The trail from Manarola to Corniglia is unpaved, rocky, and pretty rigorous. It’s also practically vertical in spots, making us very grateful for our good shoes and middle-aged stamina. There were some pretty miserable tourists spotted along the way in a variety of unsuitable footwear, undoubtably encouraged after the tame Via della Amore. The Travel Gods saw these folks coming. I’m not sure which was worse, the gold ballet slippers that were already in tatters half way there with a tearful teenager looking at the ripped soles, or the 5-inch cork platform sandals that were attached to legs clad in the shortest mini I’ve seen in a while. All this was under a pouty-face that obviously didn’t expect to be dragged here. The middle-aged guy this bit of arm-candy was with deserved every snide comment she gave him.
I wasn’t in much better shape. I was trying to catch my breath at that point after a particularly grueling climb, and was getting the idea that the antibiotics I brought weren’t doing much for this ear infection. Oooh – look at that wildflower plant. Good thing I’m easily distracted.
The area between Corniglia and Manarola is apparently known for its wildflowers and flower cultivation higher in the mountain. The locals make perfume from the oils they press. They also make a pretty good honey, from what I’ve heard, from the bees that are lucky enough to live there. I decided I had to try it – once I got to the town! IF I got to the town…
The trail takes about 2 hours to complete, and your reward is arriving at the Corniglia train station with your quads, hamstrings and glutes screaming for mercy. That’s when Vlad decided to spring on me that I would now have to climb up almost 400 stairs to reach the town itself. He’s lucky he wasn’t pushed over the side. Being an intelligent man who can read eye-signals, he immediately saved himself by suggesting the bus. Inspired.
At the top, the bus decants you out at what looks like a part car-park and part square. The main part of the town is below this area, which seemed perfect to me. That is until I realized it was straight down – about 78 degrees worth. We trudged down the steps and are rewarded with some pretty cool sights. You can really see how well the locals use the arable land on the mountainsides. Everything is terraced and used for growing yummy things. The amateur gardener in me was impressed!
The steep climb back up the steps was relieved only by a few seconds to duck into a small shop and pick up a jar of that honey I’ve heard about. That was all the rest I was allowed. I followed Vlad up the rest of the steps, cursing quietly. Once we reached the top, it was decided by mutual consent that we both needed some lunch and a beer. I really needed that beer – purely for analgesic purposes, you understand…
Suitably fortified by a lunch of deep-fried anchovies and an Italian lager, I was now ready to tackle the 400 steps down. It wasn’t bad at all, and the views were fabulous. I was SO glad we didn’t climb up, though. I saw several brave tourists going up that were hanging onto the rails and gasping at various stages, and they did not look very happy. That did it for me. Once down to the bottom of the steps, it was Train Time back to Riomaggiore. After all, we had the steep climb to get to the hotel ahead of us once we got there, or so I argued. I’m good at rationalization when I have to be.
After a few days of this, I certainly hope to have the best looking buns in the neighborhood. Hey – – I gotta come out of this with SOMETHING tangible.