Let’s Just Take a Little Walk…

“I want a quiet day,” Karen announced. “We need a break from our vacation.” We are constantly on the move, with lots of places to go and sights to see. Train travel days require hauling luggage on and off trains, making sure everyone is on board, dashing down stairs, through the tunnels, and back up the other stairs to get to the right track – it’s exhausting.

On Tuesday we didn’t have to do any of that. We had come down to Vernazza from Milan on Monday, hauled our suitcases and ourselves through town and up the 115 steps required to reach our room. But Tuesday had nothing scheduled. We could relax and enjoy the ocean breeze. Read books, write journals, post photos. Just an easy day.

Taking a break from our vacation with my best friend in Vernazza, on the cliffside terrace.
Taking a break from our vacation with my best friend in Vernazza, on the cliffside terrace.
View from the cliffside terrace (in Vernazza) of the Mediterranean Sea
View from the cliffside terrace (in Vernazza) of the Mediterranean Sea

I saw¬†Steve and asked him what his plans were. He said that he, Jean and Linda were going up the hill to do laundry. Then maybe they would take the walk over to Corniglia after that. I told him that we’d heard conflicting stories about it; one couple (older than us!) said that it was a really easy walk; another said that it was terribly difficult and exhausting.

Karen and I went down to the terrace for some serious relaxing. I even made the obligatory Facebook post about it. She read a book and wrote in her journal. We watched the waves. And then one of us (honestly, I can’t remember who) said “How about if we go see if Steve and Linda are still going on that little walk? Maybe we could join them.”

View of Vernazza from above town, on the hiking trail to Corniglia.
View of Vernazza from above town, on the hiking trail to Corniglia.
This is the typical rock wall you see all over Cinque Terre, especially on the hiking trails. The walls are built by hand, and there is no mortar holding the stones together.
This is the typical rock wall you see all over Cinque Terre, especially on the hiking trails. The walls are built by hand, and there is no mortar holding the stones together.

So we met with Steve and Linda at the starting point of the walk between Vernazza and Corniglia, and the four of us set off. The walk was beautiful! After a little climb, we were immediately rewarded with a postcard-quality view of Vernazza. And then we continued to climb. And climb. And climb some more. The steps were rock, very rough, very uneven, some quite tall.

View down to the railroad tracks from the hiking trail between Vernazza and Corniglia.
View down to the railroad tracks from the hiking trail between Vernazza and Corniglia.
Here's a typical section of the hiking trail between Vernazza and Corniglia: steep, narrow, and crowded.
Here’s a typical section of the hiking trail between Vernazza and Corniglia: steep, narrow, and crowded.

But the views were fantastic. Every so often we’d turn a corner and it would have taken our breath away, except that it was already gone. The trail is actually quite well-maintained. All along the mountain side is a hand-built rock wall that is quite sturdy, even though they use no mortar in its construction.

On the sea side, you typically have nothing except a lot of space. So you step carefully. This is difficult, because the path is quite rocky, narrow, and crowded.

Some parts of the path were steps, quite steep; others were slopes. We had a lot of ups and a lot of downs. And a lot of breaks! There are even two snack shops along the way, with table service and fresh orange juice, which is a lot better than you can say for most hiking trails.

Linda leads the way up the steps on the hiking path between Vernazza and Corniglia.
Linda leads the way up the steps on the hiking path between Vernazza and Corniglia.
More steps ahead. We did a lot of climbing on this hike!
More steps ahead. We did a lot of climbing on this hike!

 

Local olives are growing all over this part of Italy. They are harvested in November.
Local olives are growing all over this part of Italy. They are harvested in November.
Along the hiking trail between Vernazza and Corniglia we passed groves of olive trees. To harvest the olives, they spread these nets, then shake the trees.
Along the hiking trail between Vernazza and Corniglia we passed groves of olive trees. To harvest the olives, they spread these nets, then shake the trees.
These beautiful cactus plants decorated much of the trail between Vernazza and Corniglia.
These beautiful cactus plants decorated much of the trail between Vernazza and Corniglia.

Along the way we saw lots of cactus, olive groves, and vineyards.

The next town over (Cinque Terre town #4) is Manarola, as viewed from the train station in Corniglia.
The next town over (Cinque Terre town #4) is Manarola, as viewed from the train station in Corniglia.
One of the reasons that the hike is so popular is views like this one.
One of the reasons that the hike is so popular is views like this one.

As we walked, we could see our destination (Corniglia, town #3 of the Cinque Terre, and the only one without a beach). It was encouraging to see it growing larger and larger as we approached.

We know we're getting close to town now - the trail has smoothed out considerably and it's a lot wider.
We know we’re getting close to town now – the trail has smoothed out considerably and it’s a lot wider.
Here in the very last section of the trail the walls are tall and the path is wide and smooth.
Here in the very last section of the trail the walls are tall and the path is wide and smooth.

When we got close to Corniglia it was interesting to see how dramatically the quality of the trail went up. Suddenly it was smooth and wide, with walls on both sides even! Made it pretty easy to complete the hike.

As we entered Corniglia we had a great view of a vineyard and the cog-wheel tractor that provides transportation up and down the hillside to the grape-grower.

We made it to Corniglia and immediately headed for lunch! Here Steve demonstrates how long the hike was (on the map) from Vernazza.
We made it to Corniglia and immediately headed for lunch! Here Steve demonstrates how long the hike was (on the map) from Vernazza.

As we arrived in Corniglia we took a well-deserved lunch break. What a great hike! We were exhausted but happy.

Having finished our lunch, we decided to take the train back to Vernazza. But first we had to get to the train station - way down there.
Having finished our lunch, we decided to take the train back to Vernazza. But first we had to get to the train station – way down there.
This is the beginning of the steps down to the train station.
This is the beginning of the steps down to the train station.
Then you get down a little further and you see that you have a lot more steps to go!
Then you get down a little further and you see that you have a lot more steps to go!

After lunch, we took the train back to Vernazza. This would have been easy except for the hike down to the train station!

Here you can see the cog-wheel line used to propel the "tractor" up and down the hill through the vineyards.
Here you can see the cog-wheel line used to propel the “tractor” up and down the hill through the vineyards.
Here Karen poses by the motor (the seat is on the other side) of the tractor that vineyard workers use to ride up and down the hillside to inspect the grapevines.
Here Karen poses by the motor (the seat is on the other side) of the tractor that vineyard workers use to ride up and down the hillside to inspect the grapevines.
Here's the beginning of the cog-wheel line going down the hill for this vineyard.
Here’s the beginning of the cog-wheel line going down the hill for this vineyard.
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