An Ode to the Sea: Cinque Terre, Italy
An intricate pattern of stone wall terraces meander the undulating mountains and are occupied by ancient rolling vineyards. At their feet, a heady cocktail of pastel-hued buildings descends across the cascading landscape in a v-shape formation towards the azure sea. Secluded coves cluster around sleepy harbours, revealing a quintessentially 'human' landscape, that's so harmonious that it looks positively 'natural'. The dominating and uniting force of these villages is the temperate climate and the Ligurian Sea, and it is their life force that's paid homage to in Cinque Terre Italy.
As our open-top boat approaches the land from the tranquil sea, the waves' crest with white foam against the protruding rocks, and the salt-kissed air dances a welcoming salute. Overwhelmingly the senses are presented with the elements, and there's a distinct ode to Cinque Terre's heritage as five fishing villages that have, for centuries, utilised the land and sea to survive.
The easing of the anchor leaves a resounding clank in the ear as I disembark and stumble to find my equilibrium. When I finally look up frayed fishing nets are strewn over concrete walls, announcing its integral role in the local fishermen's lifestyle. The busy assembly of vibrant yellow, red and blue boats bobbing in the dock almost scream this fact, and the large restaurant menus eradicate any doubt. Speaking to locals, I learn that every single day these restaurants count on these fishermen to keep their stock replenished - seafood is a speciality here, especially the locals favourite, anchovies.
The distinct pesto aroma punctuates the air and draws my attention to a quiet pair, seated in a hidden corner and making their way through a pasta filled to the brim with other locally sourced ingredients, such as toasted pine nuts, pecorino cheese and flavoursome olive oil from the surrounding vineyards. As if compelled by the hard work I envision going into producing these, the hilltops stagger into view. Atop these, farmers toil among their crops and when I drive past them later that same day the perfume of these vineyards mingle with the ocean breeze, creating a moment of ecstasy that'll endure for decades to come.
I notice the little craft shops house colourful local goods, and as I wander up around the quaint streets wrinkled Italian grandmother's shop for fresh fruit and vegetables. The local cafes cling to Cinque Terre's heritage of using the land as bakers today follow the original recipe of Focaccia, a cuisine that originated in the region.
Cinque Terre, Italy has a bounty of picturesque and cultural offerings, but where these ancient fishing villages shines is in maintaining a lifestyle that requires little more than sun, sea, and land.
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