Hiking Route Closed! Finding Alternatives in the Cinque Terre

Written by: Alison Eckhardt

This past December, I made a plan to visit the glorious five villages of the Italian Liguria region, the Cinque Terre. To wander the isolated, cliff-topping villages and hike the rugged trails over-looking the Mediterranean had always been on my wish list since seeing a friend’s photos of the region while she was spending time in the neighbouring “big city,” La Spezia. The hiking trails of the Cinque Terre were constructed by local “sea people” as a means to get to nearby villages quicker for supplies. Walking the same paths as locals did to me was the authentic traveling experience I was looking for, and I wanted to take in every bit of it.

Doing some pre-departure research, I was well aware that strong rains often accompany the winter season in the Cinque Terre. This was the case in 2011, where severe landslides took a toll on the 11th  century construction, devastating one village especially, Vernazza. Potential risk of landslides often causes such famous hiking routes like Via del Amore to close. During my time on the Liguria Coast, this was indeed the case not with one, but with all of the hiking trails in the Cinque Terre!

Still determined to find a way around the closed trails, I attempted what locals call the “higher route” from Manarole to the highest situated village of the five, Corniglia. According to the city information kiosk, this route was also dangerous. Twenty minutes into my hike, pouring rain had coated the sleek steps. What looked like piled broken branches blocked my pathway and my barely-there grip footwear had me second-guessing my decision. Flashbacks started, bringing me back to the evening earlier; two plaques are stationed on a rock wall in Manarole to commemorate the life of a Canadian who accidently drowned, and an American who, as it says, was swept away by her husband, the Via del Amore. Gut overtook my adventurous side. After standing soaking wet from head to toe so short into my 1.5 hour hike, I decided to call it a day and take the local trains. I would try an alternate path tomorrow.

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Kuopio: An unexpected oasis in the north of Finland

Kuopio: An unexpected oasis in the north of Finland

“Kuopio? Where is Kuopio?” Last spring, I was invited to Finland for a friend’s wedding in Kuopio, a city I knew only to be the home of the same dear Finnish friend of mine with whom I’d spent a semester abroad and kept in close touch ever since. Jumping for joy at the prospect of a return trip to Finland, a country I’ve grown to love, I sat down immediately and googled the location of my soon-to-be-planned trip. As it turns out, Kuopio is located in Northern Savonia, about 4 hours from Helsinki and is, apparently, the 8th biggest city in the country.

Having heard all about the quaint attraction of Kuopio from my friend, I was excited to have the opportunity to pay the city a long overdue visit, working it into a journey that included a stopover in Stockholm and Helsinki and continued with an epic 3 day adventure in St.Petersburg. As we pulled into the Sokos Hotel, our accommodation for two nights stay in Kuopio, the sun had set and we were all headed for a good night’s sleep before the festivities began. Waking up early Saturday morning for a quick run before my long-time friend said her “I dos”, I was shocked to be greeted by one of the most serene starts to the day I’d had in a while:

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The Stratford Festival: Fiddler on the Roof and the quaint (and quirky) town of Stratford, Ontario

The Stratford Festival: Fiddler on the Roof and the quaint (and quirky) town of Stratford, Ontario

The Stratford Festival

Romeo St.

After years of missing out on one of Ontario’s famed summer highlights, I decided it was finally time to discover The Stratford Festival. With roots that date back to 1952, The Stratford Festival is known for hosting some of the best theatre in the country (and some of the greatest actors, including Christopher Plummer, better known to Sound of Music enthusiasts as Captain Von Trapp).

Stratford itself is home to a vigorously artistic community that, between the late spring and the onslaught of fall, gets together to produce award-winning theatre; from Shakespearean classics like Othello and Romeo and Juliet, to modern productions like Tommy and My Fair Lady.

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