I just returned from my fall tour in Cinque Terre and am feeling so moved by my time there. Our small group of eight consisted of dear friends of mine and some new friends they brought along. We focused on hiking, wine tasting, and sampling delicious seafood but this trip also had an art component that was so cool. My art teacher of many years Debie Plog helped all of us with watercolor painting as we sat overlooking the pastel towns of the Cinque Terre, the sea and unique doorways and piazzas.
The weather was summer perfect with temps in the 70's and 80's and the welcoming Mediterranean Sea to refresh us after a hike. We took one full day trip by train to Pietrasanta, a charming city chock full of galleries, boutiques and art everywhere. After a tasty Tuscan lunch, we made our way to Carrara where we were picked up in four wheel drive vehicles for our adventure up the mountains to get a closer look at the magnificent majestic marble mines of Carrara.
Each time I think "this was my best tour" it just keeps getting better. The combination of weather, activities, people, and painting all combined to make this a very special one. Having my daughter Caroline as my Co-Host is also such a bonus. She knows the language, more obscure trails, trains, and is always ready to do a more challenging hike with whoever wants while I can take others for a different activity like riding bikes along the sea through a now closed train tunnel from the 1800's. I was planning to be in Monterosso two weeks total, but due to my husband not being able to join me for a bike trip we had planned to Croatia, I stayed on in Monterosso another week. I was so blessed to have 3 weeks total. I loved swimming almost daily and letting the waves wash over me as I let my fingers run over the small stones that make up the beach. The sea is salty, clean and clear.
What I gain in having time in Monterosso is connecting with the locals who have become my friends over the past 40 years of traveling there. One day I sat across from a beautiful wooden door and painted it for a couple of hours. After I was finished and walking down a narrow street, I passed the guitar maker Albino Martelli and showed him my little painting. He told me that he designed and built the door I had just painted. I never knew he designed doors. Another day, I was visiting with MIngo Sassarini who is a local man of 87 years. He asked to see some of my sketches and when he saw one of the big rock on the beach, also known as Lo Scoglio,
he told me that it used to be almost one huge rock, but as time and the sea have worn it away it is only joined by a small section near the surface of the sea. He recounted stories of jumping off of this rock as a strapping young man.
Another day when I was with some friends on the tour, we passed Gianpaolo's cantina where he was making wine,
as our timing was perfect for the wine harvest. He let us step inside his small cantina where he makes Begasti Cinque Terre wine and we sampled the first press that tasted like a delicious young grape juice. One day several of us went to Ciak's orchard and picked perfectly ripe figs off the tree and enjoyed them wrapped in prosciutto for our
appetizers the next night.
It was a magical moment on the first night of our tour, as we were finishing dinner outside and Caroline noticed all of these lights in the sea. It was the Celebration of the Madonna of Fegina and they had sent votive candles to sea followed by a procession thru the streets complete with a full band and locals singing the rosary by candlelight. These "piccoli tesori" or little treasures I call them are part of what make my time in Monterosso so special. I love sharing the culture of life in a small fishing village in such an intimate way. I can't wait for next September!