We arrived yesterday by train from Milano. The train trip was made more joyous by sharing a cabin with a delightful older Italian couple - Antonio and Maelina. Antonio spoke a little English and Maelina none - although she was a deeply intuitive woman who somehow understood our limited ability to communicate.
We communicated by wild hand gestures, a lot of laughter and even sang Dean Martin's 'Volare' together. It's true - Deano bridges cultural differences. She sang me an Elvis song in Italian and completely won our hearts. We shared photos of our children on our iPhones and Maelina declared our girls bella.
She was born in Napoli and mentioned a few times that Napoli was the most beautiful place in Italy - sure Positano and Amalfi were beautiful and she even liked Capri - but all of those places paled in comparison to her beloved Napoli and it's people - Maelina says they are the nicest.
They called us Marco and Luisa and enabled us to enjoy our fantasy involving our Italian identities. They encouraged us to study Italian and to bring our girls over to experience the joy of Italy.
A couple of hours later, it was their stop and they embraced us warmly - double continental kisses and were gone in a flurry. They were just gorgeous - such warm people and so generous of spirit.
We arrived in our beloved Riomaggiore and, after climbing a few thousand steps, checked in to our quiet room above the church.
We headed down to La Zorza bar for happy hour. The two for one drinks deal was an added bonus and our lovely bartender made the best Campari spritz, just what our travel weary jet lagged souls needed. A dinner of spaghetti al mare di Liguria and grilled swordfish, washed down with chianti was sublime.
After a solid night's sleep, the church bell rang at 0700. It was time to get ready for breakfast. We got ready and caught the train south to Monterosso for our first hike.
We had hiked the trail from Monterosso to Vernazza before, but it's amazing how much I had forgotten. The beauty of the flowers and butterflies. The cliff top gardens and vineyards. The million and one steps going up and up and up. The views to forever from up there - just wonderful. It was very hot. Occasionally there were cool and dark olive groves, providing welcome respite from the heat.
After a couple of hours, it was time to descend into Vernazza. The last time we were here, three years ago, it had been devastated by severe flooding and mud slides. It was very pleasing to see it back to its former glory. It is such a picturesque town and seeing it from on high for the first time as you round the high trail stops you in your tracks. The church bells heralded midday - time for lunch.
We had lunch in a little pizzeria on the harbour and enjoyed a mezza litro of vino bianco with our olive, caper and mozzarella pizza and insalata Caprese. We sat for ages, enjoying the spectacle of the waves crashing into the rocks in front of us.
What a brilliant day.