At risk of being boringly repetitive, I say again, it is a favourite time for me to be here. No one on the trails hardly, so you can here Nature talking, caressing the foliage, sweeping the leaves into another pile while waves massage the rocks smooth.
Downtown in Vernazza the washing is already out and there’s a strong aroma of freshly baked bread and pastries. I imagine many a grandma is busy making pasta or baking a cake for the family at lunch later.
My favourite bar the Blue Marlin is still closed, as are many of the tourist shops, restaurants and gelaterias. And the flood barriers in doorways are a permanent fixture during the winter since the flood of 2011.
Only locals on the main street, and so good to see kids and young parents, amongst the elderly, as most of the population is definitely 60+. It’s great to see the fishing boats parked again in the main square, their flashy striped covers a cute contrast to the sea lashed pink of the building behind. Such a sense of belonging is reassuring, as is the peeling façade that battles timelessly against the salt spray, yet loses the fight each year. Nature quietly reminding us who is in control.
In the nearby terraces, farmers prune their olives or paint their fruit trees against disease while others do the necessary renovations and maintenance required before the tourist season starts. And while I don’t have any terraced land, I have still pruned the fig trees that sprout from my wall and cleared the blackberries from around my fabulous agave cactus.
The National Park volunteer hunters are out in their iridescent vests, rifles at the ready and walky talky radios transmitting where the wild boar have moved to. Such an impossible hunt, as the boar invariably slips away into rampant blackberries and thumps down from terrace to terrace. Such a lot of damage caused by the boar, an imported race that has run riot, breeding profusely, rooting out food at the base of the dry stone walls causing them to fall or remain precariously unstable. Another never ending battle. Although the hunters seem as pleased just to be out together, and to have another story to tell back home of the one that got away.
As I head back to the car park I see the Madonna has had a new coat of paint on her frame, keeping a trusty eye on locals and visitors as they enter the village of Vernazza or take a walk to her sanctuary at Madonna del Reggio.