People write it as Cinque Terre and call it as ‘Chin-Kway Tey-re’ and it looks out of the world, though it is on the edge of the world. It is under UNESCO and includes five villages chiseled on the mountains artistically and very beautifully colored. The pictures looked so beautiful in the brochure that it felt unreal. It looked like somebody’s imagination, a download from a fiction book. Going from Florence, where we were stationed, the trip would take us little more than 12 hours. It was the last day of our 6 days at Florence. We decided to take the trip, start early and finish the day with dinner with Devanshi.
The bus was to start at 7 am and we were to report at 6:40 am. We were up at 5, ready at 6 am and then decided to walk the 3 km to the meeting point rather than taking the public transport. Interestingly lots of eating places open by 6 am and we could walk into a cafe, take a whiff of fresh baking and buy a blueberry croissant. Our tour guide Chiara was there with a printed list of 70 of us. She had stick-on round patches of green paper with Cinque Terre written on it, to stick on our left shoulders. Now we all had a green patch to sport and easy for her to identify all along the trip, the people who were going to be with her. She carried a steel rod with a red flower and green leaves of cloth fixed at the end. This she would like and walk so that we could track and follow her. We got into an air-conditioned double-decker bus for the 2 hours journey. The journey might as well have been our destination! We crossed valleys and mountains, as beautiful as they were, but the places were worth much more than a mere mention. Pestoria looked green and we were told, supplies 25% of the plants in Italy. Lucas made paper that Italy is known for, including world’s best tissue paper. Lucas is also known for music concerts that it holds and the music celebrities that perform there. Karara, the other place on the way, known for the world’s best and most expensive marble, boasts of ‘David’ being made from it. Marble could be seen over the hills, on the roadside as blocks, ready to be transported. Liguira is known for people who grow ‘olives’ and create wine ‘Shaktra’, appreciated the world over.
At Cinque Terre, there are 5 villages and we were to visit four. The 5th village has a long flight of 300 steps and so was excluded for the tour would then take a lot more time. On reaching close to the villages, the beauty of the mountains and the impossible beautiful homes on these mountains emerge. When the bus stops, Chiara gets down with her ‘guiding’ rod, the flower, gives us instructions and we step into this land, on steps cut in the stones. I doubt the reality. It is unimaginable beauty one is walking through. It is cloudy although we would see sunny and rainy weather too along the day, giving the feel of splendor in all weathers. Chiara was carrying pregnancy of 5 to 6 months and climbed all the steps, took all the rides and climbs, answered all our questions with humor and was her cheerful active self for all the 12 hours and more.
Most villages have a single main road, have few homes and elderly people can be seen dressed in clean clothes, climbing stony steps slowly, some wearing glasses, looking pre-occupied. There were homes crafted in stones, curtains moving with the breeze, plants in the balcony and appearance immaculate. The winding paths going up and down, cafe, art shops, bright colors of homes and fresh fruits on sale defined these villages. Coffee machines, air conditioners, modern washrooms defied the term village as we know them to be. An air-conditioned express train every 10 minutes, moving in either direction, an option of moving on a boat, if not by train, was a surprise at that limit of land, on that mountain. Our lunch for 20 Euros was arranged at a restaurant which included unlimited white wine, a seafood platter as the salad, pasta with pesto and caramel custard. The meal was with a Russian academician with her friend from Dubai, an Australian entrepreneur, an American teenager traveling alone and a young American couple. Travel can have different reasons for people of all ages from different countries. The beach in one of these villages had water as clear as the sky. The stones at the base could be seen in their color and shape, shiny and bright. Our group then moved on a boat. The sun, the wind, the mountain with houses on one side, endless sea on the other stirred an inner chord and I could not help but rejoice and feel liberated from all that life and existence hold. My eyes closed and mind invited death with no more desires, no more reasons to live for. Life and death reached equanimity for that brief moment when absolutely nothing mattered. Rajan clicked my picture without me being aware of it. That picture talks to me and takes me there in that space, whenever I hold my gaze on it. The dimension of memory, the dimension of feel, the dimension of thought fixed within the dimension of time.