This morning I ventured up the first part of the coastal trail towards Monterossa in order to get views back to Vernazza.
The path climbed up the cliff, high above the railway cutting. I never cease to be amazed by the scale and number of tunnels in Liguria (there were about 100 between the French border and Genoa alone). It was more manageable than the village stroll I took yesterday afternoon, when I definitely needed my stick going down endless uneven steps – in the rain. All the same, I’m glad I’ve brought my stick again. Bits of the path remind me of the Cévennes when it rains: paths and steps become streams.
I had almost climbed to the point when I wanted to look back at Vernazza when I met a woman of my age ( I nearly wrote ‘an old woman’…). She seemed oblivious of my apology that I didn’t speak Italian and nattered on in a friendly way. Then she pointed at her rucksack. I thought she wanted me to zip it up. It turned out she was offering me a huge lemon. What a lovely gesture of friendship. But then – apart from my two ‘friends’ in the Genoa bus, I do find Italians very friendly. I realised later there were lemon trees growing on many of the terraces.
The views back to Vernazza made the scramble worth while, though I do feel frustrated not to be able to do the whole trek, as I once would have.
Back in the village I peered in at a shop which sells fish and wine – the two traditional products of the area, but a funny combination. The young man explained he bought in the wine from local producers but that he and his father were fishermen.
Then I popped my head into the medieval church beside the harbour. Impressive but not charming. It feels more like a fortress than a church.
Now I’m waiting for the train to Manarola. There are about 2 dozen Japanese on the platform. I hope they are going further. Manarola is very small.
An hour later: surprisingly Manorala feels bigger than Vernazza and VERY steep. I have just climbed to the top of the village, again looking for a panoramic viewpoint. The trail was steep but easier to negotiate than at Vernazza. When I got to the (stunning) viewpoint, the rain got heavier, so I whipped my camera out and snapped without composing before descending back down to Manarola.
The main impression so far of the village is the height of the houses – at least five stories high – and the deafening noise of water. Everywhere streams were thundering down the vertical landscape, under houses and in channels under the road. After lunch (scampi gnocchi) I strolled along a path skirting along the foot of the cliffs where I had walked in the morning. The path has been made much easier for tourists. All the same I turned back , prudently, rather than walking to the next village.
Now I am awaiting my train back to Vernazza. The Japanese are here – except it turns out they are Korean, and there are 30 not 20!
I talked to a nice woman in the information/ tourist shop. She said in about a month they get inundated by tourists and this lasts till late autumn. It is hard sometimes to remain friendly and helpful, she said, but without tourism she would have to leave Manarola.
Back in Vernazza
I did one final explore. I climbed – I don’t know how many – steep steps up the hillside behind my b&b. I could not have contemplated this without the sturdy railings one finds everywhere. All the same I was glad of my stick on the way down (overtaken inevitably by two builders bounding down the steps with building materials on their shoulders). I had hesitated before undertaking this last sortie. Was it one trip too much? But it was worth seeing this different view of Vernazza, for which I already have a partisan preference.
My newly acquired fit its bracelet tells me that today I have walked 9 kilometres, taken over 12000 steps and climbed 44 floors. Wow! I feel very pleased with myself. Mysteriously my painful foot/ankle/leg decided to give me a break. Now I have just indulged in another good meal: prawn pasta followed by ice cream (couldn’t visit Italy without eating it once!) The other tables seem to be entirely American (discreet rather than loud).