Venerdi in Monterosso

This morning was a tre cappuccino morning.  I started with my normal due, but the owner of the hotel, comes to the terrazzo asking if I want another, and I say, “Certo!”imageAs I sit and write, I enjoy the comings and goings of the locals.  Each morning I see the same mothers pushing the same strollers with the same older child hanging onto it in tow.  I hear Giovanni, the owner of Locanda Il Maestrale, where I stayed with Mom and the kids, whistle.  I think he is calling a dog, but I watch to see a worker of his bringing something he has requested.  She is much too slow for him.  He runs to her, grabs the burro, runs back to his door, muttering the whole way.  I am sure good help is hard to find and keep here.

You can judge the timing of the trains with the sounds of roller bag wheels on the tiny street just below me.  A group is sad to leave, a group is bubbling with anticipation.

A white haired man has walked by several times, leaning forward with purpose.  I imagine that will be Giovanni in 20 years.

My quiet morning ritual is shattered as an Australian couple skypes (loudly) with their mates back home. Seriously, is this OK?

So I prepare for la spiaggia.  But first a stop down the ramp and 2 steps to the sinistra.  I was beckoned to my favorite focacceria earlier when the baker opened the back windows.  The wonderful smell of fresh bread with onions wafted up to the terrazzo and called my name.  I may have already mentioned, but this little place is such a find.  I just go in and say, “Vorrei che questo e questo”.  The baker’s wife puts her knife down on the one you want and then you can say, “di piu” or “di meno”.  She cuts it, puts it on the scale and then tells you how much.  For what I get, it is usually about 3 euro.  Such a deal!

I looked up the word “farinata” and it means “gruel”…some words just get lost in translation.image

Now for my last morning at la spiaggia.  I have decided not to spend the molto euro on the chairs and umbrella.  I just free beach it again.

It always takes me a while to decide where to land.  I’m a grass is always greener gal for sure.  This time I decide to forgo the cool kid section and go far right instead of far left.  Now, do I claim my spot in the “front row”, not knowing the tide or do I call “back row” with the barrier of the large, large rocks behind me.  Knowing I can’t have it all, but trying anyway, I split the difference.  I figure there is enough room in front for someone to claim, but I think the back is too small for anyone to want.  I am hoping for some shade later.image

For a few, sweet moments, it’s all mine…and then…Down in Front!imageThe fabulous aroma from my lunch could not be ignored, so I dig in.  My choice of focaccia with cipolla and focaccia with salsiccia e funghi was perfetto!  No doubt I could eat this every single day.  imageTwo young boys pass by me searching for the perfect dagger shaped rocks.  When they find a contender, they put it in their pockets then grab swiftly to judge if it is a keeper.  I’m reminded of Dalton playing on this very beach not much older than these two.  One of my most cherished possessions is a heart shaped rock he presented to me here.

And then, as I am minding my own business and focaccia, rocks start to fly.  A family of cinque…CINQUE!!!  is moving into the piccolo spot behind me.imageI know you can only count quattro, but that is because the dad is laying in front of the mom!  His feet are literally in her face…and hers in mine.  Shortly after this I start my scoot to the front row….making sure NOT to crowd anyone else.  The perils of Spiaggia Libera!

Leaving mid morning tomorrow, I pack away my beach attire when I return to the room and dress to enjoy my last evening in Monterosso.imageThe weather is glorious in the shade, but still quite warm in the evening sun.  Not wanting to spoil my appetite with gelato, I try some fresh limone granita.  Blaine would love this.

imageDuring my passeggiata, I stop by Bottega d’Arte to grab a couple more Storie in Italy charms.  image

Each charm features a photo taken by the owner.  I ask her to point out the ones that highlight Monterosso.  When she hears the jingle of my bracelet, she’s tickled to see I have been here before.  This is one of those “one of a kind” (although they do have another location in Vernazza) shops you just want to be a part of.

Talking to a young woman who has moved her life to Italy also gives you an insiders look at Cinque Terre.  We had a conversation regarding how the area has changed since my first visit and her move here.  It saddens her to see the masses passing through, being brought by boats from La Spezia.  I am sure it is a difficult balancing act.  You want business, you want followers, but you want the place you fell in love with as well.

I ask her, just between us, where is the “New Monterosso”?  Meaning, where is the new, beautiful location that has not been “Touristized” yet.  She looks around and then says, “I think it’s Puglia”.  Perfect, Puglia has been on my radar for my next Storie in Italy.image

I also say Ciao to Federica owner of lanapo where I got my fab sandals and cute Cinque Terre t-shirt.  If the Ferrari could handle it, I would get a little heeled pair as well.  More on my new and improved packing plan later.image

At 7:00, it is early to eat dinner by Italian standards, so I am the first seated at Il Casello.  This is another favorite restaurant of ours.  We have seen it change over the years.  When Mom and Jim and I were here (was that ’99?) it was a walk up panino and birra spot.  Loved it then!  Now it has grown.  The owner is Italian and married a girl from Austin.  He lives here in the summers and there during the school year.image

As I sit with a bird’s eye view of my spiaggia, I notice many are still there from earlier…talk about making a day of it.

When I look over the menu wanting to order the Fritto Misto, I notice it says Shrimp and Calamari.  I ask my waiter what happened to the fresh anchovies?  He says, “Americans-a don’t-a like-a anchovies”.  Here is another example of the way things are changing around here…this and the signs that advertise “American Breakfast Served”.

I tell him that Americans don’t know these anchovies.  He takes a step back, gives me a sideways look and begins to clap saying “Brava!  Brava!”  He says he understands that but, “Some-a times-a eeeta eeesa just-a more-a easy-a to say yes-a than to explain-a”.  I tell him I think that is sad-a and I want the Italian Fritto Misto…he ways “Certo!”

This may have been my favorite meal yet.imageAfter dinner I walk around taking in the setting sun and the local color.  Change, I guess, is inevitable.  All in all, Monterosso is still one of my favorite spots in Italy.  One I know I will return to.  And with views like this and seafood like that, I think I can even convince Blaine to give it a try. imageimageimage

What must it be like to have lived your entire life here, watching the world walk by?  These women’s heads would move in unison as someone worth evaluating would pass.  I love seeing these groups of locals chatting evening after evening.  Although full of change, there is a stability here.  I’m reminded of this as I decide to end the night with some dolce and there is the same person behind the gelato counter who was here in 2007…and she’s still smiling.image

Ciao di Nuovo Monterosso!

Although I had a wonderful evening the night before, my night was a bit restless.  Sometimes your heart is just heavy with “home”.

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My train was to depart soon and Milena and I were STILL trying to figure out how to add each other to WHATSAP-a.  She was determined.  A short while back, Milena had a guest for 14 days.  An older woman named Maggie (I was called Maggie more often than Paige). After 14 days of enjoying each other’s company, they stay in touch for free.  With 30 minutes or so until my treno….Milena has success!

Milena’s oldest, Gaia, took a couple photos of us.  I liked the one on the steps, it is the same place we took our first photo 2 years ago, but Milena was not happy.  So…we took more.imageWe said our goodbyes outside the station, sure we would see each other again.  I reiterated that she, the girls, Roberto, his daughter, could come stay with us anytime.  Roberto had joked that I was going to have 6 guests at Christmas.  As mom said, “What a hoot that would be!”

To arrive at Monterosso today, I will be needing to change trains two times.  Connections make me a bit nervous, but I’m pretty comfortable this year that whatever happens, I can figure it out.

First, Firenze/Rifredi.image

Travel day…the train slows near stations, picks up speed through open areas.  The sounds created by the wind entering the tunnels is creepy.  I think this is where the sound people of Harry Potter movies got the idea for the ghosts and spirits.

I take note of several hillside towns I would like to visit.  Some I don’t know the names so I just write what they are close to- “Hills outside Empoli” for example. Another called “M something”…that one will be easy to figure out.  But one name I know is Cortona…que bella.image

Carrara was not one of the stops where I needed to exit, but I am always fascinated when I pass the mountains where Michelangelo chose his marble.image

Next stop, La Spezia.  And this time I do not make the mistake of exiting at the previous lesser La Spezia station.  I do smile as I watch a couple of newbies that do.  I remember two years ago being so nervous that I would board the train to Monterosso and be thrown off because I possessed the wrong ticket.  This time, not so much.imageExiting the treno at La Spezia, the clouds made it look like the air would be cooler…nix that.

I grab the next treno to the Cinque Terres and position myself near an exit.  It is a nicer train, and many are putting their luggage in the upper areas and getting comfortable.  They must not know it is a 15 minute ride.

As always the first view of the sea, as we zoom in and out of tunnels, is exciting.  This is the first time I have seen the sea with dark clouds above it.

And then….I arrive.  The sea-a…she eeessa not-a calm-a today-a.

I make the walk through the tunnel connecting new Monterosso with old Monterosso.  I am staying at the same hotel I did last time, so no need for a mappa or asking for directions.

I check in, am given the same room as my last visit.  I do not unpack, but just open the suitcase to take out a few items.  With no biscotti to quell my hunger during my ride, ho fame.  So I head for Smorfia Pizza…great memories there.

imageAfter I eat my entire pizza and enjoy 2 piccolo (there really were piccolo…like tester size) birra, I go for a walk through this quaint, little village.

Ooohhh…there’s a new little shoe shop.  I’ll just go in for a look.  I have no room for anything new in my Ferrari.

Well, meet my new sandals.  I love them!  This was the last pair they had in my size (no really!) so I could not risk them going home with another.  Unlike my sandals I had made for me in Capri, I am going to wear these.  What use are they sitting in my closet?  It is special to have something specific to a town or area.  And it feels great to support local, young artisans.  The oh-so-cute owner, shared a website where the sandals can also be found.  I will post when I, one again, dig the card out of my treasures.  Find her on facebook in the meantime. But REMEMBER…you saw them HERE first!

imageAs I was doing the photo shoot for my nuovi sandali, the vecchiette on the bench did not understand what was going on!  I got a kick out of watching them watch me, discussing with confusion.image

 

During my first evening, I just roamed around, reacquainting myself, already wishing my famiglia were here to share.imageimage