Taking approximately two hours, its winding path hugs the coast line of the Meditteranean and bobs and weaves through olive groves and steep vineyards. To this day, it is one of the most beautiful hikes I’ve ever taken—and trust me, after growing up in Colorado and being a merit-badge hungry, scarf-wearing Boy Scout, I have done me some hikes. But this post is not about hikes…
My sister did this same hike a few years ago and before I left the country, she told me of her journey. Along the path, she met an old woman who took her into her home, dusted off some quirky glasses and poured some of the wine she had made—from grapes that grew right next to the trail. My sister assigned me the task of having my own brush with a local producer along the trail…which I did.
As we rounded a wooded corner, I heard the sound of a man shouting in sing-song Italian. It grew louder and louder and we soon found the source of the musical stylings; there he was, with a huge grin on his face, peering out from inside a tiny shack constructed next to the path.
Tucked amongst the overgrowth of the trees and shrubs, he had carved out a little shop of sorts; selling tastes of his wine, cups of fresh-squeezed lemonade, and homemade limoncello. How could I resist this?
While far from an ideal source of nourishment on a long, sweaty hike, I opted for a shot of the limoncello, which I sipped while watching him go about his business. I began contemplating his tiny spot on this earth, tucked between the brambles.
I’m not going to say it was the most delicious limoncello I’ve ever had (quite frankly, its the first time I have ever actually paid for the sweet, syrupy stuff), but it was a metaphor for the culture of the people of Cinque Terre. Through sheer force of will, they have carved out a rough existence amongst the cliffs. Generations of people have come and gone in this area, each one building upon the previous’ blood, sweat and tears.
And while I paused and observed him engaging with the passersby, I felt honored to be sharing a few moments with this jovial, passionate man of the cliffs. Clumps of tourists move past him each day, blind to his existence, unaware of the ridiculous uniqueness of his wines and liqueurs, but I will never forget him.
And for the rest of my life, when I am offered limoncello, I will drink in his honor.