With our first swim in the Mediterranean, we decided it was probably time to start looking for a place to spend the night. We had parked the car in a parking garage just outside the town and we had been given a small green token to hold onto as a way to measure how long we had stayed.
In the parking garage there was a machine that said “insert token here”. The idea was that we would put the token into the machine, get a receipt and then use that receipt to get through the gate. There wasn’t anybody operating this system, it was all done by machines. This is fine, as long as the machines work, which they didn’t. The machine kept the token and didn't give us anything back in return. Now there was no way to get our car through the gate. What was worse, we couldn’t get out through the entrance gate because there was a pressure sensor. We joked that we would have to wait here until we got enough people to trip the weight sensor, but as time passed, this seemed more and more likely. Eventually we found a nice family that we could draft off of and get through the gate, so the Peugeot (or Puge Wagon) was back on the road.
The roads here were so windy and narrow, every single turn felt like it might be our last. Here is one portion of the trip just to give you an idea:
We also had to get really creative with the parking in this area. Our rental car would tell us when we were too close to another car, and you would see a yellow line. If you got dangerously close to another car, you would also see a red line on the car. One of our parking spaces looked a little like this:
At one point, we saw another car coming towards us and the guy stopped, folded in his rear view mirror and then gestured us forward. This was concerning to say the least. Somehow we ended up making it through, and we were stronger for it. We had been trailing a man on a moped for a few minutes, and all of a sudden, his backpack began to move, and a tiny little furry face poked its head out. This guy had a little toy dog that he had taken to the beach! This little pup seemed to be enjoying the ride but then he began to doze off and we got to watch him as he took a little nap in this man’s backpack. How cute!
We started driving inland and eventually we were driving through vineyards and pine forests. It was cool to see a part of Italy that most people never see. Eventually we came to a small town with one grocery store and one restaurant (both of them were closed). Luckily, we still had half a kilo of peanuts left, so we dipped into our reserves and that became our dinner for the night. The place we stayed in was massive. I think it was 3 bedrooms, living room, dining room and full kitchen. A little bit excessive for people that would be leaving as soon as they woke up. “What’s the plan for tomorrow?” my brother asked. “Well, there are 5 fishing villages and we have one day here, so I say we try to hit all of them!” This was an ambitious goal to say the least, but then again, we were ambitious people. We both decided this was going to be our goal for tomorrow.
In the morning, we realized we had left the door of the puge wagon open, but no worries, our peanuts were still there. We set our GPS for Riomaggiore, and when we got there I was once again blown away by the sheer beauty of this town. I felt so blessed to have a life where I could visit places like this and truly enjoy the best this world has to offer. We wandered through the narrow city streets and made it to the water. Here we saw small fishing boats lined up on moorings. We brought a pair of goggles, and my brother and I took turns diving into the crystal clear water to scavenge for brightly colored shells and rocks. We swam far around the coastline and saw some small caves carved into the side of the rocky cliff. There we got a view of the town that had become world famous.
Our goal of hitting all five towns in one day seemed to be getting more and more unlikely. After all, it was already almost noon and we had only been to one, and most of the time had been spent looking for a kiosk that sold sunblock. We decided to press on, and the rest of the day seemed to go by like a blur. Some towns we would stop by for a quick swim, others we would drop by for a nice meal. In between the towns we would be driving through the high winding roads, looking out over the water in front of us and the vineyards behind us. We were still in disbelief that a place this beautiful could exist, and often times we had to stop the car for some pictures or for a few minutes of dancing around the car. It was such a wonderful time that all always look back on. At the last town, I decided to step outside my comfort zone a little bit.
At Manarola, there is a huge cliff poking out of the water that people often jump off of. It was about a 30 foot drop and I decided to do it. I was shaking the whole climb up but it was worth it. I felt my heart beating faster and then when I finally took the leap of faith, everything became still. I plunged into the beautiful water and I emerged with a huge sense of accomplishment. I know it doesn’t seem like much, but it really was a challenge for me at the time and I felt my comfort zone expanding just a little bit. That’s the whole point of travelling, right?