- Brendan McKay
It's been a bit over a year since we took a family trip to Italy, this time making our way up north to explore Cinque Terre for part of the vacation. No better time than the present to root through the photo archive and reflect on some of the spectacular moments.
We spent a few days in Florence before heading to the coast, leaving the car at the hotel and mostly wandering around Firenze on foot and bike. After three days' worth of getting our daily steps in and multiple trips to Il Pizzaiuolo (best pie in the city, hands down), I was itching to get back on the road and row my way through all six mushy gears of our Renault rental. As low on horsepower as it was, getting back into clutch pressing/feathering/dropping mode was a delight and I was ecstatic to make the drive north up the A11 and A12 highways to the coastal region. I might've been a bit too happy in 5th gear at some points, as I received some weird charges on my credit card from our rental agency five months after we returned from the trip...worth it, I guess.
Water and the ocean have always been integral parts of my life - some of my earliest memories are trips to Cape May, NJ with my parents and grandparents for summer vacation. That crisp shock you'd get when jumping into the Atlantic for the first time after sprinting down the beach. The tangy overload of saltwater after swallowing a mouthful of sea wash while body surfing. The midday sun baking a heavy rind of sand and salt onto your skin. If it's one thing that the Northern Italian coast has in spades, it is expansive, beautiful views of seawater stretching well beyond the horizon.
One of our daily Cinque Terre hikes culminated in a final stop at Riomaggiore, the southernmost town along the five town trail. I was exhausted and drenched in sweat when we finally got there. Each of the five villages has a small harbor, and Riomaggiore's has an outcropping of rocks that extends out into a looping jetty, closing off much of the waterway.
Tourists had set up shop on the rocks with wine and Aperol Spritzs, and there were a handful who'd taken the liberty of jumping into the Ligurian Sea to cool off. After watching the small ferry boats shuttle in and out for a few minutes, I shed my shirt and jumped in to join those in the water.
Stroking out to a rocky promontory, I hoisted up and sat there for a few minutes, looking west as sun started to sink down towards the horizon. The water, warm by Pacific and Atlantic Ocean standards, lapped around lazily and I zoned out a bit, sitting in the silence by myself. It's hard to capture the exact feeling of the moment - a combination of sheer relaxation from the first week of our trip, sore and tired muscles from our hikes the days before, and that weird cooling/heating feeling of evaporating water and warm sun mixing together. A feeling of a childhood summer day's end at the beach is the closest thing I can compare it to.
My father-in-law soon joined me and we spent the next 20 minutes just floating around the inlet bay, dodging five-person skiffs as they came in to anchor for the evening, the sun slowly making its way towards the horizon behind us. After a while, hunger pangs dictated that we swim back in and dry off, and go find our evening restaurant for Italian seafood and wine. An amazing ending to this leg of our trip, surrounded by the sea, the salt and the blue.
Perfection, done in a way that only the Italians know how.