Taking a car to Liguria is a bit useless, and trying to free camp is outright impossible. That’s what we did, or at least what Alex, Lieve, Otto and I tried to do. The first night we ended up sleeping on the end beach of the deserted village of Bonassola.
We thought it was a mighty fine idea, equipped with a couple of bottles of wine, some blankets, a guitar and a flute. But at dawn we woke to the bites of thousands of mosquitoes feasting on our faces. I don’t remember even seeing as many of the buggers at once. We soon realized we had been sleeping by a large door under a villa, a stagnant water boat cave behind it. A swim in the beautiful sea cooled our skin; we agreed we would settle in a camping site. Back in my little car and over the hills rolling into the sea, into lonely farms or olive groves to reach Moneglia. My sister had taken me to on one of our holidays together in the area years before.
] Otto Saksa PH
We were offered the best spot in the terrace camping of La Secca, far from any other tent and right on the promontory, a stunning view of the sea, Moneglia and its beaches. Based here, we were able to calmly walk around the cliff, through the passage right under our tent, straight down to town in 3 minutes. We wandered about Monaglia’s carruggi discovering the different eateries: focaccia a metri, gelato Artigianale, countless restaurants… Although it was rather unadventurous of us, we decided the first restaurant we went to, Spaghetteria e Pizzeria il Molo, was our favourite, and proceeded in returning twice in the following days. At the feet of Monleone fortress, in the west corner of the town, the Osteria makes truly traditional and delicious Italian food. We always thought of ascending the steep hill to the fortress, but…
Lieve Jansen PH. Medieval feast in Moneglia centre. Otto Saksa PH
On one of the days we went to visit Cinque Terre. We simply hopped on the train and got off at the first Cinque Terre station, Monterosso. In an artsy and artisan bar hosting various tourists on a tasting tour, we had coffee and croissants before we set for a discussion adventure, in an ascent of the promontory hill. Alex and Otto got immersed in a deep conversation on liberal values and the role of politics. Lieve and I, refusing to enter the cemetery where the Cappucini convent is supposed to be, explored the area around it, suddenly aware of our isolation, our only companion: the ruin of a tower.
When our boyfriends’ arguments finally brought them down the hill again, we all rushed into the blue waters. We chose a spot just by an old bunker, under the promontory promenade leading to the station where the poem of Eugenio Montale, an Italian contemporary writer from Liguria who I gave for my final high-school exam, on is quoted on the stone.
I have descended, giving you my arm, at least a million stairs and now that you are not here it is emptiness at every step. Even so, our long journey was brief. (E. Montale) Swimming in Monterosso. Lieve Jansen PH
We got on a train for 20 minutes to Riomaggiore, the last of Cinque Terre. The train was packed with hot and sticky people. Getting off the train at this station means entering a tunnel to reach the sea. Instead of bathing at the harbor where scuba divers explore the marshy waters, we got an ice-cream and continued along the sea-side path. As we finished the melting creamy lemon and chocolate, a stony white beach opened up in front of us. We walked all the way across to the massive rocks, hot and clean from human flesh. Some dudes behind us smoking up, a weird guy watched us from far away while we confronted the waves and the rocky edges to approach the cool blue.
Alex and I went for an expedition behind the rocks of the bay, to find the many coves and places to climb and to dive off, but we were too scared to do so, being unaware of the depths of the water.
Instead, we swam back across the bay and explored the hill-side of the rustic town. Again, Italy continues to surprise me: no matter the amount of tourists racing to its shores every summer, its places manage to perpetually resonate an aura of tradition and simplicity.
Lieve Jansen PH
In an attempt to pursue the romantic destinations typical of a double-date holiday like ours, we went to walk the “Camminata degli innamorati” or lovers promenade, which started just above the station. Perhaps as a reflection of our realistic lack or romanticism, we found the stunning and infamous attraction closed down, due to landslides.
On another sea adventure back in Moneglia Alex saw a jellyfish, I showed off by telling of my experiences swimming in seas of jellyfish sting free… AAAAAAnd I started yelling. An excruciating pain ran up my calf and knee, I swam fast towards the rock, still without a facemask to protect my skin from more jelly. We started a ceremony of spitting and peeing on my calf, I tried to be tough as for the first time in my life, I intentionally urinated on myself.
Another dumb adventure happened nearby, right by our local beach.
It’s our last swim, we are playing what Lieve calls “Chicken fights” but I would rather call “Piggy fights”. Since she is too strong up on Otto’s piggy back, I suggest we invert rolls with the boys. Within five seconds of Alex on my shoulders, I fall underwater. Alex still has a strong grip around my neck, he is probably gripping onto Otto too by his neck, but with his arms, trying to throw him in the sea. I push and punch at Alex’s thighs. When he finally lets go, I am dead scared and enraged. My Italian angriness is out in its entirety, shouting words and emotions at Alex, until i set off swimming towards the horizon.
Time came to leave the sea-side, it seemed like the salt and sun were getting to into our systems, our at least in my enraged head. Back in the car, Alex drove to Sestri Levante through an ancient, narrow tunnel: an ex railway line. We had to wait to go through, as the road is one way and regulated by traffic lights.
Otto Saksa PH. Hills over Riomaggiore. Lieve Jansen PH. Riomaggiore from the Lovers Promenade Lieve Jansen . Riomaggiore stone beach. Lieve Jansen PH.