It was about a year ago that I was in the Cinque Terre on the Italian Mediterranean coast with Karen, Johanna, and Keith. Today felt like a good morning to spend some time there in my mind, so my teacup and I reminisced over my travel journals:

…There are five towns here, all built into the mountainside along the Mediterranean shore. They’re connected only by hiking trails, by train, and by boat. In order from North to South, they go: Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola (where we are staying), and Riomaggiore.

Yesterday we thought we’d go on a little hike, so we started by walking from Manarola to Riomaggiore, and caught the boat to Monterosso. We did a little trinket shopping, and I got a bracelet for my friend Anya.

DSC01050We then hiked from Monterosso to Vernazza, which began by going about 180 feet straight up on some wonky stone stairs placed in the side of the mountain. I’ve hiked with these friends before, but soon, Keith and Johanna [a doctor and a former physical therapist] began exchanging worried looks about our predicament. About halfway through the hike we ran out of water. We’d been under the impression that we could do this “walk” in less than half an hour, so we hadn’t brought proper supplies. Our water went fast, we had no fruit, and we’d skipped the lemonade man (running a stand in the mountainside halfway up. We should have taken the hint from the hikers coming from the other direction when they threw themselves on the mercy of the lemonade man.)

DSC00942Believe me, many times we looked over the edge of the trail to the splashing Mediterranean below us and calculated whether we could survive the jump. But, what goes up must come down, and so, about 2 hours later, after many smaller, exhaustive ups and downs in the scorching sunlight, we came down 180 feet on wonky stairs. By stairs, I mean chunks of rock cut into crude cube shapes, about a foot and a half high each, stacked on top of one another in zigzagging patterns, with the trees and soil of the mountainside encroaching on them.

Once off the trail, we hauled ourselves, sweating and thirsting, to the nearest pizza bar and proceeded to eat and drink all in sight. We first ordered a large bottle of water and the camerier agreed and tried to go get it, but we stopped Vernazzahim and ordered a giant beer to share at our table. The camerier agreed and tried to go, but we again stopped him and tacked on a bottle of white and a bottle of red wine. He didn’t quite believe us, but among the four of us, we drank it all. First we rehydrated, then we calmed ourselves after our adventure with the beer and wine. And there was pizza. Oh, the pizza! I finished an entire pizza myself. I’d like to say that was the first time I’d ordered and eaten an entire pizza myself, but alas no. Italy has taught me how to eat, with gusto…


I wrote a book called Upside Down Kingdom. The good people at Amazon have it.