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Thursday, 21 June 2012

Cinque Terre: Suspended Between Earth and Sea - Page 2

Written by Stacey Wallace
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Setting off at a brisk pace, under the harsh morning sun with little cloud-cover, I soon realize this hike will not be an easy feat. The narrow path (path 6 and 6d) leading to the top of the cliff is made up of steep stairs carved out of the hard soil, lined with alternating smooth and jagged stepping stones. I stop on many occasions for water-breaks in the shade of wispy olive trees, giving the universal smile and nod to other ambitious hikers attempting the same treacherous path as me, but I promise myself I won’t look back at the scenery behind me. I am saving the final view for when I reach the top. After one hour and fifty-four minutes, I reach the summit of the trail 6d. And what I see is breathtakingly beautiful in every sense of the word. The colorful village of Corniglia is directly below me, the tiny town cut into the coastline, suspended between sea and earth. Further along the coast I spot the sandy beaches of Monterosso and catch glimpses of swimmers drifting out into the deep blue. After today’s exhausting hike, I think I will soon join them, but first I must retie my boot laces, take another swig of precious water, and continue my hike to reach my final destination.

The next trail I decide to tackle is narrow and situated dangerously close to the cliff side (trail 7 and 7a), but it’s the fastest way to get to Vernazza, the next village on my itinerary. I meet up with a charming English couple in their fifties along the way, and we agree to look out for each other along the way. Michael and Rose, from Cambridge, have visited Cinque Terre three times since they married eleven years ago, but this is the first time they have hiked the trails.

“Isn’t the point of coming to Cinque Terre for the awesome views from up here?” I ask the couple as we weave our way through thick shrubbery.

“Sometimes the anticipation of an event can outweigh the actual act,” Rose quips with a knowing smile. “Your young generation always wants the experience the world now now now.”

As I sidestep Michael and work my way to the front of our pack, with a cheeky smile I quip back to Rose, “I was never a very patient child.”


Our group reaches Vernazza in an hour and seven minutes. As we wander through the main street, admiring the unique and colorful architecture, I check my watch and see the hand is nearing midday. I suggest lunch, and Michael and Rose agree, just as long as Michael can score a cool pint. We dine out at one of the locally-owned restaurants further up the main road from the centre of the small town, sitting outdoors under the shade to watch the world go by as the Cinque Terre locals care to do. After my hunger-inducing hike, I dare to order the areas freshly caught fish, marinated in locally produced basil and garlic pesto with plump hand-picked lemons to sweeten my dish. There is laughter and merriment all around the table and of other guests dining in the adjacent restaurants too. The vibe is relaxed, as though I am out to lunch with a large group of friends, even though every face around me is a stranger.

After the enjoyable local cuisine is settled nice and low in my stomach, I part ways with Michael and Rose - they have had enough adventurous hiking for one day - and I purchase three more water bottles and follow the signs to my final stage of hiking. Trails number 8 and 8a are off the beaten path - and judging by the lack of foot traffic of fellow hikers – are not as popular or well-traveled as Cinque Terre’s other famous trails that run parallel to the coast. But I decide to hike 8 and 8a because Carlo told me that these two particular trails offer the hiker the serenity and beauty of the natural coastline. As the blisters start to form on my feet as I begin the mountainous ascension, I weave past beautifully-scented olive groves and vineyards in the middle of harvest season. Chatty and mostly older Italian workers comb through the endless vineyards, carrying buckets full of produce on their hardened shoulders to an old pick-up truck already bursting with more equally full buckets. The many olive trees shade this wide hiking trail from the hot sun, and I am very grateful for a bit of respite from the heat. I sit in the shade for a while on a few smooth boulders and watch the workers move together with beautiful synchronization. I can tell these local men and women have been doing this job for decades. They have the mechanics of harvesting down to a fine art.

Olive Trees Ready For Harve

(Page 2 of 3)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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