So the plan last weekend was to take a two hour train ride from Lucca to Riomaggiore on the coast, and then walk from Riomaggiore to Monterosso via the three coastal villages of Manarola, Corniglia and Vernazza. This stretch of coastline, and the five villages, are all part of Italy’s Cinque Terre National Park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. None of the villages can be reached by car. After devastating storms in 2011, the paths joining the villages had only recently reopened, and I’d heard it was stunningly beautiful. I had allowed what I thought was an ample five hours to walk the eight mile long path with J, before getting the train back to Lucca. Suzy Bennett has written eloquently about the walk here… But I can’t quite imagine what I was thinking.
When we got to Riomaggiore, it was already 30 degrees, and J was absorbed in his book and less than enthusiastic about the prospect of hill walking. On the train I’d begun to absorb from my reading that stretches of the path involved climbing several hundred steep steps at a time. I took a first look up at the mountains above us, and also started to have my doubts. When we got to the information office where you buy your tickets to enter the National Park, I was just a teeny bit relieved to learn that the section between Riomaggiore and Corniglia was closed because of rock falls and would not be opening again this summer.
‘If you really want to walk it‘ they said (with that ‘she’s mad’ look in their eyes), ‘get back on the train to Corniglia and walk from there‘. ‘We do a lot of walking’, I said, ‘so yes, we’ll do that‘. But once out of their office, and searching for shade, I could see in J’s eyes that he was also doubting the wisdom of this adventure, and he in turn could see that I was too.
In the end, we took the boat from Riomaggiore to Vernazza, which is a lovely half an hour ride with fabulous views across this spectacular coastline. Vernazza had been buried in over 4 metres of mud in the 2011 storms, but you would never have guessed it. We climbed up to the lookout and were quite sure we had made the right decision not to walk the Cinque Terre. We had a couple of hours in Vernazza, then took another boat on to Monterosso, and then the train home.
I am back at work now, and struggling to hold on to my memories of that day. Here are a few photographs to give you a sense of the loveliness of that stretch of coastline.
The walk can wait until next time!
I am linking this post to the Weekly Adoption Shout Out #WASO week #81 on the theme of Last weekend, we…. as this was a holiday I had with my adopted son.