Tag Archives: Italy

Today would be a good day to be (slowing down) in the Cinque Terre

A new year has started and I don’t know about you, but it hasn’t taken long for my diary to start to fill up and the pace of life to start to get hectic again. I hear so often (and try to stop myself from saying) the answer “busy” to the question “how are you?”

So today, I’m thinking back to a place I was just over a year ago where life felt much slower, and I was just basking in the beauty of village life and of the magnificent creation. Five fishing villages along the Italian Riveria, carefully built on terraces all the way down the cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. I’d love to get back there again today.

What did I love about the Cinque Terre?

It was the week before Christmas, and so some travel experts had actually advised not to bother visiting as much would be closed for the winter. I’m so glad I ignored their advice!

Yes, many of the boats were pulled in for the winter, and some of the restaurants were closed.

But the tourists were fewer …

… and the locals were just enjoying their everyday lives.

And the beauty remained.





I think perhaps this is one of the most picturesque places in the world.

Certainly it boasts some of the most scenically located train stations.

Walking between the villages there are moments when you feel like you are at the end of the world.

And life just seems to be going at a more relaxed pace.

What did I learn from the Cinque Terre?

I think the main lesson from these villages for me was just about slowing down. Even the sunset felt like it lasted for hours.

And the combination of slowing down and appreciating the beauty of the creation around me leads me to worship.

I’m not the only one … it was a delight to stumble upon some of the places of worship scattered throughout these villages …

… and to join with all those who have come before in pausing in this place to acknowledge my Creator and King.

This is perhaps most obviously seen at Christmas time at Manarola, where a man named Mario Andreoli has for over 30 years been sharing the story of the incarnation in lights on the hillside, forming the world’s largest nativity scene.

It is another moment to just stop, slow down, be still, and say wow! My iPhone photos really don’t do it justice,* but they remind me and inspire me to seek to find moments to slow down and to worship in my own, too-often-too-busy, life.






*For a much more impressive view of the Manarola nativity … check out this one by Christian Leone from villeinitalia.com

The extraordinary and the ordinary … or today would be a good day to be in Venice

Venice 2

It’s been a while since I did one of my Monday travel posts, but as I thought about where I’d like to re-visit today, I realised that the photo above (which hangs on my living room wall) was taken exactly ten years ago today, when I spent a day in Venice. So I’m thinking it would be good to imagine having another day there today!

View from Bell Tower 3

Of course, Venice has a reputation as being one of the most romantic and beloved places in the world. It was one of the places I had most looked forward to visiting. And in many ways it did live up to expectations. But at the same time, I also found it in many ways an ordinary place, with ordinary people, living ordinary lives … and I’m drawn to consider what it means to appreciate both of those at the same time.

What did I love about Venice?

Architecture, history, beauty, culture, art, theatre … no matter what time of year, there is always plenty going on in Venice.

Duke & Duchess

Like so many before me, I loved seeing St Mark’s Square and imagining the parades and carnivals that have been held there over hundreds of years.

San Marco Square Panorama B2

I loved looking up at the 500 year old bell tower and thinking about all the history it has witnessed …

San Marco Bell Tower 1

… and looking down from its lofty heights on the city below.

Bell Tower View Panorama 3

St Mark’s Basilica itself is an opulent church with symbolic meaning in all its decorations.

San Marco church Panorama 1

Of course, no trip to Venice is complete without a gondola ride,

Gondola Station

passing by the Bridge of Sighs,

Bridge of Sighs

the Rialto Bridge,

Rialto Bridge 1

and the Castello Towers.

Castello Military Tower 2

But I also loved getting away from the crowds and catching the public water taxi to some of the smaller islands of the city,

Burano canal 1

seeing places where people live their every day lives seemingly unchanged from days gone by …

Canal 4

… and places long since abandoned, where time has brought obsolescence or decay.

Ruined Island 2

What did I learn from Venice?

When I think about Venice, I think of the juxtaposition between the spectacle and the mundane. Not in a way that disappoints me, but in a way that reminds me that both are part of life. There is one set of things we in a sense put on “show” to the world – the exterior, the achievements, the excitement, the engagement. And that is not false. It is an essential part of who we are. But it is not the whole story. There is also the everyday stuff of life we don’t often take photos of or write poems about, but is happening every day within every person, and within every city. The routines of life, the day to day, the mundane, the ordinary. And it is no less important just because it is less flashy. There is beauty to be found in the every day rhythms of rest and work. There is purpose to be found in the necessary tasks of life.

San Marco Domes

One of the reasons people (including me) often love to travel is to see the spectacles, to marvel at the wonders, to appreciate the extraordinary. But I often find in my travels that I am equally drawn to the ordinariness of life in each place. To the way someone travels to work, or provides food for their family, or makes their house a home.

Burano canal 3

I’m not sure if I am explaining this well, or if anyone else feels the same way. But sometimes when I contemplate the spectacles and wonder, it makes me pause and consider the mundane and routine, and sometimes it makes me marvel anew at this thing called life. Because one cannot exist without the other. The extraordinary can only exist because of the ordinary.

The beauty of a sunset can only come after a full day of the sun doing its routine job of providing light.

Sunset 3

I’m not in Venice today, I’m just at home doing the mundane tasks of an ordinary day. But perhaps remembering Venice today will help me to pause and appreciate some of those ordinary things of life. What about you?