Cinque Terre.      Corniglia – Manarola – Riomaggiore.

On our final day the plan was to complete the Cinque Terre walk but Tren Italia workers had other ideas and called a strike., fortunately a rather soft one – from 9am to 5pm. So with an extra early start we were in Corniglia just after 8am at the base of those 382 zigzag steps we had descended a few days ago. There is a sign at the bottom advertising a pharmacy at the top – ?oxygen. Once at the top we were ready for some breakfast in one of the  cafes in the little square of this rather strange promontory village. The coastal path has been destroyed so we take the higher route over the headlands via Volastra, this involves some fairly stiff climbing up stone steps. There are some great views back down to Corniglia to take our minds off the task. Most of this area is devoted to vines with stone walls supporting terraces down the steep hillsides. Any grapes grown here involved arduous work over the centuries. In recent years a type of rack rail has been installed for transport on the slopes, it all looks very precarious. No wonder the wine tastes good. The day is perfect with hot sunshine and blue skies and this section of the walk is relatively quiet. Soon we are descending steeply into Manarola with its busy streets above the harbour. The bar I chose for a light lunch of bruschetta and tomato has the only miserable waitress seen all week. From here to Riomaggiore the famous Via Dell’Amore clinging to the cliffs has also been destroyed by landslides so once again we haul ourselves  [literally in parts]  up steep steps. The place has suddenly become very popular with all sorts of humanity struggling along the trail. The drop into Riomaggiore is just as steep and we are hot and sweaty by the time we reach it. A swim in the stony bay round the corner is first priority and a lazy lie on the beach to dry off in the sun. There is time to explore the higher narrow streets of the village before going through the tunnel to catch a train back, now the strike is over.

In the evening we enjoy a rather over elaborate and expensive meal in a hilltop restaurant, La Ruota, the free Grappa at the end reminding me with a headache for the journey back to England the next day. It has been great to be back in Italy and this area is certainly spectacular if over touristy. I would like to return, alone or with a couple of friends, and explore some of the quieter coastal paths and the routes going into the hills inland.

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