My Life as a Traveler

A Small Camino in the Cinque Terre

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(Note: I am trying a different app for this entry – sometimes the Blogsy app does not always keep the words and photos where I want them. Let me know what you think! Julie)

We have one full day to explore as fully as we can the Cinque Terre and it is my intention to visit each of the five villages, ideally by walking. First order of business is to purchase the pass that allows us to walk the trails in this National Park. The pass also includes train fare between the towns, which we will need since our home town, Corniglia, is in the middle of the five. After a good breakfast and a lunch recommendation from our host, Beppe, we are on our way. And our way is up. Unfortunately, the easy coastal trails are closed, so we must take the high road. This means walking straight up, across the hills through the vineyards, then back down to the village. We did this yesterday afternoon from Corniglia to Vernazza, and it was fun. Today, we have all day to do the rest!

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This walk is like a mini-Camino, but with a daypack instead of the full pack we used in Spain. The scenery was gorgeous, it was a good workout and a great meditation, and we saw mostly non-locals along the way (even a few with walking sticks!). Our first leg was 6 miles and took us about two and a half hours, all told. The photo above is where we started and in the one below you can see our first destination in the lower right hand corner. Cinque Terre wine (white, especially) is some of the best we’ve had, and it was a joy walking through the vineyards among the workers and the vines.

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We also passed through olive trees with their colorful nets tied around their trunks. In November, they handpick the olives they can reach, but spread these nets out to catch the olives shaken down from the top by machine.

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We drop down the thirteen hundred steps to the colorful village of Manarola. We think about continuing up the other side of the hill, but wind down through the village to the train station instead. The trail is closed from Manarola to the next town, Riomaggiore, but it’s a short distance and we hop the train and are there in 5 minutes. We climb through the center of Riomaggiore and around to the church, which has a spectacular view of the sea. Just over the hill, you can see the station where we will take the train to Vernazza, back toward and past where we started in Corniglia.

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We’re getting hungry now and are getting ready for a rest. Our host Beppe suggested that we go to Gianni’s (pronounced Johnny’s) on the Vernazza harbor and drop his name for some good service. Sure enough, when we got there and said we were sent by Beppe di Corniglia (no last name required) they went out of their way to seat us at the best harborfront table, shooing some other tourists away who wanted to sit there. We asked for “un buen pranzo” and got 5 different types of anchovies, gnocchi with pesto, octopus, dessert, and limoncello to seal the deal. The food was scrumptious, the wine delicious, and we had the best view of the little harbor, the fishermen, and the never-ending stream of tourists parading by.

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Happily full of food and drink, we walk down along the rocks, take our shoes off, and dangle our tired feet in the cool water. There is just no other place I would rather be in the world right now. We look back at the colorful town buildings.

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But we’re not done yet. There’s one more town to visit, and it’s only a ninety minute walk away. The day would not be complete if we missed this last town. However, we’re extremely relaxed and a little drunk still from the heady combination of lunch, wine, sun, and water. It’s hard to get going. I make a deal with Susie that we just climb halfway up the hill to get the quintessential view of Vernazza. After a false start, we head up. When we reach the viewpoint, it seems like a waste to turn back, so we keep going.

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It’s hard going, but totally worth it. The trail narrows as it starts to descend, and we get stuck behind a slow group of Germans. There’s a man selling limoncello right off the trail, but we’re afraid that if we stop, we will not be able to continue down and finish our quest. People who have traveled with me know that there will be one major and serious walk on every trip and they are bold enough to call this nice walk “the death march.” Looks like this is it for this trip! We’re so happy to get into Monterosso and have a drink while we wait to catch the train back to Corniglia. We are tired, but happy.

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We hobble back to Beppe’s house, but I can’t make a call here, so I walk back to the little town square. When I’m finished, I notice the sign that points through the town the other way to the church and a viewpoint. I walk the narrow street to the end of the point and find the most perfect sunset spot. I run back to Beppe’s, get Susie, and after a stop for some gelato, enjoy the moonrise on the left over Riomaggiore and the sunset over Monterosso. A spectacular way to end a truly memorable Camino day.

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