(Dear friends and family: please note that you can click on any of the photos to enlarge to full size. This is only a small fraction of our photos so there will be many more to show you after we prepare a slide show.)
The words and the photos can’t begin to explain today’s hike. With one section closed due to a landslide for an indefinite period of time, rather than skipping that section, we detoured to add on the high route. The kids were awesome, we reek, and nobody fell off any cliffs.
After breakfast at our hotel, serenaded to 80’s pop, we by-passed the local grocery store that was charging 10 Euros for a foccacio bread and boarded the train to the most distant of the 5 lands of Cinque Terre, Riomaggiore, to begin our hike. The train was pretty crowded but with people ready for the outdoors so it was a very different vibe from the crowds we faced in Venice and Florence. We bought our day pass for the trail and it seems each day the prices and types of passes that are available have changed and don’t match the guidebooks. There are no more 3-day passes being sold, at least for now, weekday and weekend pricing suddenly appeared and now there was a family day pass that we had not seen before which worked well for us. We were off!
The first section is the easiest, the portion from Riomaggiore to Manarola, and is called the Via Dell’ Amore. As with the Ponte Vecchio in Firenze, people in love have attached padlocks to different railings and retaining wall fencing to secure their love forever…or at least until authorities get fed up with all the locks and chop them off.
In Manarola we bought our food supplies for the rest of the day. A crusty bread, tomatoes, proscuitto, and some more pesto sauce…the local specialty. This region is best known for it pesto, local wine, and olives. We still had enough Gouda left over from Amsterdam for our lunch; amazingly still great even without a fridge for more than a week. We also met a couple from Saratoga Springs, NY, at the store who vacation in Manarola every year and don’t even hike but just love hanging out on the balcony in this small town.
The section from Manarola to Corniglia had been wiped out recently by a landslide. The options were to either hop back on a train to get to Corniglia, take a boat, or detour to the high route trail, gaining about 400 m, and adding 3 or 4 extra kilometres to our day, extending it beyond the standard 12 km. As a bit of a surprise to us, Dena and Daniel were keen on doing the high route and it proved to be very rewarding and challenging. The bonus meant walking through Volastra, visiting its church, seeing ladies working in their fields and enjoying a different view from the usual coastal walk.
We made our lunch in Corniglia and put our feet up for awhile before continuing on to Vernazza…the first of the towns to really feel crowded. We had seen Scouts throughout our hike and a huge group in Vernazza. This was our gelato stop of the day at a artigiano shop. Our water supply was running low so we stocked up with a couple of 1.5 litro bottles of mineral water and one of my favourite, aqua minerale frissante that Dena and I shared. This allowed us to burp pesto for the rest of the hike! Yum!
With the last stretch ahead, from Vernazzo to Monterosso al Mare, Dena and Daniel were still keen to keep on walking. Many parts of the trail in this section narrowed to less than a body width and for much of it I had to duck because of the brush overgrowth. Just when we thought we had seen every type of trail: rocky, cobblestone, steep cliffs, water features, etc…we would reach another type of trail we couldn’t have imagined. The highlight was probably that instead of opting for long, gradual switchbacks, they crafted what was almost spiral staircases in many areas.