We arrived by train and Flo was there at the tiny station platform, waving at the eight of us as we got off the train. There is nothing like a friendly face at of end to a long travel day. We had left Florence after breakfast and spent the afternoon in Pisa. All eight of us were tired but the spectacular views of Framura and the Cinque Terre coast line leading to Framura was getting us excited.
Framura is just past Monterosso, the northern most and largest of the five Cinque Terre villages that make up a magical section of the Italian coast line. There were limited options for a house for all eight of us so we decided to look up and down the area and luckily landed on Framura. Flo had done some grocery shopping for us at the main store a fifteen minute drive from the house because there isn’t anything in Framura really. It is not a town as much as it is a harbor and a collection of five very small towns (too big of a word really) that string from the coast to the main in-land road. We settled in to what can only be considered something close to heaven.
The next day Flo took us to the main grocery store for supplies. She asked if we wanted to make a quick stop for a coffee, which sounded a lot like she would like to stop and get a coffee. This is where we realized we were hanging out with the queen of Framura. Flo has been coming to / living in Framura since her father started building their house there, as an escape from the big city of Milan, in the 1950s. Everywhere we went we felt honored to be coming along in her wake – at the cafe espressos drinks instantly appear, at the grocery store she walks behind the counter to poke the bread to make sure it will work for our plans, and at the grocery store she points out the only brand of white wine she drinks (we have a feeling that it is always in stock here).
But even paradise can have dangers. We bought a basketball in Rome and it turns out the huge patio deck of the house had a basketball hoop. But, anything that crosses the railing of the deck hits the 15% slope road and makes a fast run for the Mediterranean Sea. The boys had been playing about 20 minutes when over Jeffery went (I can’t recall how it got that name but it has seemed to stick). The boys went running down the road but Jeffery was way, way faster. I sat on the deck holding my glass of wine raising a toast to the fine couple of weeks Jeffery was with us. But, after investigating the scene, John claimed that it might be possible to scale the cliff where Jefferey had miraculously lodged in one of the few scrub bushes that were between the road and Jefferey taking a return visit to his place of origin somewhere in China. I was skeptical but it turned out that an adult, if willing to put down his glass of slightly fizzy red wine, could work back and forth across the constantly shifting shale type rocks and reach the basketball, which I did. New rules for guarding the rail and playing one-on-one were created and Jefferey spent the rest of the night safely in our room. And to date, we still have the basketball.
We enjoyed the peace of floating in amazing blue water in the tiny cove just a few hundred steps from the house to the Sea. There is not much in Framura but a restaurant, a cafe,a place to rent bikes and the harbor. It was easy to start the day with Italian coffees staring out at the Sea. Once in a while one of us (almost always Anne Jenkins) would wake up in the night and take amazing pictures of the moon on the Sea. Once in a while we would rent bikes and make the easy trek through several tunnels to nearby Bonossola for gelato and a different beach.
But you can’t be this close and miss out on the magic of Cinque Terre. At least that is what we figured. Judi and I have been here several times and have always loved Vernazza and the walks between the villages. Our group started in Monterosso and did the hike to Vernazza – we had never done this two hour stretch of the national park trails and several sections further south are still closed so off we went. We paid our 19.50Euro for a family of four and started up the old donkey trail. It was packed with people going in both directions. There were a few views that were special but, in truth, not that different than the view from the deck in Framura. We arrived in Vernazza hot and tired but excited to embrace our wonderful memories, us a few thousand of like minded other people apparently. The town square was packed elbow to elbow with other people staring at one another and the buildings, all looking for the small village charm that we had once enjoyed. It may be that we have over celebrated our previous trips but the square and main street was ridiculously packed with tourists of every color and language. We might as well have been in a tiny lane in Venice or a street just off the Duomo in Florence. The good news was that the gelato made from local lemons was spectacular and reigned as best of our entire trip. We will always have that.
But it was in Framura that we recharged. I took wonderfully long showers in the outdoor shower under the blue sky. We drank wine at Italian dinner times (9 or 10ish in the evening) and even invited Flo to join us for Brooks Jenkins BBQed burgers to celebrate 4th of July in one of the best places I have ever visited. Framura was exactly what we needed. I think that in Framura we found what everyone there in the square in Vernazza is looking for, the charming people, food and coastline of Italy.