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Archive for the ‘Liguria’ Category

Starting late Tuesday, torrential rains caused devastation from flash flooding in Northern Tuscany and the Ligurian Coast.  I am reposting “Le Cinque Terre: Walk of my Life” as a tribute to one of the most beautiful places in Italy and to draw attention to the need for help for its victims. Towns, especially along the coast, have been cut-off and are without basic services such as water, food and electricity.  Hardest hit were the communities of Borghetto di Vara, Monterosso Al Mare (Le Cinque Terre), Lunigiana, and Aulla.  9 people lost their lives, several are still missing and many were left homeless.  Following the rescue operations, the need for assistance will be great.  If you’d like to help, here is how you can donate to this relief effort. [Published today in the Corriere della Sera (translated into English)]: 

“The Corriere della Sera and the Tg La7 have promoted a fundraiser to help those affected by bad weather in eastern Liguria and Lunigiana. Payments can be made ​​to account 100 000 000 567 05 061 03 069 EN 80 O, indicating how beneficial “A help right away. Flood eastern Liguria and Lunigiana “at Banca Intesa Sanpaolo, a subsidiary of Rome, Viale Lina Cavalieri 236

TELEPHONE SOLIDARITY – From Thursday is open from 19:30 to the “solidarity number” 45500 to send text messages from cellular TIM, Vodafone, Wind, 3, and Tiscali Postemobile calling from a landline or Telecom Italy, Fastweb and Tiscali and TeleTu (Coopvoce Noverca and activate the numbers from Friday morning at 8). The value of the donation for each message is 2 euros. The number will remain active until November 28.”

Click here for the link to Corriere della Sera’s original post:http://www.corriere.it/cronache/11_ottobre_26/raccolta-fondi-alluvione-corriere-la7_20182ee8-000f-11e1-9c44-5417ae399559.shtml

I come back to Orvieto – at least two times a year, but I have always wanted to make the journey to Le Cinque Terre, so this trip I decided to drag myself away from “La Rupe” for a few days and head for the Ligurian Coast.  Winter is a good time to avoid the usually crowded trails of the high season and the sweltering heat of summer.

It was an easy 4½ hour train ride from Umbria, changing trains only once in Florence.  It was raining lightly, but that only added to the atmosphere of towns perched on the rocky Ligurian coast.  In La Spezia I met my friend Angelo, who lives and works in Torino (3 hours north).  His train was an hour late so I waited in the bar at the train station.  He finally arrived and we caught the train to Monterosso al Mare where we had reserved rooms at B&B Arcobaleno (rainbow).  After unpacking, we met up to walk the promenade that lines the beach to the antique section of town.  We found an outdoor cafe and sat down for two glasses of proscecco.  It started raining but we were protected by a large awning.  Incredibly, the train that carries people between the five villages drove right over our heads!!!  A seafood restaurant was recommended to us by Chiara, the proprietor of the B&B.  (In Italy if you mention the B&B that recommends it, you get a 10% discount on dinner).  We were both famished so we ordered too much food.  I had ravioli with spinach in a walnut cream sauce, Angelo had pasta with pesto (a specialty of Genova – just an hour north).  We shared mixed, deep-fried seafood (the famous Anchovies of Monterosso, are a local specialty that have a Protected Designation of Origin status from the European Union.)  Two glasses of Lemoncello completed the dining experience and we were off to bed…we had a big day ahead of us.In the morning there was not much sun, lots of clouds, but fortunately no rain and the temperature was pleasant for our long trek.  We took the train to the first town, Riomaggiore where we purchased a pass that includes access to the paths as well as unlimited train trips between Riomaggiore and Monterosso.  We walked the main street that leads to the sea.  Colorful houses were stacked on top of each other like a crowd of people trying to push against one another to see the view.  And what a view it is!  Red, green, yellow and blue fishing boats lined the small harbor and men were fishing from the rocks (reminding me of my father and his love of fishing).  Did their wives send them out for fish like American wives send their husbands to the supermarket?

We began our hike at the “Via Dell’Amore (Love Walk) which cuts along the cliffs above the calm sea below.  Much like the famous bridge in Rome, Ponte Milvio, lovers hang locks on the nets attached to the rocks, writing their names to declare their undying love.  Normally you could walk from the end of the Via Dell’Amore to the Sentiero Azzurro (“Light Blue Trail”), the trail that connects the five villages, but today the trails were closed because of rock slides so we caught the train to the next towns of Manarolaand Corniglia.  The walk to Corniglia from the station was a long switch-back road, so we jumped on the bus that ferries tourists into town.  Angelo and I decided to buy a couple of sandwiches, a bottle of wine and eat our lunch on the beach, but it was not meant to be.  Both Markets that make sandwiches were out of bread…we waited too long!!!  Instead we ate our lunch at a bar and eavesdropped on the local’s stories to one another.   Ligurians seemed to be a very calm and easy-going group.  With lunch finished, off we went…there was much more to see.

Vernazza is the liveliest of the towns.  All the brightly colored boats are parked in the middle of the piazza….so beautiful.  We took our cappuccinos outside on a bench while watching the waves crash onto the rocks…I would still be sitting there now, but it was getting dark and we needed to return to Monterosso by sunset.  After a long day, we took a break and met up that evening for a pizza in the antique part of town again.  Not wanting to destroy all the good effects of walking, we ordered pizza Margheritas and shared a dessert of sweet panini filled with Nutella – perfectly coupled with the house red wine.  We walked slowly back to Arcobaleno, not because our legs were tired and tight (they were), but because we wanted to enjoy the picturesque walk with its soft lamplights and the moon’s reflection on the large rock in the sea near the shore.  Saturday night in Monterosso al Mare is much like other towns in Italy with locals out for a “passeggiata” – children running and playing while their parents and grandparents stop to talk to their neighbors.

The next morning we were sorry to leave, but the train ride to La Spezia travels along the sea, periodically under the darkness of a tunnel, but then back out to see the magnificent “Mediterranean” again.  My only regret is that my camera’s battery was low and although I took photos with a disposable camera I bought from a shop in town, I am not sure I was able to capture this Ligurian dream…..we will see what “develops”.

Leaving Umbria this trip, I had an opportunity to see how diverse and unique each region of Italy can be from the other.  I loved Liguria and I hope to come back someday and spend more time learning about its customs and traditions.

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“I do believe they are out there, guardian angels, soul mates…eager to share with us a portion of our travel. Don’t you believe there are circumstances that determine the situations, our thoughts that shape life? I don’t remember who said: “When the student is ready the teacher comes”. I think we are like a sort of antenna, able to send and receive messages at a specific frequency. There will always be someone who catches our requests and they certainly come to help us open a new door to the vastness of our soul. You have the answer in that sense of peace warming up your heart.”  

               – Antonio, in a letter dated July 11, 2010.

I’d heard about a website where you could find mother-tongue (madre lingua) speakers with whom to practice Italian, and in turn, they could practice their English with you.  By establishing a line to an Italian pen pal (un amico di penna), might I narrow the gap and feel a little bit closer to the country I love?  I registered under my il nome italiano (Italian name) Antonella and waited for the responses.

Several days passed when I received a lovely introduction letter from Antonio, a marketing executive.  He wanted to improve his English for work.  He was obviously intelligent and serious-minded, so I wrote him back..and it begins.

Antonio writes that he was born and raised in the north of Tuscany, not far from the Ligurian and Tuscan Coasts.   He is married and has a daughter at university, is a veracious reader, an avid swimmer, and sometimes, while on his frequent business trips around Europe, a painter of landscapes.

Antonio’s letters were always introspective and soulful – they touched me deeply.  Despite the language, culture and distance that separated us, we seemed to see life from similar points of view.  In less than a month we were writing long letters to each other – mine in Italian, his in English.  With each letter we revealed a little more of ourselves (he referred to it as “loosening the knots”).  We wrote of things that we couldn’t say to our closest friends and shared times in our lives that were difficult or profound.  I felt safe to express myself without concern of judgment or criticism.  We had little to lose because, in essence, we were strangers – black letters on a white computer screen.  We called what we had created between us “il nostro angolo” (our corner) – a special place where we could be our best selves.

It was springtime and I was back in Umbria at the same time Antonio was in Rome for business, so we arranged to meet for a coffee on his way home.  For both of us the Duomo of Orvieto is a very symbolic and mystical place, so we agreed that in front of its beautiful facade was a perfect meeting point.  I’d seen a photo of him a month before, but photographs never accurately portray a person’s “presence”.  Antonio strikes a beautiful figure – tall, lean and handsome.  He wore his white hair a bit long (as many Italian men do) and his glasses highlighted his blue eyes that were so bright a color, they were somewhat distracting.  He explained he must be back in Tuscany by dinnertime and had only two hours to spend with me. It was a warm and sunny day, so we decided to walk around the narrow streets of town and talk.

Those two hours passed as if they were two minutes.  The time together was so comfortable, quiet, familiar…so perfectly normal.  It seemed more like a long-awaited reunion than a first-time meeting.  After circling town, we returned to the spot where we started and sat down on the Duomo steps.  The silence between us was deafening, but neither of us knew what words to say. He finally broke the spell when he announced it was time for him to go.  We walked back to his car arm and arm, we said our goodbyes, promised to write soon, hugged and I turned and walked away. It was the last time I saw Antonio.

Throughout the year there have been occasional short notes to one another, but really, what is the point?  We both know that nothing good can come from our continued contact and although I didn’t want to let it go, the right thing to do was to stop our correspondence.  Antonio said his life is like a gypsy’s and he once wrote this about it: “Sometimes I figure that this life is driving me slowly but constantly and directly towards my dark night”.  I think about Antonio often.  I miss our conversations and wonder where in the world he might be.  But like a little jewel, the memory of that day is stored preciously in a little box in that little “corner” that we shared.


by Toni DeBella

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I come back to Orvieto at least twice a year, but I’ve always wanted to make the journey to Le Cinque Terre, so this trip I decided to drag myself away from “La Rupe” for a few days and head for the Ligurian Coast.  Winter is a good time to avoid the usually crowded trails of the high season and the sweltering heat of summer.

It was an easy 4½-hour train ride from Umbria, changing trains only once in Florence.  It was raining lightly, but that only added to the atmosphere of towns perched on the rocky Ligurian coast.  In La Spezia, I met my friend Angelo, who lives and works in Torino (3 hours north).  His train was an hour late so I waited in the bar at the train station.  When he finally arrived, we caught the train to Monterosso al Mare where we’d made reservations at B&B Arcobaleno (rainbow).  After unpacking, we met up to walk the promenade that lines the beach to the antique section of town.  We found an outdoor cafe and sat down for a glass of Proscecco when it started to rain, but luckily we were protected by a large awning.  As we sat there, a train carrying passengers between the five villages drove right over our heads!  The waitress, Chiara, recommended a seafood restaurant and because we were both so hungry, we ordered too much food.  I had ravioli with spinach in a walnut cream sauce. Angelo had pasta with pesto (a specialty of Genova – just an hour north).  We shared mixed, deep-fried seafood (the famous Anchovies of Monterosso, are a local specialty that have a Protected Designation of Origin status from the European Union.)  Two glasses of Lemoncello completed the dining experience and we were off to bed…we had a big day ahead of us.In the morning there was not much sun but, fortunately no rain, the temperature was pleasant for our long trek.  We took the train to the first town, Riomaggiore where we purchased a pass that includes access to the paths as well as unlimited train trips between Riomaggiore and Monterosso.  We walked the main street that leads to the sea.  Colorful houses were stacked on top of each other like a crowd of people trying to push against one another to see the view.  And what a view it is!  Red, green, yellow and blue fishing boats lined the small harbor and men were fishing from the rocks (reminding me of my father and his love of fishing).  Did their wives send them out for fish like American wives send their husbands to the supermarket?

We began our hike at the “Via Dell’Amore (Love Walk) which cuts along the cliffs above the calm sea below.  Much like the famous bridge in Rome, Ponte Milvio, lovers hang locks on the nets attached to the rocks, writing their names to declare their undying love.  Normally you could walk from the end of the Via Dell’Amore to the Sentiero Azzurro (“Light Blue Trail”), the trail that connects the five villages, but today the trails were closed because of rock slides, so instead we caught the train to the next towns of Manarola and Corniglia.  The walk to Corniglia from the station was a long switch-back road, so we jumped on the bus that ferries tourists into town.  Angelo and I decided to buy a couple of sandwiches, a bottle of wine and eat our lunch on the beach, but it was not meant to be.  Both Markets that make sandwiches were out of bread…we waited too long!!!  Instead we ate our lunch at a bar and eavesdropped on the locals’ stories to one another – Ligurians seemed to be a very calm and easy-going group.  With lunch finished, off we went…there was much more to see.

Vernazza is the liveliest of the towns.  All the brightly colored boats are parked in the middle of the piazza and so we decided to take our coffee outside on a bench while watching the waves crash onto the rocks. I’d still be sitting there now, but it was getting dark and we needed to return to Monterosso by sunset.  After a long day, we took a break and met up that evening for a pizza in the old part of town again.  Not wanting to destroy all the good effects of walking, we ordered pizza Margheritas and shared a dessert of sweet panini filled with Nutella – perfectly coupled with the house red wine.  We walked slowly back to Arcobaleno, not because our legs were tired and tight (they were), but because we wanted to enjoy the picturesque walk with its soft lamplights and the moon’s reflection on the large rock in the sea near the shore.  Saturday night in Monterosso al Mare is much like other towns in Italy with locals out for a “passeggiata” – children running and playing while their parents and grandparents stop to talk to their neighbors.

The next morning we were sorry to leave, but the train ride to La Spezia travels along the sea, periodically under the darkness of a tunnel, but then back out to see the magnificent “Mediterranean” again.  My only regret is that my camera’s battery was low and although I took photos with a disposable camera I bought from a shop in town, I am not sure I was able to capture this Ligurian dream…..we will see what “develops”.

Leaving Umbria this trip, I had another opportunity to see how diverse and unique each region of Italy can be from the other.  I loved Liguria and I hope to come back someday and spend more time learning about its customs and traditions.

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