The day came to leave Florence. Taxi driver knew the Harley dealership. We are both stressed out (basically fear of the unknown about the motorcycle). Walter, the gregarious rental guy, disarmed us immediately. Stress level discernably drops except when we look up at ominous sky. SIGH! It’s inevitable – we have to ride 200 km on day 1 of the motorcycle trip north and we were deluged. The autostrada was user friendly and comfortable. We paused at an Auto Grille and order our potato pizza. More rain. We stayed at the Italian truck stop drinking cappucino, hoping against hope we could catch a break. We bravely pushed forward – the rain ignited the most incredible musky smells. The air is heavy with olives and acacia. The mountains are surrounding us and I am wondering how they carve Tuscan villages – the likes of which I couldn’t imagine – out of the top.
Pink and yellow boxes – all symmetric stone formations capped with beautiful ruddy clay. As we wind our way, we come to the port of La Spezia and the grandeur of the Ligurian Sea – supported of life in this region. The small roads twist upward creating breathlessness and awe despite fear. THEN – Cinque-Terre (Five Lands) National Park. Rain abated – sun bursting on the jewelled fishing village of Rio Maggiore. A vertically challenging village – ever so adorable at every glance. This is Italian village living. Laundry hanging. Fishermen gathering discussing their cathes of the day. Pink, yellow, terracotta through the narrowest street. Residents welcoming us with delectable opportunities to sample their world.
We stayed on Christopher Columbus Road in a spartan room filled with as much lavendar fabric as they could find. I am in my Italian grandma’s spare bedroom. Clean as a whistle. Need I mention I had to climb a marble staircase to get there? Our windows and shutters are open and we can hang out and watch life, like a local.
Setting out to explore, its emotional as see children and their parents playing in an enclosed palazzo. Joyful. Simple. We continue to the sea where a myriad of small boats and their owners (equally colourful) surround their place of work. This isn’t tourism, this is life. As I photograph the beautiful area and the art versus life scene, they are looking at me with the same curious eyes wondering why life is so fascinating. This is truly life imitating art.
The hill is so steep that I decide the only motivating factor to make me climb it will be the reward of a local Italian meal. We dine through the evening on spaghetti carbonara (divine creaminess beyond description), fresh fish, bean soup, and delicious local Cinque-Terran wine. There was no stopping us as we completed the meal with the requisite cappucino and profiteroles and tiramisu. All as if grandma had made it herself! Each bite more wondrous that the last. We shared food and conversation with adandonment. The rain started again. The thunder and lightening were intensely dramatic. We walked in the rain like kids and then decided to end the evening. The rain created the backdrop of our sleep.
Everyone retreated and the storm created the music. Very late into the evening the storm blew over and it was back to life. Midnight is only a number on the clock. Living is sharing more wine, conversation and activity. First the storm, then the Rio Maggiore night life lulled me into delicious rest and comfort. The morning brought more Cafe Americano (a restricted commodity – 6 ounces) and a heavenly crepe smeared with grape and stuffed with banana served by local man with great kindness on the palazzo. We will now continue our journey under the Tuscan sun…