Bongiorno from Liguria,
Pisa is a large city spreadeagled on the floodplain of the Arno River (le fiume Arno). The Leaning Tower has a gravitational pull for the casual tourist. And, it’s quite a sight. Thousands of tourists apparently concur. In fact, the famous Leaning Tower forms part of a large complex of majestic marble buildings. The tower looks to have sunk on the ground on which it was built – more on one side than the other. Even without this unique unintended feature, it is quite a striking building. We joined the many tourists and many merchandising outlets in the vicinity.
a passing fad
Many contemporary tourists have adopted a photography technique whereby the subject pretends to hold up the structure with their outstretched hands or fingers. My guess is that it won’t be long before the general consensus is that this practice is a bit kitsch. The Leaning Tower affords the tourists the opportunity to concoct another variation: a stance which purports to hold up the tower with their backs. We had to dodge lots of giggling contortionists composing such photos.
Coastal Levanto was to be the stepping off point for us to walk the Cinque Terre – pronounced Cheen-kway tearer; literal translation = 5 lands. Five villages cling onto the steep Mediterranean coast, approximately equidistant and all built on rocky hillsides dropping quickly into the sparkling blue sea. The villages – in order north to south – are Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore.
The idea is to walk from one to the next, possibly staying overnight at one or more. We had the advantage/disadvantage of reading a bit about the area beforehand. Some of the blurb had us anticipating something special. This is one reason I tend not to read such literature during a tour. First, we read that the area is a micro-region praised by all humanist geographers.
Then these snippets:
So we set out next day to see if the hyperbole matched the reality, a likelihood set in the low probabilities given the expansive language.
Here is the news: There were a lot of other walkers. Many were from USA – they tend to announce themselves with their loud inane conversations – and Germans. The views were good, but a voluptuous awakening of the senses? We walked three of the four legs – with one closed due to avalanches. In short, this was another case of the marketing hype not quite being matched by reality. It was well worth the effort, but not cosmic. Anyway, we enjoyed the swim in the Mediterranean Sea between legs two and three. The Mediterraneo was its legendary blue for us, too.
We bunked in a nice place in Levanto where Senora Marisa and her daughter Senora Anna were wonderful hosts. Like most Italian women of her generation, Senora Marisa is totally devoid of ill-will – but all the same not subservient or obsequious. Marisa cultivates a superb garden and is a bit worried about the lack of rain after an unusually dry April. Among a vast array of flowers, she grows Chinese Gooseberries. I tell her about the Chinese Gooseberries I had which flowered every year but never fruited. I explained that this was because they were two plants of the same gender. Marisa opines, “Homosexuality doesn’t work in nature.”
The beach at Levanto is – like all others in the Mediterranean – not a patch on Australian beaches. What’s more, roughly half of the beach is excised for private interests. In fact, the proprietors were busy grooming the sand with front-end loaders and rakes on the day we were there. Australian readers will join with me in thanking our Founding Fathers for not allowing such an insidious practice to gain any foothold in the Antipodes. Moreover, let us join hands to safeguard against it in the future, too.
Levanto’s railway joins it to other coastal towns and cities like Genoa and Pisa. Given the terrain, this represents a major engineering achievement, with many tunnels and steep embankments. The bi-product is that tourists come here in their droves. Marisa vouchsafes that 25 years ago, “this was all countryside”. Now, there is not a skerrick of ground unused for something or another.
Ciao da Liguria