Every traveler hopes for a peak experience, some connection to the places we visit that goes beyond the museums, cathedrals and restaurants. If we are lucky we get at least one on each trip but it doesn’t always happen. This morning we had such an experience. It began last night after dinner. We have been sharing our B&B with a group of German travelers. We’ve gotten to know a couple of them and they are a fun loving bunch. Last night as we were leaving the dining room Kay mentioned that we were musicians and that I was a pretty good guitar player. One of the fellows jumped up and said “we have to find a guitar.” Within minutes he had quizzed the Barrani family and learned that the daughter in-law, Angela, was a guitarist and had one I could borrow. He arranged for her to bring it to breakfast the next day and I was to entertain them. This we did and it was great fun. But that wasn’t the magical moment. It happened after the Germans went on their way. Only Kay, Angela and I were left with Signora Barrani (Elena) in the kitchen across the hall. I asked Angela if she would play something. She had been reluctant to play in front of the larger group. She said “I only play for Paolo and the family, but we are family now.” She sat down and played three finger style tunes beautifully: a samba, a bossa nova version of Fly Me to the Moon and a wonderful version of Dust in the Wind, playing the melody as well as the finger style accompaniment. She was very good! At one point Signora Elena came in and sat next to me with a gentle smile and look of great pride in her daughter in-law. Angela was too shy to perform in front of strangers but we were no longer strangers.
The rest of the day was wonderful by ordinary travel standards. We hiked an hour and a half to the next village, Vernazza. It was a great, moderately difficult hike with breathtaking views, cool olive groves, and many stone stairs.
It was market day and Vernazza was packed with locals and tourists alike. After Corniglia this town of 500, with an equal number of tourists, felt like the big city. We strolled the town and the waterfront then had a delightful lunch at Il Pirata delle Cinque Terre, run by twin brothers from Sicily – great bean and pesto soup, wonderful salad and the best bread we’ve had, including in France! We washed it all down with the local bianco and topped it off with great coffee. Ah Italia. One of the brothers berated a tourist who came in, used the rest room and left without as much as a by your leave. He wasn’t angry because the guy didn’t order anything. He was mad that the fellow hadn’t even bothered to say “Buon Giorno.” He was right!