After our fun with the Da Billy signs, we continued exploring Manarola, following a path that clung to the grapevine terraces. A wooden railing protected us from the steep incline straight down.
The path eventually met up with the main trail that follows the Ligurian coast and on to town number three, Corniglia. Since the ultimate destination of this walk was back to the train, we turned the opposite direction, but not before treading out onto the point, Punta Bonfiglio, where a cemetery lies overlooking the world from high above Manarola.
I have to admit that the cemetery was actually my intended destination. I find something very peaceful and beautiful in the old cemeteries of Europe. They never feel creepy to me. I like reading the names on the crusty headstones and matching names to faces in the faded photographs set into the stone markers. Carefully placed flowers, candles, and random mementos honor and remember their dead.
I am also always struck how cemeteries seem to be much more a part of the lives of the living in Europe as compared to the U.S. Europe’s cemeteries are often an integral part of the geography of the towns — not delegated to some lonely outlying area as they often are in the States. As a culture, Europeans visit their loved ones often; Americans tend to bury them and rarely return.
Manarola’s two-leveled cemetery commands sweeping views. A poem by Italian poet Vincenzo Cardarelli is inscribed in huge letters on the side of one of the cemetery buildings:
O aperti ai venti e all’onde
Una rosea tristezza vi colora
Quando di sera, simile ad un fiore
Che marcisce, la grande luce
Si va sfacendo e muore.
Oh open to the winds and waves
A rosy sadness colors you
When in the evening, similar to a flower
That has gone bad, the great light
Fades away and dies.
Just below the cemetery and out on the farthest tip of the point are picnic benches and a playground, another example of how the daily lives of the living and the resting places of the dead are never far apart.
Then we picked our way back down to town, pausing to marvel at this Goddess of the Grapes, proudly protecting her vineyard terraces.