Paris. Berlin. Amsterdam. Vienna. Prague. Madrid. Rome.
Everybody has heard of these cities: everybody wants to visit these cities – the capitals of Europe. Why do we choose to visit Rome over Milan, for instance? Is it just because Rome has the title of the ‘Capital of Italy’?
What’s the allure of capital cities? Truth be told, we don’t visit these capital cities to visit the central government; which is what defines a capital city. Is it because of the cultural allure of museums or the prestige that comes with a city being labelled as a capital?
People need to look beyond capitals; as really they’re not true representations of a country. For instance, Rome isn’t a spot-on depiction of Italy. It’s tourist heaven and portrayed to be what the whole of Italy is like. But, trust me – it’s not. In my opinion, real Italy can be discovered in many other places, away from the capital.
Part of the allure of travelling is exploring and discovery. That’s how it all started, with the very first people who decided they wanted to see what else the world had to offer. A city, and more so a capital city, doesn’t offer this. You pick up a map, which one usually follows religiously marching through all the ‘must sees’ for that city.
I’ve visited many capital cities over the years and in the end they all blur together. The similarities of museums, transport systems, touristy spots and even food. The place that I continue to revisit is the ‘Cinque Terre’, in Italy but notably not the capital of Italy.
The ‘Cinque Terre’ is tucked away on the west coast of Italy, an hour north of Pisa. It is a group of five Unesco villages, located on the ocean, that are stuck in time. This destination has more to offer than the capital of Italy, Rome. It may not be as old or glamorous but it’s magical. It’s an insight into real Italy. The old Italian ‘nonne’ (grandmothers) still hang their washing out their windows and the ‘nonni’ (granddads) still do the traditional jobs of fishing or running vineyards.
Carved into the hills, are villages layered in history. Tales, myths and legends circulate as you discover each village, each with its own personality. The joy of the ‘Cinque Terre’ is wondering the streets and alleys not knowing what you are going to find. There are higgly piggly houses, beautiful churches, secret beaches and even a boat poking out of a house. But, these are only some of the things waiting to be discovered.
I could go down the expected route of must sees, must eats etc; but I’m not going to. Part of the magic of this place is exploring. Wondering up the narrow streets cut into the hills, or wandering down to the ocean and seeing the next village peak out. I’ve visited this place many times but each time I’m amazed with something new – trust me.
You may want to visit the capital of Italy, Rome and see the classic touristy sights. But, ask yourself why, when you could go somewhere else (like the ‘Cinque Terre’) and really explore – which is what travel is all about, isn’t it?