The walk from the old centre of Pisa to the airport took just over an hour. Without a suitcase or a heavy backpack there was no need for the expense of a taxi or the schedule of a bus.
Along the way I broke the no carrying rule. I stopped into a pasticceria and, using my best hand signals and words that sound similar in French and Italian, bought 300g of baked goods as a present for my colleagues.
I put my carrier bag in the plastic tray for its ride through the x-ray machine. It was strange to have something and then be apart from it.
On the plane I tucked it under the seat in front of me. I considered what else it could have held. Maybe some warmer clothes, a book or a proper camera. I considered these things not regretting their absence, but for the possibility that they represented—how little extra would be needed to go somewhere colder or away for longer.
* * *
If you had to carry everything you owned around with you every day you’d probably choose to own a lot less stuff. Imagine taking a full-size, wheeled suitcase to work. Having to find somewhere to put it if you went out for dinner in the evening. Unpacking and repacking. This, somehow, is normal when we go abroad.
On a long journey, the amount carried is always minimal, relative to the number of weeks or months. You’re forced to think about what you need, rather than what you could bring.
These 5 days felt like one of those long journeys. The sense of freedom was the same.
I can’t know whether it would’ve been different with a bag. But I chose Cinque Terre because it was amenable to travelling in this way. And perhaps I loved it for the same reason: that there, I needed nothing else.
* * *
It was time to go home. I took the Regionale train from Corniglia to La Spezia. With time to spare I wandered through the city and out to the harbour. There’s a lovely anonymity about going somewhere you didn’t plan to. Hidden even from your own imagination.
Back at the train station in La Spezia I caught the Inter City to Pisa. My flight home was just after lunchtime the next day.
I stayed in a serviceable hotel near the leaning tower, which is spectacular in the way that a theme park is.
I wandered the backstreets as the glare of the afternoon turned into the glow of the evening. A smartphone is liberating in that way. You can walk towards a rough congruence of where you want to go and what looks interesting, and every now and then bring up the blue dot to course correct. For better or worse, it would be harder to give up the phone than it was to give up a few changes of clothes.
On this day I walked along the coast in the opposite direction, northwest from Corniglia instead of southeast.
As with the previous day I kept walking past the last of the five villages. I started with the intention of going just up the next hill. When I got to the top I carried on out to promontory. Looking back, I could see all every village I’d been to dotted along the coast.
The landscape was rockier and less cultivated. Woodland and scrub clung to the cliffs. It was my favourite of all the paths I’d walked in Cinque Terre.
I kept walking all the way to Levanto, the next town along the coast. It was still fairly early in the day, not yet lunchtime. There were other people on the trail by this time. Most of them were going in the opposite direction, having started from Levanto.
I took the train back as far as Vernazza for lunch, then back further to Corniglia and my hotel room.
I washed my clothes in the sink and left them drying on the balcony, sitting out the hottest part of the day reading on my phone.