Have you ever gone barefoot outside on a sunny day, closed your eyes, and stood still? You can feel the sun’s warmth, kissing your skin as you absorb every ray. Your feet tingle from the cold grass. Your breath is slow and steady. Your senses are heightened in this swift moment to feel what you can’t see and appreciate an instant of just being still. Our lives are complex, and times of contentment can be beautiful and fleeting, but my time in Cinque Terre served as a reminder to find beauty in the simple and the unplanned.
We were approaching the end of our ten-day trip to Italy, and I was exhausted. Jay and I had spent three days in Rome, two days in Florence, and our final three days would be spent in Cinque Terre. The trip was all I could have imagined it would be – we visited the Vatican, made a wish at the Trevi Fountain, spent hours in museum after museum in Florence, and enjoyed a bounty of fiori di zucca fritti, espresso, pizza margherita, and every flavor of gelato possible. Each day was a new adventure for us as we tried to navigate through the cities on our own, armed with an Italian pocket book and a circled, scribbled-on city map, hoping we wouldn’t get lost and that my Spanish-speaking skills could transfer over to Italian. Granted, we did get lost on the metro, and I almost ordered espresso with alcohol at eight in the morning, mistaking the Italian caffe correto for the Spanish caffe cortado. Aside from studying abroad in college, I had never planned a trip with someone other than my parents – let alone my boyfriend – and a weight of responsibility burdened me throughout the trip, as I wanted everything to go smoothly. I organized and planned, organized and planned, and I was so caught up wanting this dream vacation that it never dawned on me to keep it simple: no matter how much I worried or how much I planned ahead, the trip would be just fine. And it was.
Cinque Terre is a gem. Hidden along the rugged coast of the Italian Riviera, the villages are bejeweled with pastel homes with flowered balconies, small cafes hidden in the nooks of sharp street corners, and unassuming centuries-old chapels. Unlike the hustle and bustle of
Rome and Florence, Cinque Terre seemed paused in time. The pace was slow and unhurried, and everyone seemed so at ease here, wandering about to savor the stillness. Aside from enjoying local fare and hiking through each of the five villages, there is not much to do in Cinque Terre except to stay still and admire it.
Our last day was spent in adventure. We hiked through the rugged landscape on a trail that connected each town. The Mediterranean sun beat down on us, but we were cooled down by the coastal breeze and by the kindness of a local lemon farmer who made his own lemonade and limoncello, serving refreshments to hikers who passed through his orchard on the trail. Despite the rough terrain and strong wind, our hiking efforts were not wasted. The view was beautiful and simple, and I wanted to bask in this bliss.
I have never seen such a vast, vibrant blue sea. You could hear the sound of kids playing near the water below and see the sailboats taking their rest ashore as the sun faded to a dwindling flame, reflecting upon the horizon. None of this could have been planned. No amount of worry could have predicted this. This moment was simple and unplanned and fleeting. So I closed my eyes and stood still: soaking in every ray, feeling every breeze perfumed by the salty sea, hands tingling, breath slow and steady, letting my senses go to be present in a moment.
Contributor Alexandra Hnatyshyn is a New Orleans native and e-commerce fashion merchandiser currently residing Little Rock, Arkansas. While her strong-suit may be fashion merchandising, she is a writer and chef at heart. Inspired by her grandmother’s cooking, she can be found in the kitchen making meals that warm the soul and remind her of home. You can follow her here and see what inspires here .