I just returned from a two and a half week climbing/camping/babysitting stint in the Mediterranean. You’d think that would have been enough time to figure out how to spell the damn word. Mediterranean. I might even spell check this post.
The trip started with a drive from Le Casset in Serre Chevalier toward Torino (lunch in Oulx) and then onwards south towards Genova, Savonna, and down to an area called Cinque Terre (which we kept accidentally pronouncing in French rather than Italian). Along the way we drove past the tiny village of Lucca, which I thought was cool because Charlie and Andy named their kid after that place. We spent three days camping on the coast of Italy, and then took a ferry over to Corsica (and back into France) where we spent the following two weeks exploring. Corsica was the coolest most amazing place I’ve ever visited. And that is including groovy places like the Oregon/Washington drippy rainforest coast, the red sandstone desert in Utah, the vast plains of Sasquetchewan Canada (another place I can’t spell, and my computer isn’t offering any suggestions), the breathtaking ridges and valleys of Glacier National Park, the ridiculously clichéd snow covered Alps, the eerie mountains of northern Sweden, the fjords of Norway, the endless woods of Norrland, and of course, my previous number one grooviest place on earth, Missoula Montana. Corsica beats them all, because Corsica has them all. But I’ll continue my rant about my new number one grooviest place on earth in a later post. Right now I want to write about Italia.
This was my first time spending any time IN Italy. I suppose I’ve skied down the backside of Montgenevre France into Italy and had lunch at a café in Claviere. And ironically, the one time I skied in Sestriere I ate french fries for lunch (I still beat myself up about that). Sometimes when boot packing some of the peaks around Serre I randomly receive sms’ notifying me of Italian calling fees. But none of that really counts.
Italy, I was warned, fits its stereotype perfectly. Italy in the movies does not differ from Italy in real life. I’m pretty suspicious of those types of generalizations, but I have to say, it was perhaps kind of almost pretty correct. People drive like idiots, eat massive amounts of pasta, and gesture a lot. The gelato was fantastic. The streets were cobblestone alleys. The cars were tiny. The waitresses were about a million times more pleasant than French or Swedish waitresses. Somehow the Italians have taken what the French are famous for (wine, baguettes, cheese, pastries) and remastered and perfected these products. I remember reading Eat Pray Love because everybody told me how FANTASTIC it was (I did not like it), and I couldn’t stand all the clichés. Seriously, you went to India to find inner bliss in some ashram? And then you put yourself in some super sexy beachy surroundings and you find a hot Brazilian man to re-fall in love with. What the fuck. But now I can accept the whole eating in Italy part. Because if there ever was a place to go and just EAT, that place is Italy.
Shit. When I sat down to write this I was planning on writing all about the fantastic set of trails I found a few kilometers above our campground, but I got stuck on food. Priorities. But I mean, come on. This region invented pesto, and focaccia is served with every meal. I think living in the French Alps has saved me twenty kilos of pasta/pastry/pizza/wine weight. Per season.
Cinque Terre is smack in the middle of Cinque Terre National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The villages are sprawled along terraces that have been cut into the cliffs and hillsides. Basically we were camping squeezed in between the bright blue warm sea and these mountains covered in a jungle-like growth of drippy flowered trees and bushes. Pretty cool. I figured I could cut up along the small roads connecting the different terraces and maybe eventually find some kind of trailhead. Sure enough, after twenty minutes of weaving along terraces planted with olives and grapes, I found a trail heading up the hillside. At this point I was still calling them hillsides. An hour and a half of climbing later, I decided they were mountains.
I’ve never really experienced such a lush environment. In fact, I’ve never used the word lush before. It’s kind of a cool word. I like words that make the sound of what they’re describing. LUSH. That’s how running through those bushes felt and sounded. I was covered in pollen from more plants than my immune system cared to figure out. In between my sneezes I was being slapped in the face by entire branches of flowers dripping with heavy dew. I had no idea of which ridge I was on because the trees were too dense to let any light in.
Definitely a motivational enough environment to work off some of that pasta and gelato.
Next post I’ll write about Corsica!