond our little borders? Lauren's stories show just how wide, varied and beautiful this world is.
I've got it in my mind to visit some more off the beaten path places. Ones that aren't necessarily tourist towns, whether big or small and finding what makes them beautiful. I'm starting a list of smaller European cities that put you closer to the culture of the people. There's something intoxicating about finding yourself in a cafe, not knowing the language and relying on the kindness of the people around you to get by. It can restore your faith in humanity with every little act.