Italy. Day 3. Friday in Cinque Terre

So on Friday I slept in a little bit, after a long Thursday. Then after a quick breakfast Tommaso and I bought Cinque Terre cards for the day of travel, and jumped on a train to Riomaggiore, the southernmost of the 5 towns in Cinque Terre.

The Cinque Terre cards are nice – for 16 Euros you can hike as many paths as you want and ride as many trains inside the Cinque Terre network as you want for a whole day.

Riomaggiore is beautiful. When you arrive off the train, you have to walk through a long tunnel to get to the center of town, where the main piazza is. I know just enough Italian to get excited when I see a sign I recognize, and “Centro” with an arrow was always fun to discover. This one pointed to the big tunnel walkway, so away we went.

Like all of the Cinque Terre towns, Riomaggiore is all about the steps and the vertical climb. These towns are built right into the big hills on the steep shores and cliffs of the sea, and space is not wasted! Buildings stack up and up, little terraces are carved into the mountain everywhere, and the alleys, stairways, ramps and streets are an amazing mixture of nice open spaces for public gathering and little narrow walkways that are maze like back into little neighborhoods of homes, shops and apartments.

We had lunch in town, lasagna that was SO good. I had a limoncello for an after-lunch drink. Strong and lemony, it was delicious and potent! Lemons and basil are two of the locally grown things Cinque Terre is famous for, and Riomaggiore had a lot of lemon groves in town, and on the narrow terraced farms carved into the hills above and around the city.

After a couple hours of exploring Riomaggiore, we jumped back on the train and headed to the next town north, Manarola. (The 5 towns that make up Cinque Terre are, North to South along the Ligurian seaside: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore.)

Manarola has a big beautiful marina/bay area for fishing, swimming, boating and sunbathing on giant boulders, similar to Riomaggiore. There’s a little section enclosed by rocky outcropping also, and wonderful paths winding around and up the cliff to take you very high above the city itself. Once you get up to the top, there is a big flat(ish) space with a small park for kids, an outdoor restaurant/bar and a small public green space for sitting and gathering. Since you’re on top of a mountain looking out, the views are stunning.

You can even see, far down the coastline, Monterosso!

After enjoying some limone gelato, another local specialty made from home-grown lemons (SO GOOD), and spending a couple hours wandering the streets and stairways of Manarola, we headed back for the train station, and our next ride north, to Corniglia. I have to say also, with all the walking in the sun, I was really grateful that all of the cities had several small water fountains labeled “acqua potabile” for people to know they could refill water bottles with clean, cold, sanitary water!

Arriving in Corniglia was different than the other towns, because Corniglia is the only town not on the water. It’s located much higher on the mountain, and has no direct access to the sea. To this end, the city runs free busses for the short (7 or 8 minute) ride from the train station, which IS at sea-level) to the town itself. Some people do choose to walk the path up, but it’s a very steep climb high up the cliff, and I was quite happy to wait my turn for the bus! After Thursday’s hike to Monterosso, and climbing the stairs and ramps of the two towns we’d already explored that day, my legs would not have been happy to try that climb! Tommaso would’ve had to drag me.

Corniglia, like the other towns, was beautiful. Being so much higher than the others, the view of the sea, as well as the surrounding countryside, was quite beautiful. We found a cool little trattoria tucked into a little terrace a few steps below street level, and sat down to have a snack while looking over the city. The weirdest snack on the menu was a bruschetta with lard and honey on grilled bread, so I had to try it, and it was AMAZING. That and a cappuccino made a perfect combo to keep me going for the rest of our trekking around Corniglia, which was gorgeous.

We also visited, as we did in every town, a couple of the historic churches they have. Amazing architecture, and such history!

After Corniglia, we returned to Vernazza, relaxed and had dinner, and even saw a lovely Good Friday ceremony as the church members marched through the piazza singing, and celebrating the holiday. Then I was exhausted, and slept like a rock!!

It’s Saturday now! Tommaso has boarded his train to head home to Cerignola and I am returning to Milan, and checking into my hotel, for a couple days of exploring the city on my own! It’s been an absolute joy to see him again, and travel around with him. I’m looking forward to bringing Jeanne with me next time, and getting to meet his family! I will miss him, and I’m so glad we got to visit.

Such a fabulous experience, being here. The cities, the culture… I’m practicing my Italian, but most of the folks who live here probably wish I wasn’t, because it’s not good! We’ll see how I do for the next few days, without Tommaso to translate for me!

Italy. Day Two. Vernazza, Cinque Terre

The Cinque Terre region of Italy is incredibly beautiful. The five towns are all close, located all along the coast of the Ligurian Sea. You can take a train or a boat to get back and forth between them, or you can hike along through the mountainside, along the cliffs and retaining walls, on very rustic, very old paths. After exploring Vernazza in the morning, we were excited to hike to Monterrosso. A beautiful trip, not for the chubby and out of shape – but I did it anyway!! Tommaso, my exchange-student-son from a couple years ago, was a great companion who was patient and helpful when I so often threw myself to the ground panting “HOW CAN WE KEEP GOING UP?! DOES THIS MOUNTAIN NOT HAVE A TOP?! When do we go DOWN?!”, trying to catch my breath and drink my water. 🙂 It took about two hours, I lost track of time because I kept passing out and Tommaso would have to revive me. Actually, even though it was challenging, we had a blast, walking from Vernazza north to Monterrosso, and collapsed into a bar the minute we got there for a well earned beer. We then spent the day exploring that beautiful city, and I put my feet in the Ligurian Sea, just because. Then, in the evening, we took the train back to Vernazza and enjoyed a relaxing dinner, and got to see how beautiful that place is at night!

Friday, we’re taking the train to Riomaggiore, the southernmost of the “5 Lands”, to explore that city, as well as Manarola and Corniglia as we take our time and make our way north back to Vernazza by evening! I’ll post about that Friday night or Saturday.

Marking the day

It was five years ago today that I collapsed at home and was taken to the hospital, marking the beginning of an ordeal that changed my whole life. If you don’t know that story, click here!

It seems crazy that it was 5 years ago – it feels like it just happened, but at the same tine it feels like it was a lifetime ago.

I am so grateful to the amazing people in my life who helped my family and I through that time. As awful as that was, it taught me how wonderful people can be, and how precious our minutes are. As I enjoy these extra innings of my life, I hope you all remember to enjoy your lives too. Love loudly, savor the world around you, every moment you can. Be a force of awesomeness and drag people in your wake! There is so much beauty to see, so much joy to share, so many people to embrace, and such an unknowably finite amount of time in which to do it – Be Relentless!

A time to be both thankful and helpful.

This week I wound up spending time at Beaumont Hospital in Trenton with an ailing family member.  All is well, everyone is back home and doing well, but times like that are stressful, and worrisome, and one of the things that stands out the most when you look back is the giant amount of HELP and KINDNESS given by so many people.  A big THANK YOU to the wonderful staff at Beaumont Trenton, you guys rock.

Between that event, and Thanksgiving and the holidays coming up, it’s a time of year that we all start thinking of others.  Probably we start thinking of them in a way that we should think all year.  I know I do.  I look around and I think about how amazingly fortunate I am, how lucky I am to be loved by people, to have friends and family I can count on, and to still be here in my very own Bonus Levels.  I also, though, am very aware that I could be doing more for others.  Does anyone else feel this?  The kindness of the Beaumont Hospital staff reminded me that a little effort can go a long way when people are in need, and sometimes it’s the smallest of gestures that makes a difference.

Everyone is busy, we’re all working too much and overwhelmed with life and plans and challenges and politics and that’s just the way our lives ARE nowadays.  One of the ways to help slow down, make OUR lives better, is to help someone else.  I don’t do enough of that, but I’m going to try to do more.  If anyone wants to join me, here are some resources that a colleague recently shared with me:

  • To volunteer at your local soup kitchen, click here
  • To donate a meal to food-insecure senior citizens, click here
Got any other suggestions on ways we could all, even in our over-scheduled lives, help make a difference?  Let me know, share them with all of us in the comments.

“Wonder will always get us there…”

What a joy Silent Sky has been. Some shows just have such an affect on people – audience, cast, designers, crew – that you don’t want them to end. Watching this beautiful script by Lauren Gunderson do that to people over the last 5 weeks has been wonderful and, now that we have reached the closing performance, I find myself feeling the same way.

The sense of wonder, of exploration and perseverance from this show is beautiful and inspiring. The sheer joy it evokes, that sense that “Anything Is Possible”, is just so beautifully interwoven with the loving bittersweet reminder “But… we don’t have forever… so Savor Everything.”

Working with the entire production team on this show has been an amazing journey. Telling the story of Henrietta Leavitt, Annie Cannon and Williamina Fleming – true pioneers in their field who persevered and changed the world around them despite incredible resistance – has been an absolute gift, and one of the highlights of my career so far. I offer a giant THANK YOU to the many wonderful people who helped to make it happen!

Because the real point… is seeing something bigger. And knowing we’re a part of it, if we’re lucky. In the end that is a life well-lived. Because thank God there’s a lot out there bigger than me.

-Henrietta Leavitt, SILENT SKY by Lauren Gunderson