We leave Parma behind after breakfast on day two and drive to Porto Venere on the Cinque Terre coast.
Here we stop for lunch and I buy some cheese + a small olive wood handled cheese knife (which proves to be extremely handy during the course of our Italian adventures).
After lunch our first walk begins, and we follow Lucas and Marianne up the stairs and steep track that takes us high into the hills above the port. The views over this dramatic stretch of the Italian coastline are spectacular. It’s hot out here and my breathing is ragged. Every step blends into the one before it. Time loses all meaning and the walk becomes one long breathing meditation. The four of us settle into the walking positions and rhythm that will persist for the remainder of the trip. I bring up the rear, like a caboose.
We pass through a small town where the first of a couple of recommended stops for a rest is located. Even though the place looks lovely, we decide to carry on walking, headed for the highest point. Here we stop for beer and I slice off hunks of tart pecorino cheese bought in Porto Venere for a snack. The heat has warmed it slightly and the normally hard cheese is soft and delicious. I notice how everything tastes better because I’ve worked hard for it.
We continue on our way, our path shaded for a while. Getting out of the hot sun feels like bliss, making the heat more bearable. Then we enter the wine country of Riomaggiore, our small pathway lined with grape vines on the steep terraces. They have a brilliant monorail system for getting the harvested grapes up these hills and out on to the nearest roads.
Our walk ends at the train station of Riomaggiore, where we catch a train to Corniglia. Lucas grabs chilled prosecco and Vermentino (a dry white wine from this region) which we enjoy on our terrace post-shower. We join the rest of our group for dinner – I feast on fresh anchovies with lemon and a delicious seafood pasta.
From sea to the highest point today we climbed 600 metres.
Total walking time for the day – 4 hours, 15km
The following morning we wander through the narrow streets and take the stairs down to the small port for a swim. The water here is warm, clear and refreshing, though the walk back up the steep stairs has me wanting another swim by the time I am back at the top!
After breakfast at a local cafe, we take to the pathways again. Today we walk from the quiet village of Corniglia to the busy streets of Vernazza. It’s full of tourists and I’m glad to see it but also glad not to be staying there. We had been told to get an early start on this part of the walk and, when we head out of Vernazza towards Monterosso, I understand why… this part of the walk is the busiest stretch of the Cinque Terre pathway and some parts of it are very narrow with a steep drop-off on one side.
It’s the stairs at the end that really exhaust me. It’s a steep, uneven descent that requires every ounce of concentration I have. The Monterosso coastline comes into view and we drag ourselves towards it. We stop for a swim before lunch and Lucas gets a jellyfish sting. Here they call it Medusa, which sounds far nicer, even if the sting is the. After trying to find others from our group, the four of us give up and find some lunch. I have a fresh ricotta pasta with a nut sauce and of course we have some of the local wine.
After lunch we get back on the train and return to our lodgings in Corniglia. We grab more chilled prosecco and a couple of pizzas and eat at a viewpoint overlooking the ocean. It’s dark so we don’t see much except for a few lights in the distance.
Total walking time for the day – 3 hours, 9km
(thanks to Nic for the Strava data)