As a dual citizen who flew before I was walking, traveling is in my blood. While I do usually find something to love in each new place I visit, I’m not easily blown away. One of my favorite trips ever was as an exchange student, way back in high school, when me and forty-nine of my fellow exchangees hopped on a chartered bus with a couple of long suffering chaperones and managed to cover seven European countries in seventeen days. As can be imagined some rules were broken but memories were made that will last a lifetime.
The hands down most naturally beautiful location of all the cities and countries we drove through was Cinque Terre, Italy. In what must have been an effort to tire us all out enough to keep us quiet and relatively well behaved our chaperones arranged for us to hike along the coast through all five villages, a walk that took all day. This was in summer in the Mediterranean in ninety degree weather and I, in a moment of particularly poor fashion judgment, had worn a black turtleneck for the hike. None of that ended up mattering. I could have hiked the trail in high heels and it would have been worth it.
Each of the towns was quainter and more colorful then the last, with winding stone streets and hand painted ceramic goods plied by vendors whose wares spilled out onto the sidewalks from dark little ancient stores.
The views from the walking trail were so spectacularly breathtaking that we were all in complete awe, no easy feat in a group of fifty jaded teenagers who’d spent the last year being shepherded through various cathedrals and natural wonders. Each time we stopped to catch our breath, on various ledges or perhaps on an overhanging flower covered terrace in one of the towns, a veritable paparazzi level storm of flashes would go off as we tried to capture some of the wonder of what we saw. And from the pictures I got back at least, we did a pretty good job – more a testament to the subject matter then to any of our photography skills.
While the geography and architecture we saw elsewhere on the trip also made an impression, each place in its own way, Cinque Terre was and still remains the most visually stunning of them all. When starting the trip it was just an unknown stop on our itinerary, nowhere near as exciting as Paris or Venice, but in the end I liked it more then either of those places. I can’t wait to go back one day.