The Cinque Terre: Another Way to Say “Paradise” in Italian

With a deep breath and a last glance at my old bike being carried away, I went to catch up with my friends who were buying regional train tickets to Riomaggiore. The place was absolutely packed. I had never seen it this crowded before. This weekend, I guess, was the Italian equivalent of the 4th of July. Over the next three days, we ate foccaccia and pesto, and hiked, cliff-jumped, and just lived the good--if rustic--Italian Riviera life.

On Saturday afternoon, after some delicious granitas at the Sicilian bar in Vernazza, a few friends and I returned to a spot we had scoped out the day before. We wanted to cliff-jump, but there was no way to get down to the good spot.

I was with Clif, the same friend who had climbed the Duomo with me. I told him “Man, we did the Duomo, why can’t we do this? We really don’t have a choice. It’s not up to us, we have to do it.” I had climbed over the railing, but then didn’t trust my repelling skills so much so had climbed back over. We went farther down the paved path to hang out and catch some sun. We had all but given up when we saw a loose rope used for kayak rentals. It was about eight or ten yards long and looked like it could support a dude’s weight. So we “borrowed” it and went back to the spot. Clif tied the rope to the railing and I climbed over and tried to get down. No go for me. One mistake here and you would bounce off the sharp rocks all the way down 15 yards to the water. I could see myself losing my nerves and letting go of the rope to reach out for a grip on the rocks which would be the wrong move. Clif took the rope and made it down just fine and jumped. After swimming out and back, he coached me down and I got up the nerve to jump. In the end, more than anything else, I jumped because I was tired of being scared. After us, four or five more friends jumped. Each of us drew crowds of hikers stopping to watch the show or the possible carnage. Every time we heard “pazzi americani” (crazy Americans) muttered under the breath of the Italians.

That night we cooked dinner in one of the apartments and made our way to the only bar in town. I wanted to take it easy, but we ended up staying until closing time and then even later-- heading down to the beach to avoid any noise complaints and police calls. In the bar I met a group of five Milanese, two guys and three girls. One had a video camera and as soon as I said “forza obama, non mi piace Bush,” we were immediate friends. It means “go Obama, down with Bush.” We talked about everything again, politics, the Mafia, the University of Milano, accents, Italian fashion, the Cinque Terre, and why Italian girls don’t talk to me.

On Sunday I got a little impatient, and decided to try to catch the four o’clock train back to Rome instead of the six o’clock. Well, I got to La Spezia and they said the train was full so they put me on an intercity train all the way back to Rome with a layover in Pisa. In the end, I left two hours early to get home about 30 minutes earlier than otherwise. Boo. Looking back, it was a great trip, but I think the crowds got to me. It’s sad seeing a gem of culture worn down and trampled by tourism. I guess I can blame my dad for that, but it’s just the way it is. I think traveling is most enjoyable when it’s a unique experience that is hard to duplicate by anyone else, or by yourself for that matter. Well, this weekend, there were thousands upon thousands on these little trails lacing those dreamy seaside villages together. No body else went cliff jumping that weekend at our spot though. Everybody else is probably smarter.

Waiting for the last metro back to my apartment under the train station I watched the two Caribinieri standing near me. I had to laugh to myself because the way they strut around with their hands held behind their backs reminds me of the way horny pigeons puff out their necks to attract a mate. Both had their caps on, and one tipped forward so low you could barely make out his eyes from under the bill and it was past 10 o’clock at night. They know they’re being checked out by all around them, and they like it. It’s just another example of Italian style. They are sexy uniforms though. 


Dan McGlinn, University of Notre Dame

Happy Backpackers

Great mix between learning and leisure. Our tour guide, Lauren, was extremely knowledgable and also very well connected. The weekend was a blast!

Dan McGlinn, University of Notre Dame ~ Notre Dame Global Gateway, Rome, Summer Break 2016

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