Movers and Shakers,
On the nineteenth of May, I was greeted at the Nice airport by the beaming face of none other than my father. We’d agreed a couple months before to meet up for some travelling together, and Nice seemed like the perfect starting point for our eventual destination, Corsica.
We rented a beautiful apartment in Rue Michel-Ange. It rained all the time we were there, leaving the stone streets a vivid blue-black and keeping the other tourists at home so we could have the whole city to ourselves. We visited the local famers’ market and marvelled at the purple artichokes, the wrinkled heirloom tomatoes, and the snow-white asparagus. We consumed a lot of perfect, buttery croissants washed down with a cafe au lait (moi) or a cafe noir (le père).
On our third day, we caught the ferry to Corsica and watched from the boat as the sun set behind Napoleon’s hometown. We spent our time there with slow, lazy mornings waiting for the fog to lift, and then long drives in every direction across the island. Corsica has an unbelievably diverse landscape — in the space of an hour, the scenery can change from golden beaches to bullrush-scattered marshland, to vividly green mountains, and then back again. The roads there resemble the squiggles left by insects on eucalyptus bark; they are so endlessly twist-and-turn-y that Corsicans don’t even feel the need to have guardrails or signs on the roads for your assistance. The idea is, I believe, to just be on your guard all the time — and Corsicans take these roads at 120km per hour, no less.
The towns we visited were exceptionally lovely: old slate roofs with moss growing in the nooks, bright streets, flowers bursting from every corner, perfect old trees, spiralled streetlamps, and (of course) somewhere small to savour a glass of fizzling, sweet Muscat.
From Corsica, my father and I temporarily split up. I caught the first train that morning to Naples to be reunited once more with my friend Ashley, who lives there now. We spent a week feasting on classic pizza Napoletana, pasta as thick and chewy as calamari rings, slivered prosciutto crudo, smoked provolone rounds melted over red peppers and arugula, Ashely’s gorgeous from-scratch arrabiata sauce, and — of course — wine.
What was the best thing I ate in Naples, you ask? There’s no competition: the fresh mozzarella di bufala takes the cake. A perfect, white sphere of cheese fished out from its watery container, sliced lengthwise, then each bite proceeding from the slightly chewy exterior to the dense, creamy interior that melts like butter on your tongue.
Ashley, unlike me, has the good sense to mix all this indulgence with exercise, and on our last morning together, I got to cheer her on as she championed through a 9km race and emerged beaming.
My time with Ashley in Naples was so great that I was reluctant to move on, but Cinque Terre beckoned. On June 3rd, I met up with my father again, and the six others that would make up our little hiking group. What Gap Adventures didn’t mention in the email with the directions is that you will be walking uphill — and I mean UP. HILL. — with all your luggage for half an hour before reaching the hotel. By the time we had all made it to dinner, we were laughing and calling it our training hike.
The group was fantastic, our leaders Vivien and Danilo were excellent, and Cinque Terre was every bit as beautiful as I’d hoped it would be. Tall, brightly painted houses with terra cotta roofs and propped-up shutters, turquoise waters and ash-coloured rocks run through with bright veins of quartz, little red boats, large chocolate gelati, rolling mountainsides sculpted into vineyards. In other words: perfection. Our hikes took us through all five of the towns: Riomaggiore (where we were staying), Manarola, Cornelia, Vernazza, and Monterosso, and I think I managed to sample food from every single one.
All in all, a wonderful past month.
From Tuscany with love,