Thursday, December 29, 2011

There is no mud in Manarola...

...and they've got some intense Christmas lights.

Mario Andreoli, a resident of nearby Manarola, has spent the past several decades illuminating a hillside of the Cinque Terre with a larger then life presepe, or nativity scene, for Christmas. The display takes over 15,000 light bulbs and covers over 4,000 square feet of hillside, overlooking the winding streets and typical leaning houses of the "second" town of the Cinque Terre. Since I heard about this nativity scene and saw this youtube video, I've been a little bit obsessed with it. It looks staggering in the pictures, and I was eager to see it with my own eyes - plus the video makes me weep, for some reason. It opens in early December and goes until February, thanks to Mr. Andreoli's passion and is alleged to be the largest nativity scene in the world, according to this website. Tonight, we're in a bit of a slump between Christmas and New Years, and though we are fortunate to have a few bars and cafes and one restaurant open so soon after the flood, there's really only so much time you can spend drinking and eating inside them. We hopped on the 10 minute train southeast to Manarola, and explored a little bit.

Manarola, in between bigger Riomaggiore and beautiful hilltop Corniglia, gets a bit overlooked in my book. Monterosso is the big kid, with the resort like beaches and the long "boardwalk". Vernazza has been called the "cute little sister", with it's "typical" street (singluar) and castle, Corniglia's got some wild stairs and a hell of a view, and Riomaggiore is a twisted, bewitching, hillside tangle of houses crashing into the sea.
Manarola is sadly to me always the town next to Riomaggiore. The one at the other end of the Via Dell'Amore. A stop before Corniglia.
I can confess, though, that I never gave it a shot. I walked thorough it in 10 minutes, never up the hill, and my only lingering memory of it was the day Italy sent troops to Lybia, and a man who started his night of drinking far too early yelling about it in the streets. However, tonight, alone winding up dark, lonely streets peering into the inky blackness of the same ocean that transfixes me a short train ride away, I realized how wrong I'd been. The light display is huge. Staggering. I hate the phrase "you have to see it with your own eyes" really don't do it justice. Certainly not mine.
Manarola is just as charming as it's sisters and brothers, and has the same passionate residents as the other towns in the Cinque Terre, judging by one older man's devotion to lighting up his vineyard covered hillside for his fellow Manarolese. They've got their own thing going on here, their own tradition and passion, and though they might technically be considered a fraction of Riomaggiore, they certainly find their ways to stand out.

And they do it enchantingly well. Especially at Christmas.

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