The Cinque Terre is an Italian national park home to five villages in the Italian Riviera known for breathtaking views, brightly colored houses, fresh seafood and great hiking trails. In pictures alone, the appeal to travelers is evident, and it’s no surprise why millions of tourists visit every year. The sights, food, and people make it one of the most unique and beautiful places in the world.
Travel Well, however, has a deeper connection to it than a destination on our bucket list. Four years ago, I received a letter from Alexa before we started dating. She wrote about hiking between the five towns in an old blog to a mutual friend and me as the three of us and other coworkers used to trail run on our lunch breaks through the summer before she moved to Italy. [Read excerpts from her original letter here.] I wished and daydreamed that one day I could actually be there with her, and now I can gladly say I have. We got married on April 25th and left the 27th for a three-week European honeymoon, spending a good chunk of our time in Italy that included two days in the Cinque Terre. This is my letter back to her.
It is amazing and almost unbelievable that I can sit here and finally write a proper response to you, my best friend and wife. Four years have passed since you wrote to me while you were in the Cinque Terre taking in all its beauty and tackling its rugged terrain. I am now sitting across from you watching you do inspiring work at your laptop as you so often do while I write in my notebook and reflect on the last three weeks we spent together in Europe.
Being with you in the Cinque Terre was easily one of the greatest experiences of my life. To finally be there and see the multi-colored homes, hike alongside the grape and olive terraces, and eat great food, all while having an astonishing view of the Mediterranean, was more amazing than I could ever have imagined. Best of all, though, was the fact that I could share this experience with you. You had written about hiking and how it “burned so good” on the climbs, but the descent was rough on your knees. This time around, I got to be there with you as we tackled some even more challenging routes together and I could help you descend when those stairs became more like walls.
You also wrote of how back in Chapel Hill we would run and I would sprint the two “big hills” and that I wouldn’t want to try it on the staircases of the Cinque Terre, but I hope I surprised you at least a little when I did at times sprint the stairs. And the food! The pesto gnocchi, carbonara, charcuterie, formaggio, focaccia, meatballs–and perhaps too much of all of it at times–were amazing. I already miss sitting and having cappuccinos with you in the mornings and the Birra Moretti after a long hike, but I know that we will return one day and maybe even outdo ourselves.
Of course not all things went or ever do go perfectly smoothly: the ATMs being empty in each village leaving us unable to get gelato when it was much needed; the cold and ridiculously small showers in our tiny, 600-year-old fisherman’s house; me not speaking nearly enough Italian; and the closure of nearly all of the blue line trails. But that’s okay. I wouldn’t have changed a thing. It was a perfect honeymoon, and those memories truly will last forever. I am so happy you said “Yes” and so proud to be your husband, and I cannot wait for our next adventure, wherever it may be.