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Report 1176: September Song: High Notes of a Few Precious Days in Italy

By Roz from Massachusetts, Fall 2006

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Page 10 of 16: The Cinque Terre: By the Beautiful Sea

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View of the Cinque Terre from the ferry

At the end of this trip, full of so many wonderful days, we agreed that this Wednesday was the best day of all. Today we saw the Cinque Terre by boat and on foot with Slow Traveler Megan of Bella Vita Italia. Another example of the lucky star shining over this trip is that I had originally asked Megan to book our tour for Monday, which was the only day of our whole trip that it poured rain. Megan asked if we could do Wednesday instead, which turned out to be an absolutely perfect day.

We almost never book guided tours when traveling, as I like to do research on my own, and am always a little leery about getting stuck with a really bad guide. But having "met" Megan on Slow Trav, I felt pretty sure we'd get a lot more out of our visit if we put ourselves in her hands. Not only was Megan a terrific and very knowledgeable guide, but she was a lot of fun, and we all hit it off very well. Since she was about to get married herself in a few weeks (check out her wedding pictures on her blog in the Travel Resources), she and Mike and Maureen had a lot in common.

We met Megan at the dock in Lerici , where she led us on to the boat for a ride along the stunningly scenic rocky coast to our first Cinque Terre stop -- Riomaggiore. There we paid the entry fee for the Unesco park, and walked the path (appropriately named the Via dell'Amore) to the next town, Manarola. After fending off the German hikers striding along with walking sticks in each hand (they really are a bit of a hazard when the path gets crowded), we boarded the boat again to Vernazza, our lunch stop.

On the terrace of the Gambero Rosso restaurant we enjoyed an excellent and beautifully presented meal, with views out over the piazza and the sea. Meanwhile, Megan explained to us the good and bad sides of the Unesco status of the Cinque Terre: Good, in that the area is protected from commercial development, but not so good in that it is very difficult for property owners to obtain permission to make any changes in their buildings. So B&Bs can't easily add bathrooms for tourists, and even getting a permit to paint can be quite an involved and drawn-out ordeal. This explains why many of the buildings appear run down, with peeling paint.

After the delicious lunch (documented in my Mangia Mangia photo album), Megan took us down a side street to see the monorail used by the Cinque Terre grape growers to access their vertical vineyards. Then back to the boat and down the coast to Megan's favorite town, Portovenere. There were countless great photo-ops as we approached, and later entered, the little black and white striped church of San Pietro, perched high on its rocky promontory, then walked through the narrow streets of the town, stopping at a couple of the very interesting shops.

There was no doubt in all our minds that booking Megan was the right way to see the Cinque Terre. She knows and loves the area so well that she communicates both a wealth of information and an abundance of enthusiasm. So, thanks again, Megan, for such a perfect day!

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