from Pall Forloney, Trekgyud, Cinque Terre
Trekguyd came to visit Cinque Terre 22 years ago, but then I was just Pall Forloney. I was on my way to see my sister in Positano and someone told me about this place to take my sister there for lunch. As I soon discovered it was 7 hours away and no way possible. I spent 2 days walking the #2 blue trail and the original Via dell ‘Amore path. It wasn’t a national park back then. The information booth was in the La Spezia train station. It had this qurky map that folded like origami and the girl working there put down all the areas of falling rocks.
When I look back on these villages now it is hard to believe all the changes. Corniglia was not painted at all, it was stone gray. It had 2 little grocery stores, a bar, a restaurant and 2 B&B’s. For those who have been there recently, know it isn’t like that anymore. I used to sit up on the wall in the marina in Riomaggiore at night and look at the lights on the buildings. It was special low amber light that really made the villages look so beautiful.
There are only couple of these lights left in the villages. It was not just to come to Cinque Terre during the day, but to enjoy its beauty at night as well. Also back then, there wasn’t that many tourists and everyone passing on the trail would greet one another.
I started coming back each year to see the area and the friends that I had made here. I met a lot of nice people who still are my friends today. I came at Christmas, Easter and before long I was called the four season tourist. We would all get together each night to go out to eat at a restaurant and have fun laughing. We would end the evening at the marina looking at the beauty and talking about our dreams. When I was in Riomaggiore for Christmas, I was invited to dinner. Christmas dinner is a two day event in Italy and each day at someone else’s house. I started to get to know more and more people, as my stays became longer.
When I decided to move here, this took some work. I needed to find a place to live at a reasonable price. This is where my true friends really helped me. They had to vouch for me as they found this apartment for me. I had to meet the owner and pass his test. Before long I was set up in this little apartment by the train station and everyone wanted to see what I had done to the flat. They all called it modern looking and bright. The lady across the way, asked me one day “you like your windows open”. She said the person who lived there before me never open her windows. This lifestyle is so different the US, if you want someone, you just yell up into their flat. I hang out my wash on the line and wave to the people across the way or talk about the day.
My friends were younger people and I knew their parents. The older people in town knew me, but really didn’t speak to me. They would come to me if an American did something wrong and complain to me though. How I found my way to get the older people to talk to me was not that hard really. One day a friend of mine told me about this little strip of land that was abandon. He told me if you clear and clean it, you can grow on it. So I set off with a big machetti like knife and started to clear the thorn bushes that we very thick on this land. My arms were bleeding even though I wore a long sleeve shirt. What I didn’t know that people were watching me and the word got out around the village. Then one day, a person yelled down to me and told me that the land I was cleaning had not been worked in 20 years. They said that the land was rich and i should do well with it. Now when I go into town the older people ask how I am doing with my land. A couple of men came to ask me “the American” how did I grow plants so healthy and nice looking tomatoes? Working the land on my hands and knees, plus seeing me wanting to grow, made my in. These older people really like to see someone who enjoys working with their hands. If you look above the school down by the main street in Riomaggiore, you will see people working the land and the garden that helped in getting accepted by the local people.
More stories to come. Stay tuned..