A man sat stroking his moustache and let his pipe smoulder in his other hand. His eyes followed me as I carried my laundry across the street and disappeared up the stairs to my room. From the first story window, I leaned out and pulled the line along its squeaky runners, filling it with my clothes. Earlier, in Vernazza, that same smell of clean washing had been mixed with hot garlic and salty sea air but now I could smell the smoke from the pipe and the shoes of my roommates. Below the window, a black and white cat lay stretched out on the stone bench, absorbing the day's warmth. I went down and joined him, to watch the people go by and breathe in a little more of Rio.
It was early in the evening, still warm, and I watched as sun-leathered hikers came up the main street, exposed along the hike from Campagnio. I scratched the cat's ears and he shut his eyes, tired from a day of lounging. I was tired from walking - many steps up and down cliff faces, through streets and over rickety bridges, between the villages of the Cinque Terre. The waiter at lunch took a liking and gave us limoncello, brewed from the countless hillside lemon trees, tended by the generations of Italian who would take you in and feed you, put meat on your bones.
The women in the street were having a conference - local gossip, new arrivals, complaining about their husbands. Children in strollers that squeak when poked in the middle, arms and legs twirling around a healthy middle fed on gnocci and pesto. An old man came towards me, perhaps about 80, and I started on a greeting but he beat me to it: 2 feet from me, he pointed at my chest and croaked "Very nice," before continuing his stroll right on past.
One of the girls sharing my room brought down a rug and a magnum of red wine, and at sundown we made for the rocks by the marina to join the other cool kids eating pizza and drinking beer. I tried to ignore the obnoxious Americans discussing politics, pretending to know what they were talking about, and watched quietly as night crept in over the Mediterranean.
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