Friday, 20 June 2014

Cinque Terre

To call the road into Monterossa Al Mare "snakelike" is to do an injustice to snakes, understating the twists and curves by mere comparison to something as natural and mild as a snake. The road to this uppermost of the five seaside villages that make up Cinque Terre is a twisting, winding, switch back of a goat path, laid out by a severely drunken road builder overtop of an old trail once used by pirates to escape into the Ligurian hills after having raided a Roman trading vessel.

This road was never meant for cars yet they built it nonetheless, offering one the car sickness experience of going up one side of the hills, through narrow, ever threatening gorges and passes, then down the other on this ancient trail carved straight into the mountainside, all the while looking down, almost straight down, at the vast Ligurian Sea, spying the roofs of the village from hundreds of feet above.

Monterossa Al Mare, along with the other four of the Cinque Terre villages, is glued to this hillside, stacked up like children's letter blocks, near atop one another on vertical landscape where trees and plants growing upwards brush against the ground on the landward side, the other side falling away so rapidly that fruit from a tree might near achieve vertical free fall if not picked on time. They are beautiful in their coats of colour, vivid enough to have sprung to life only yesterday from a painter's palette.

The seashore is a jewel of brilliant sand pushed up by seas of clear blue, so clear that the rocks of the bottom can be seen from atop the seaside roadway that goes the shortest distance possible to allow a car to go from beach to the village centre. Travel here is mainly by foot or by a small coastal passenger ferry, loaded and unloaded perilously over a narrow gangplank onto the waiting jetty, in some places no more than a large, flat rock.

Yet even amongst this haven for the enabled, there was parking suited for me. With the freewheel attached to my chair I was able to make up up to the path, albeit with ample assistance from Cheryl. We were able to walk the smooth sidewalk and small road from beach to village, able to lunch in a cafe overlooking the ocean, able to explore the tunnel and jetty nearby. Even the washrooms for the cafe, outdoors like a prairie outhouse, were wheelchair friendly.

Don't tell me it can't work. Don't tell me it can't be done. If a place as remote as Monterosso Al Mari can do it, it can be done. Sure, there are limits. Ancient house stapled to rapidly rising cliffs, built long before electricity and elevators, will never have access. Yet here they have worked hard so that as much as can be done will be done. Needless to say, yet say it I must, I liked Monterossa Al Mare.

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