Watching an Italian drink a coffee is mystifying. Blink and you will miss it. The Italians having a lovely saying that embraces a philosophy close to my own heart: ‘Il dolce far niente’ - the sweetness of doing nothing. They are famous for the idea of slowing things down. This applies to all things except for drinking coffee.
Just after dawn, I am standing at a bar near the Santa Maria Novella train station gulping down the strongest of espressos and watching the rain bucket down outside. I am about to leave Florence for the coast and plan to be hiking the Cinque Terre trail in only a couple of hours time.
The weather is not looking promising.
I begin my journey, hoping to leave the rain and clouds of Florence behind me.
The Cinque Terre: Five villages strung along the edges of rugged mountains of the Ligurian coastline, Italy’s very own Riviera.
These villages of colourfully painted houses are quintessentially Italian and at a glance the houses almost seem to be stacked on top of one another. Each village has it’s own unique aesthetic and atmosphere.
I always love a good hike and if it’s possible to walk somewhere, I don’t hesitate at the chance.
Hiking the Cinque Terre has become one of the most popular ‘easy’ walks in Europe, with coastal pathways connecting the five gorgeous villages of Monterosso del Mar, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore.
While I tend to prefer something a little more challenging hiking the Cinque Terre was a beautiful experience and I was fortunate enough to have the trail between Vernazza and Monterosso del Mar to myself much of the time.
Because of the rugged location and the fact that these villages are literally carved into the sides of the coastal mountains, there are no cars and it is only possible to travel between the villages by train or boat.
Or, of course, on foot.
The paths connecting the 5 villages are of varying degrees of condition and stability ranging from very narrow cobbled tracks, to steep steps, to fully paved paths.
Vertiginous drops down the craggy cliffs to the Ligurian Sea below would probably cause a little unease to those who have any qualms about heights.
While dark clouds threatened to burst at any moment, the weather held strong: sunny but cool, the perfect hiking weather.
The streets are shiny with rain and it is still sprinkling when I arrive back in Florence.
I sip my morning coffee as the local next to me literally inhales his, and tells me that it has been raining constantly in Florence since I left….