Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Italy, Part 2: Cinque Terre

5/10/17 brush pen, water-soluble colored pencils, ink (Manarola)

Eleven years ago when we first visited Italy, our itinerary included mostly major cities, with one exception – the Cinque Terre. This Rick Steves favorite is a cluster of “five towns” (as its name indicates) on the Ligurian Sea. Due to Rick’s promotions of these wonderfully quaint villages, they were already overtaken by American tourists even back then, and it was all the worse when we visited this time. Despite this disappointment, we still love the Cinque Terre, so we plugged our ears to all the American English being spoken everywhere we went and enjoyed the simple beauty of these small fishing towns.

5/9/17 ink, water-soluble colored pencils (Vernazza)
Back in 2006, I was making art, but the materials I used then were beads, fabric and other fibers. On first sight of the colorful pink, yellow, blue and coral buildings, I was completely smitten with Vernazza, Manarola and Riomaggiore (three of the more picturesque towns), and I took many photos that I’d hoped to someday express in fiber art. At that time, I was still convinced that I “couldn’t draw,” so I focused on abstract works. While I loved the pastel palette of the region and felt inspired, I never got around to finding a way to express that vibrancy. Afterwards, whenever I saw photos of the Cinque Terre, I felt regret; it was as if I were a writer with the thoughts and ideas but not the words.

In Manarola there’s a particularly popular spot for postcard photographers and painters, so it’s one of the most-often seen views of the town (and all of the Cinque Terre). I know that some sketchers shy away from iconic views, but I didn’t care that it had already been portrayed many, many times. Sitting at a shady picnic table high above the water, I felt as if I’d waited 11 years to make the sketch shown at the top of the post. Although I’d carried the feelings since 2006, I finally had both the inspiration and the vocabulary to express them.

Interestingly, it was the Cinque Terre’s color palette that had initially caught my attention in 2006, but after sketching Positano’s similar palette, I didn’t feel quite as much need to put in all the colors of Manarola. It was enough to be there, sketchbook in hand at last.

5/9/17 Riomaggiore

Riomaggiore, the town where we stayed, was equally inspiring but perhaps in a less showy way. Built high on a hill just like Positano, rows and rows of houses leaned askew. My “sky shape” practice in Positano was good training for Riomaggiore’s steep landscape.

5/9/17 il Pirata Cafe, Vernazza
Visiting Vernazza, the town where we stayed 11 years ago, we found the same café, il Pirata, where we had enjoyed several meals back then. Still owned and operated by the same brothers, il Pirata doesn’t have much of a view compared to more expensive places facing the water, but the casual outdoor tables have a comfortable familiarity for both locals and tourists. We arrived late-morning when they were still serving pastries for breakfast. Since Greg can’t eat gluten, he watched me scarf down a chocolate-filled croissant and waited patiently until noon, when the lunch menu began. Our progressive meals allowed me plenty of time to make a sketch looking over Greg’s shoulder.

5/8/17 Riomaggiore
5/8/17 Laundry in Riomaggiore

Our next stop: Varenna on Lake Como.

(For more photos and sketches from Italy, please see this album in my Flickr photostream.)


  1. Oh, Tina, these sketches really bring me back to the Cinque Terre. I love the views you chose from above...and you're right, you didn't need to do all the colors to capture the feel. I love that place! Great sketches, especially the one of Manorola.

  2. Totally got brought back to Cinque terre by your sketches! The noise in the town's drove us away but we found Corniglia much quieter, probably because it's the only town that isn't by the water. Again,great sketches!

  3. Thank you, Joan and Ching! I'm happy to hear that my sketches took you back to those charming villages!

    - Tina


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...