The US has everything one could imagine in terms of natural beauty: mountains, rivers, deserts, forests, beaches, oceans, bays, cliffs, plains, lakes, islands, geysers, swamps, and moonscapes that rival the best to be found worldwide. That’s one of the reasons that so many Americans don’t travel outside the US. They say that they can find anything they want at home.
But there’s one thing that the US ain’t got: The Cinque Terre.
I’ve often asked myself what is the particular wonder of the Cinque Terre for Americans, the reason why so many of them flock here every summer to walk along its coast and breathe in the Mediterranean atmosphere. Then one day it hit me. You can’t get this at home.
The closest you come is probably Highway 1 in California, that wonderful and romantic ribbon that runs north from Los Angeles toward San Francisco. Somewhere around Carmel and the Big Sur area, it becomes a spectacular seascape, each bend in the road giving breathtaking views. Kerouac was enchanted by it, as was Steinbeck and many others. But it’s nothing compared to The Cinque Terre.
The views here are unparalleled, with the possible exception of the Amalfi coast further south (where Steinbeck loved to spend his time and money). But even the Amalfi coast doesn’t have these towns clinging to the rocks above the sea, ancient and colorful and difficult and magical. They were closed to the world until the 1950s, and even since then very little has changed structurally. What could change? Man has made the best out of his natural surroundings, but ultimately he can’t change nature, and so the towns remain what they are.
When you’re dreaming of the Mediterranean, this is what you’re dreams look like. Once in your lifetime you should turn those dreams into reality.