Saturday, May 1, 2010
The five villages known as Cinque Terra along the north Italian coast sparkle like ‘proseco’, the local sparkling white wine grown on terraced steep hillsides plunging to the sea. Connecting these five villages is a narrow trail ten miles in length, ascending up stone steps through terraced vineyards, into olive orchards, across rocky headlands, then descending along narrow switchbacks into overgrown fern grottoes and ravines, step by step over foot worn marble down into the next village by the sea.
As you walk this narrow way, you are sure to meet hundreds of hikers coming in the opposite direction. Europeans seem to be less concerned about liability, lawsuits and legal hassles arising from people falling off steep public trails. There are very few handrails along Cinque Terra, a three feet wide trail tracing its way along cliffs rising 1000 feet above the sea.
Over and over, a hiker along Cinque Terra trail has the opportunity to offer grace by simple stepping aside. Allow someone else to have the path. Smile as they pass you. Greet them in one of a dozen languages. You choose. Italian, French, German, Swiss German, Polish, English, Japanese. The world is walking past you as you step aside to wait.
One bright faced Australian man stopped momentarily to thank us for stepping aside. He then commented on the day, declaring the day a perfect day to be alive, marveling at the sheer gift of being alive to enjoy the vista.
The views from the headlands of Cinque Terra are spectacular, with rugged rocky headlands jutting into the pristine aquamarine Ligurian sea, the sun scattering silver diamonds across the vastness of the water. Take a whiff. The warm salt air brings hints of rosemary, lemons and olive. Step aside. For one brief moment, let someone else have the path, the power, the position of control. In that moment, look around and see the goodness of the day spread out before you.
There is more to traveling than arrival. Today is a gift, a marvel simply to be alive. As Cervantes quietly declared long ago, The road is better than the end.