This is the life, I thought, as I stretched out on a warm rock and let the dying rays of the sun drench me with its golden goodness, the warmth soaking into every fibre of my beinga sweet contrast to the cool breeze that tugged against my hair. I didnt dare close my eyes, for the sun and clouds were playing a mischievous game of hide-and-seek, throwing up marvellous patterns of blue and gold and pink and purple and orange across the sky. The soft waves lapping up against the shore played out the perfect symphony, and I was lost.
If I were to seek beautiful moments, Id go flying back to Cinque Terre. The cluster of five villages in Italy, by the azure waters of the Ligurian Sea, took my breath away in more ways than one.
Cut to 15 hours earlier, when I was struggling to drag myself out of bed at 4am. It is by no means a godly hour to wake up when on vacation, but the things we do for precious moments I wanted to hit Cinque Terre National Park, and get to its hiking trails before everyone else did and before the sun started burning the skin on the back of my neck. If waking up at the crack of dawn was the only way, so be it. Monterosso al Mare is the village farthest from mainland, and thats where I decided to start hiking.
There is something inexplicably amazing about the simplicity of untouched nature and about being able to experience it in its true form. The hiking trails at Cinque Terre are only as manicured as required for safety, but they stun and awe every step of the way.
Climbing up those slopes for close to an hour is exhausting. My thighs were screaming for rest, but the irresistible allure of the view that awaited me at the top kept me going. And I was not wrong. The jewel tones of the sea, offset against the lush green of what you only now understand to be your starting point, is astoundingly beautiful. For me, it was magic coming alive before my eyes.
Soon enough, the village of Vernazza came into sight, and it was with a whoop of joy that I sped towards it, knowing that there was a tap pumping ice-cold water and a shop selling fresh, freezing gelato somewhere thererespite from the heat, and a treat for the taste buds.
The little villages of Cinque Terre are quite charming, with their cobbled streets and cute shops. Youll find musicians serenading tourists. Small stores selling trinkets pepper the slopes, and theres always some delicious pizza lurking around the corner. Vernazza was a quick breakfast stop, before we hit the trail again to make our way to Corniglia.
Beauty is a drug that only spreads delight. So, I couldnt wait for another chance to take in the brilliant visual of diamonds sparkling off the surface of the sea, winking at us, drawing us in and making us fall in love with it.
Among the five, Corniglia is the only cliff-top village, so it does not directly lead into the water. It offers panoramic views of Cinque Terre, and I could spot Monterosso and Vernazza to my right, and Manarola and Riomaggiore to my left, since Corniglia is bang in the middle. I remember downing a lemon and rosemary gelato here. It tasted divine.
I was keen to do the other hiking trails all the way to Riomaggiore, but to my great disappointment the remaining two, including the famous Via DellAmoreor the Path of Lovewere closed. Im certain Ill make it back one day only to hike those.
Youd think the excitement of the day would have me tired, but like I said, beauty is a drug. I had had my fill of mountains and decided it was time to hit the beach.
So I went looking for one in Riomaggiore, and found a delicious tiny rock beach tucked away in a cosy alcove. I made a beeline for the water, and splashed around like an overjoyed child, who knew nothing but the sheer happiness that comes out of a day perfectly spent.
All in all, Cinque Terre gave me trails to hike, beaches to relax on, excellent food, a stunning sunrise, a splendid sunset and unbounded, unfiltered joy. What more could I even ask for
Preethi Parthasarathy is a travel-mad, hyper-excited blogger and an MBA grad, based in Mumbai. She lives for beautiful places, unforgettable experiences, excellent nosh and meeting people from around the world. Shes visited 13 countries in the last three years, while holding a full-time job, which shes only recently quit to travel for some time.