And so, our adventures continue! Morning broke early today in Santa Margherita, but many of us chose to sleep in as much as we could. I managed to catch a quick breakfast ten minutes before our 8:00 meeting time in the lobby of the hotel. Once there, we got a chance to meet the second of our tour managers, Lorena, who would accompany the choir on the second of our buses and on group tours. So, now that we were all set and ready to go, we began walking as a group down to the nearby harbor. That’s right, we would be travelling by boat today!
Today’s destination is the group of coastal villages known as the Cinque Terre (meaning “Five Lands”), known for its fresh seafood, for colorful houses, and for inspiring the setting for the 2021 animated Pixar film Luca. Okay, it probably isn’t known for the last one but I just had to include that fun fact! Of the five, we would be visiting only two: first Vernazza, a fishing village with elegant houses and the only natural port on the Riviera, and then Monterosso al Mare, the largest and oldest settlement of the five villages renowned for its white wines, grapes, and olives. Upon returning from our long day of sightseeing, we would be performing our first concert of the tour outside of a large villa in the nearby town of Rapallo. All right, without further ado, let’s get stuck in!
Moments before boarding our boat, the Performance Tour and the Family and Friends Tour reunited for the first time with a round of hugs. The two tours had a private ride for our cruise on the Riviera, so we would have the opportunity to tour the Cinque Terre with our families as well as our friends and fellow performers. After applying ample sunscreen, the boarding procedure had begun, and we would be off at sea soon thereafter.
The waters were quite rough for the length of our cruise, but we had the dramatic, breathtaking coastlines of Liguria to compensate. Lines of large hills and cliffs straddled the entire shore of the Riviera, towering above the most blue water I’m sure many of us have ever seen. Our boat continued to cruise along the length of the Cinque Terre, reaching all the way to the easternmost of the villages, Riomaggiore, allowing us plenty of time to capture our photos while trying not to fall over!
Pulling into Vernazza, we were greeted with a comfortable breeze coming off of the water. We were given about an hour of free roam in the town before meeting back up in front of the stunning beach by the pier. The majority of us wandered in the narrow streets, enjoying the authentic Ligurian cuisine and more of that sweet, sweet gelato. Others chose to explore the nature of the surrounding area, hiking the length of the rocks and cliffs which encircled the town. There was this small alcove which had a pool of water that emptied out into the sea, and the view out of the other side was quite spectacular. Some of us even got a chance to dip our feet in the water!
Soon it was time to hop back on our boat to head for Monterosso. The ride was short, but our guides gave us a brief history about the Cinque Terre region and some information about the culture and sights while en route. Once we landed at the docks, we all split up once again, though this time with about two hours to explore the village. Most of us started on some souvenir shopping, and others seized the opportunity to hit the beach! My friends and I enjoyed walking the long promenade which wraps around a monolith hill in the middle of town, overlooking the serene waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea. Additionally, those that didn’t eat in Vernazza found plenty of enticing options here, including myself. I had my first pizza margherita of the trip here, and man, was it one of the best I have ever had in my life!
It was only moments after we gathered back under the railroad tracks to board our cruise back to Santa Margherita that the choir spontaneously broke out into song with “Siyahamba,” bringing smiles to the faces of family, friends, and locals. The musical energy continued right through our journey on the water, as we continued to sing through the rest of our program in the front of the boat. After all, it never hurts to get in a little extra rehearsal time! The ride was much smoother as we returned, and in no time we would land back at the port and start for the hotel.
About an hour of downtime passed before we would all meet up again to travel on foot to Rapallo and tonight’s concert venue, the Villa Tigullio, an elegant villa perched right on a hillside overlooking the water. Both the choir and the orchestra braved unbearably hot weather to rehearse briefly before we would break for dinner. A diverse spread of pasta, salad, seafood, cheese, and fresh juice was catered to the villa, and almost every review on the food tonight came back excellent. Even I stamped my own seal of approval on this one; the pesto pasta was some of the best I had ever had in my life.
After a long hour spent finishing our food and getting excited for our first formal performance of the tour, it was concert time. Around three hundred family members, friends, and locals gathered to watch the debut of the 2022 MYO Italy Tour Choir and Orchestra. The concert concluded with our first performance of “Va, pensiero” for an Italian audience, and it received a standing ovation. First concert: a resounding success!
On our walk back to the hotel, we passed an outdoor nightclub which, midway through our concert, decided to turn up their speakers. We shared a few jokes about cutting their power after causing such a ruckus, and some even suggested crashing the party! But honestly, all I could think about then was getting some sleep before our next long travel day tomorrow.
Now that we are all finally in the comfort of our hotel bedrooms, I am finally ready to do just that—right after our goodnight check-in from our wonderful chaperones, of course. Tomorrow, we pack our bags once more and head off to explore the Italian region of Tuscany!