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Saturday, July 21, 2012

Five Heavens...

by John Hodges


Chiara and I Paddle-boarding
Cinqueterre should be called Cinquecieli, or “five heavens.”  I have never been so captivated by a beach in my life.  That’s probably because the term “beach” doesn’t quite do Cinqueterre justice.  Made up of lush, green mountains that border the deep blue depths, Cinqueterre will take anyone’s breath away.  When we were on the train to Cinqueterre, we went into a dark tunnel for about 10 minutes.  When we emerged the beautiful, blue ocean was right next to us, and there was a collective gasp from the passengers aboard the train.

As soon as we arrived, we dropped our stuff off at our apartments and headed for the beach.  We rented kayaks and paddle-boards and had a ton of fun watching each other wipe out in the waves.  Eventually, some of us started getting the hang of it.  We spent another few hours on the beach relaxing.  Later, we all went out for our group dinner.  My favorite part of the meal was the antipasto, a seafood salad.  Calimari served as lettuce and mussels, clams, and shrimp were the toppings.  It was incredible. 

Fresh picked cherries
The next day, we went for our scheduled hike along Cinqueterre.  Within the first five minutes, we saw a beautiful cove that looked incredibly refreshing.  Therefore, we went swimming.  We climbed down the rocks and dove into the crystal blue water.  Here, the water felt more refreshing than it felt at the beach.  We climbed a rock jutting out of the water and started jumping into the water.  Before we knew it, all the tourist walking on the path above us began taking pictures of us. 

Calimari Cone!
After a refreshing swim, we continued on our hike.  The walk to the first town was very quick and easy.  The next section, however, was long and taxing, but the scenery definitely made up for that.  The entire hike, we were about 500 feet above the ocean and hiking through fruit farms.  Chiara, our on-site director, and I picked some wild cherries to munch on until we arrived at Manarola, the most beautiful place on earth.  I decided to grab a local specialty, a cone full of fried calimari and a lemon wedge.  I’ve never had better calimari than from that little tiny shop.  After our long hike, we made a unanimous decision to go swimming.  Without hesitation, I was the first one to dive in.  Once again the water felt incredible.  We quickly found another rock to dive off of, and this one was higher than the first one.  Standing at the edge, it was a little intimidating, but plunging into that blue water was fantastic.  We were soon jumping off and climbing back up, one after the other.  We all got cuts on our feet from the barnacles, but it was definitely worth it.

We eventually climbed out and hiked back to Monterosso, where we showered and got ready to head back to Florence.  Despite some problems with the trains, we made it back around 11:00 pm exhausted, salty, and full of incredible memories.

A presto,

John Hodges

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