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I can only imagine what the hard trails are like.
That’s what was going through my head after the first hour of our hike. It was only 8:30 a.m.; the day’s heat hadn’t really begun and I was already out of water. And there was none to be found on the trail, high above the Ligurian Sea. I’d just have to wait until we got to the village.
We walked the easy trail between the five villages of Italy’s Cinque Terre region back in 2009. It was supposed to be an easy six-hour excursion. I will admit I found it challenging.
Admittedly I am not in the best shape (even if you accept round as a shape), but I do a lot of walking. From the trail description I didn’t foresee a problem. I hadn’t factored the July heat into the equation. Nor had I realized that the trail is more a series of narrow climbs and descents, not really any walking on level surface until you get to the last town.
However, the view ranges from spectacular to breathtaking. I want to go back and do the hike again. (I did feel better when we met other people on the trail. People younger than me were also finding the walk to be more than expected – and we finished it, something several people we met didn’t manage.)
I had never heard of the Cinque Terre until my wife told me we were going there. It was my first trip to Italy, but she’d been several times before. She likes discovering new places, so she was anxious for me to get my fill of Rome so we could move on to a place she’d never been before but had read about.
The five villages, Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manorola and Riomaggiore, are somewhat frozen in time. Until the late nineteenth century they were accessible only by boat. Then by rail, and finally by car. Though why you would want to drive there I can’t imagine. Driving in Italy is challenging and travel by car to the villages is, to put it mildly, difficult. Better to take the train.
In retrospect I would have liked to spend more time in each of the five villages, although they are so small I’m not sure that more than half a day would be needed to exhaust the attractions in each one. I suspect I would fine a lot of similarity but I imagine I would also have discovered some differences if there had been the time. That is frequently the problem when you visit a place for the first time; it is only a guess what is appropriate.
Given how draining the heat was I think we were right in pushing on, in admiring the villages more from the trail than from inside. If we had stopped and nosed around I suspect we would not have finished the hike, or at least not the day we started it. That might not have been altogether as bad thing from a tourism perspective, but it would have been a little embarrassing. Next visit will hopefully be in a cooler month than July.
So I definitely want to go back to Cinque Terre – but next time stay for more than a couple of days. Do some different hikes, take in a village in its entirety rather than five in a day. I might get a little bored, but I think the pace would be good for me, and acceptance of the ordinary. Sometimes we need more ordinary.
As I get older I find myself trying to do less on holiday excursions. I want to relax, not try and cram 30 countries into three weeks. I want to get a real feel for where I am, not be asking “if this is Tuesday it must be Belgium.”