Thankfully I solved my camera issues before heading off to Cinque Terre for an overnight trip. It’s a 10 km stretch of beautiful seaside featuring 5 brightly colored towns on steep cliffs. Completely gorgeous! So, of course, one section of the hiking trail is devoted to lovers who seem to especially enjoy all things beautiful – Via dell’Amore, or “Pathway of Love.”
This short and easy hike is between Riomaggiore and Manarola, two of the seaside towns. It’s well taken care of and has a history of being the meeting spot for lovers since the 1920’s, after the blasting of the train line between the towns. Despite the continuous rock slides and deterioration of the path, after World War II, the citizens insisted it stay open. Only in the past few years have the tunnels been added, making the path much safer (and more beautiful). Yet the graffiti of lovers has been there for years.
Of course the Pathway of Love is characterized by sentiments of love – hearts dot the path, made of many random materials; loving phrases are etched into the cliffs or spray painted on any suitable stretch of rock; lines of adoring poetry or music are posted inside the tunnels; and the “locks of love” craze has led lovers to show their eternal love by securing a lock somewhere along the path and then throwing away the key.
It’s cute. It’s sweet. It’s definitely gorgeous, with the steep cliffs of the mountains meeting the bright blue ocean. Little pathways lead down to the giant rocks by the water where locals fish or take in the sun. It’s also a bit overrun with tourists and not much of a hike at all, unlike most of the other trails in Cinque Terre. The handrails the whole way ruin a bit of the atmosphere, but then again, having walked a path without them the next day, I can’t complain about the illusion of safety they give – it’s a long way down to the water in many parts.
The one thing that I noticed the path definitely lacked? Lines from the most beautiful, love obsessed poet – Pablo Neruda. Of all the things to graffiti in the land of love, I saw not one line from him. Will the delinquent youth of today ever learn? So I’ll add my own poem from him for you to enjoy. :)
I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.
I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.
I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way than this:
where I do not exist, neither do you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.
- Pablo Neruda
No te amo como si fueras rosa de sal, topacio
o flecha de claveles que propagan el fuego:
te amo como se aman ciertas cosas oscuras,
secretamente, entre la sombra y el alma.
Te amo como la planta que no florece y lleva
dentro de sí, escondida, la luz de aquellas flores,
y gracias a tu amor vive oscuro en mi cuerpo
el apretado aroma que ascendió de la tierra.
Te amo sin saber cómo, ni cuándo, ni de dónde,
te amo directamente sin problemas ni orgullo:
así te amo porque no sé amar de otra manera,
sino así de este modo en que no soy ni eres,
tan cerca que tu mano sobre mi pecho es mía,
tan cerca que se cierran tus ojos con mi sueño.
– Pablo Neruda