Saturday, October 9, 2010
The easy way back
Today we decided to heed the advice of the owner of a gelateria and hike from Corniglia to Vernazza instead of the other way around. From now on, I’m consulting the purveyors of frozen treats for all life’s dilemmas. He did not steer us wrong.
After ”breakfast” and a leisurely stroll through the town of Monterosso, we trained it to Corniglia to start our journey. As an aside, we’ve decided we could make a killing if we came back and opened a restaurant that only served breakfast. We could open from 6:00 AM to noon and only serve full English, American and Canadian breakfasts (the bacons are all different). The rest of the day we can spend a spiaggia (at the beach). Italians are not big on breakfast. However, I have fallen deeply in love with cream filled brioches. It’s ok, I’m sure the walking makes up for it.
Corniglia is my favourite of the 5 towns. It may also be the smallest. It’s missing 90% of the tourists of Vernazza but has probably double the charm and none of the hotels.
We started out with a hearty lunch – thank you Robert for the tip – we found Ristorante Cecio at the top of the hill. It offered great pasta and an extraordinary view of the Ligurian Sea. As with the entire region, the food is simple but flavourful. Dave decided to go for pasta with pesto. To make it more interesting they also threw in a few potatoes and green beans. He is now a believer of pesto. I went for a more exotic feature by ordering pasta with crab meat and tomato sauce. The crab meat wasn’t plentiful, but it was tasty. A fried pork chop, salad and the ever present acqua minerale rounded out our preparatory meal.
Corniglia is at the top of a hill, Vernazza is not. Imagine then that the walk from Vernazza to Corniglia includes an unyielding and steep climb. The path coming from Vernazza had sets of stairs where you could not see the top if you were standing at the bottom. Those situations always make me want to sit on the ground and cry. Instead you summon up your inner goat, take your time and eventually you’ll get there.
The way we approached the walk was gentler and far less draining. Don’t be mistaken, there were still stairs, but not nearly as many and not nearly as steep. Stairs cannot be avoided in these five towns. Whether you take the paths or not, stairs are everywhere. My fitness trainer would be proud of me.
Compared to the walk from Monterosso to Vernazza, I found this path more scenic – the entire time you have a view of the sea - and less treacherous because the path was wider. The way was so scenic, in fact, that you had to remember to look forward and not just out at the view. A path made of stones and stairs tends to offer a number of tripping hazards if you aren’t paying attention.
I wish I knew what flower was giving off the sweet scent that accompanied us on our
walk. It kind of smelled the way honey tastes. If I ever get to smell it again, it will take me right back to a turn on the path where we caught our last good glimpse of the town of Corniglia.
As we approached Vernazza we encountered a fair number of people who obviously had no idea how hard their work was going to be. We saw a lot of men in sweaters who would surely be topless by the end of the journey, a number of questionable choices in footwear, and a couple people carrying purses and bags. My favourite was a guy wearing a coat and carrying a laptop bag – it didn’t even have a shoulder strap. I kind of felt bad for not warning them, although turning back would cost them no more than a bit of tarnished pride.
Once we reached Vernazza there was time for a coffee, a gelato and a bit of shopping for a Christmas tree ornament – a travel tradition that I have come to cherish. Vernazza is still too busy for me to want to spend too much time there.
Three days was the perfect amount of time to spend in Cinque Terre. It gave us time to explore the narrow passage ways (you can’t call them streets, especially because cars aren’t allowed), discover the regional wine and food and hike a decent amount. It feels like this is a bit of dream come true. We will come back. Dave keeps wondering how much for that apartment overlooking the sea.
We have our train tickets for Florence tomorrow. I always find travel days stressful – probably because we’ll only have 10 minutes to catch the train from Pisa to Florence. Well, if there’s a mishap, there’s always a leaning tower we can visit.