National Geographic : 1963 Jun
ME (OPPOSITE, UPPER) BY HOWELL WALKER,NATIONALGEOGRAPHICSTAFF fined me several times the price of my missing ticket. Summer Sundays, I found, were no time to use the Cinqueterre trains. The crowds from Genoa and La Spezia were overpower ing. As I pressed through the throng on one station platform, I felt a tiny hand clasp mine. Looking down with difficulty, I saw at my knees a girl so small and lost that she had mistaken me for her father. Even though I succeeded in boarding a Sunday train at Monterosso, I could not get off at my destination in Riomaggiore. On coming passengers in a torrential wave forced me back into the carriage. I had to travel to the end of the line at La Spezia and wait 40 minutes for another train to carry me back to Riomaggiore. This time I stood by the door. That happens on Sunday. Of a weekday the Cinqueterre settles into the quiet routine I found so restful in Riomaggiore when I first knew it. Brief excitement came only with the daily mail. Then the village postwoman simply stood in the middle of the main street with a batch of letters and called names. A few minutes later Riomaggiore recovered its sleepy composure. This, regrettably, could not last forever. While friends and I were returning from a boat trip along the Cinqueterre coast one afternoon, a new era rolled into Riomaggiore on four wheels. Children rushed to the rocky landing to spread the news. "Macchina! Macchina! Macchina!" they cried out. The first automobile ever to enter the vil lage had been driven from La Spezia. Riomaggiore Surrenders Its Privacy Now that the coastal highway from La Spezia has coiled around the cliffs to Rio maggiore (page 766), automobiles, thick as grape gatherers at harvest time, stream into this little community suddenly beset with a gigantic parking problem. At the same time, in nearby areas, rock blasting and the rumble of road-building ma chinery report the advance of what you and I might consider the Cinqueterre's enemy. "How do you feel about the new road?" I asked 28-year-old Jack Raffellini who lives in Riomaggiore. "Well, of course, the young people are happy about it," he answered. "It means they can now go to the movies in La Spezia and not worry about catching the last train back to Riomaggiore. With the road, they can drive home when they please." (Continued on page 768) 763 n LIAunnuMe (Auuvt) AI N.G.S.