Beyond city centres, you’ll often find locals going about their day to day lives and discover what it’s actually like to live in the place you’re visiting. For me there is no better place to see how Italians work, live and play than in the villages of Cinque Terre along the Italian Riviera.
In one of those villages, Manarola, most of the tourist activity centers around the town square, Piazza Capellini, near the waterfront. But, if you walk uphill past the gelato shops and restaurants you’ll discover what keeps the economy of Manarola alive. Vineyards of course!
The Manarola Vineyard Walk is a narrow dirt path along terraced grape vineyards overlooking town. It is quite a peaceful and uncrowded walk as not many tourists are familiar with it. You’ll walk along a somewhat un-sturdy wooden railing as the path leads back towards the sea and curves west of town.
The 20-minute vineyard walk leads to Punta Bonfigio cemetery and park. It is not by coincidence that the cemetery has one of the best sea views in Manarola. After Napoleon conquered Italy, he mandated the placement of cemeteries outside of town due to perceived health risks. The cemetery looks and operates differently than those I’ve seen in the United States. There are grave markers and a mausoleum. On the outside of each chamber in the mausoleum is a photo of the deceased with their name, birth date and date of death. Due to limited space, the deceased remain in the mausoleum until the next family member dies. They are then moved to a communal bone crypt.
Beyond the walls of the cemetery is a playground and flower garden that extends to the cliff’s edge. Here you’ll find a sculpture of a woman draped in grapes, the town’s lifeline as you’ll remember, and a meaningful juxtaposition of life and death.
What have you discovered when venturing beyond the city centre during your travels?