We must have averaged just over one kilometre an hour today to reach Corniglia from Manarola. Google reckons the 5.7 km hike should take about two hours. Bite your arse Google.
While I was finally driven to dropping the F-bomb on the rubbly ankle-busting track heading down to Corniglia, overall it’s a stunning walk.
Like dozens of others we left Manarola at about 11am to tackle the hike in the heat of the day. For the first half hour it was fabulous. A steep but energising ascent through the village and then onto paths trailing up through grapevines. Gorgeous views of Manarola dropping further down into the valley were matched by a sparkling blue sea and turquoise shoreline. Corniglia perched on its outcrop along the coast, deceptively close.
Once Manarola disappeared we turned onto a hot winding track up to the village Volastra. Like novices we skulled the last of our water. As we tottered past dry olive groves, I started hallucinating that the furled olive harvest nets were hammocks. Quick rests under trees and on stone walls plus half a nut cream pastry from breakfast kept me going for a bit. Laressa helped me lift my head when my neck seized up while I sought refuge lying in her lap. The heat, our empty water bottles and the endless steps were getting to me. Finally, we entered Volastra. We’d been going about an hour. Google said one kilometre.
A couple who had queried after my welfare while we were taking one of our breaks spotted us from the top of the path. “Ice cream,” they pointed to the corner shop.
The shopkeeper loaded us with Powerade, plums and Magnums and promised Corniglia was a mere hour away on a flat track.
I topped up our water bottles at the village drinking fountain. Interestingly, the niche for the fountain also housed a defibrillator. Hmmmm.
We downed the ice creams like sword swallowers before finding benches outside the church to take nana naps.
The track indeed became flat for a few kilometres as it contoured around the hillsides through old grapevines.
We saw Corniglia below us in the distance but the track kept going high above and past it, an unnerving feeling. Our hotel phoned to check we were still on the way. Finally, we started the descent. Down and down and down. We tried to convey hope to hikers ascending but probably failed. At last we reached the church. Our hotel owner came to meet us and five hours after we started we crashed on the bed in the cool stonewalled room.
Don’t let me put you off. Corniglia is a gorgeous maze of alleys and friendliness. Tomorrow we head to Vernazza. Further away according to Google but everyone says, it’s a breeze, a simple 1.5 hour trek. Sweet.