Friday, December 19, 2008
Italextravaganza Day1-2... Campiglia
I'm typing up our Italian adventure in several installments... here's the first!
Our first day we drove to the tiny town of Campiglia at the southern end of the Cinque Terra National Park. This is an area of the "Italian Riviera" that has 5 old towns that have changed very little over the centuries, and have now been made part of a natural/historical perserve. We arrived at our very quaint Italian villa (at which not a single person spoke English, which led to a very amusing "show and tell" while we were checking in) and crashed that first night. From our villa we looked out over the bay of La Spezia edged with snow-capped peaks on one side, and out over the Meditteranean on the other. It was quite spectacular.
The following morning we took a trail that literally started at our hotel and proceded to drop several thousand feet down the cliffs to the ocean below. The entire trail was a series of rock steps leading down through tumbled rocks, brush, and small vineyards clinging to the hillside. At one point nosy me couldn't help but open and close a pretty wrought-iron gate set in a rock wall that was literall overhanging the ocean. To our suprise the owner of the gate was home, and must have heard the squeak, because he came out to say "Hi". He spoke a few words of English, a few words of Deutsch, and quite a bit of French. We spoke a little French, a little Deutsch, and of course English, and between our Germo-FrenTalianIsh we were invited into his home for a drink of his wine, grown right there! It was a tiny building built on the ledge, with a roof that was about 6 feet tall (Jimmy had to duck a little), and two small rooms, one a kitchen with a table and one with a tiny bed in it. Of course out back he had a patio roofed with grape vines, although it was all bare for the winter. It was a pretty cool experience!
That evening we made a fairly quickly vetoed hike to dinner... it was yet another set of stairs that was several miles longer than we thought it would be, and we quickly discovered that our stair-climbing muscles were done for the day. Before we turned around we had the odd experience of running into a group of boar hunters in the woods. It was a bit disconcerting to see a bunch of guys there with guns, although luckily we had seen some warning signs (as well as a LOT of boar-digging damage in the woods) so we knew what was going on. We ended up driving to dinner, which was fortuitous because we stumbled on a wonderful B&B whose restaurant actually opened early for us just so we could have dinner with M (most Italians don't eat dinner until 8 or 8:30 at night). We were so impressed we went there the next night too.
The next day in Campiglia we took a hike through the seaside hills to Riomaggiore, the closest of the 5 towns of the Cinque Terra. It was a spectacular hike on a beautiful day, and it of course involved many more stairs! The trail was actually pretty rugged, involving lots of rocks, steep slopes, and at times clinging to ledges above the ocean or along the top of a vineyard wall. Jimmy carried M on his back the whole way, getting his work-out in! We ended up at an old church built on a steep hillside above Riomaggiore. We took a little breather on the green grass, enjoyed the astounding views, then turned around for home. Marion actually walked about 1/4 mile on the way home (see picture!) which was pretty amazing considering the rough terrain. She promptly fell asleep as soon as she hit the back-pack, which was what we were counting on. Needless to say none of has had much trouble falling asleep that night!