Relaxing is not a word I would choose to describe CR. There are a million other words – exciting, incredible, challenging, beautiful, fun, indescribable – but it’s far from a relaxing European vacation. I knew this going in, and was more than happy to keep up with the fast pace throughout each city. However, when we reached Riomaggiore, it’s like life slowed down a little bit. The people were calmer, the meals were longer, and we were left with plenty of time to jump in the ocean or grab another cone of gelato. Dr P even said it looked like my shoulders dropped a few inches after arriving in the town. Riomaggiore is a breath of fresh air in the form of a quaint, seaside, Italian town.
Walking through the streets and alleys of Riomaggiore, it’s hard not to feel like you’ve been transported into some kind of screensaver image of Italy. I remember thinking it almost felt too Italian. Cramped staircases winding through brightly colored buildings with laundry swinging above. Locals throwing open painted shutters to talk to shop owners on the street. Fruit and fish stands interspersed with gelato shops down the main drag. The sounds of waves crashing against the rocks in the background. Every morning the same scene played out, and I was reminded that there are people who actually live in Riomaggiore; this is simply their daily routine.
That was one of my favorite parts of Riomaggiore, living amongst the locals of the town. Watching them scream in Italian or peacefully observe the ocean gave me more insight into what life would be like living in Italy. Same for the flexible schedules of Italian trains or the three hour long dinners. In America, I’m usually more concerned with time management and efficiency than slowing down and enjoying the present. However, in Riomaggiore everyone lives to enjoy their surroundings and the people they’re with, no rush required.
One of my favorite moments was the dinner we had on our last night in Riomaggiore. We traveled to a local house in a different part of Cinque Terre to have a home-made Italian meal, prepared by the incredibly cool Daniella and her husband, Piero. That dinner reflected everything I loved about our time in Riomaggiore. We spent hours talking about all kinds of things, from favorite book series to our role in a hypothetical family, all while eating amazing food and watching the sun set from the backyard. After dinner, we spent more time cuddling and singing Pitch Perfect songs. Afterwards, I was exhausted, but I felt so happy and loved, like I just had dinner with my own family.
CR is one of the most unique experiences I’ve ever been a part of, and it definitely can feel like an unrelenting whirlwind of information and realizations. But Riomaggiore offered a respite, giving me time to breathe and reflect. I learned that it’s okay to take your time and really absorb your surroundings, especially when your surroundings are coastal Italy. I know the rest of CR, or my life, won’t be this loosely paced, but I’d like to try to apply the ways of Riomaggiore more into my way of life and take things slow occasionally.
Riomaggiore was my breath of fresh air, and I deeply value my time there and the lessons I learned. Now, back to the whirlwind.