So yesterday was my first full day in Manarola, and after arriving late the night before, my plan was to get up early and have a swim before breakfast. Unsurprisingly, that didn’t happen. Instead I got up late-ish at 8.30 and headed downstairs for a hostel breakfast. The plan for the day was to tackle the first of the two open sections of the Sentierro Azzuro walking trail in the Cinque Terre, so I headed down the hill to the train station and caught a train to the next town over, Corniglia. Since it sits on top of a cliff, it’s the only town of the Cinque Terre that’s inaccessible by sea, so from the station I took the bus up to the city centre and had a look around before filling my water bottle and starting towards the trail.
(Before I forget, I had a beautiful ‘moment’ in Corniglia. I got talking to a Dutch au pair working in La Spezia, and when she commented that she should go, as she had to be in Riomaggiore in an hour, I suggested we check when the next train was first. We then headed into a bar, where I asked the bartender in Italian when the next train was, translated the answer into English, and then posed her follow-up question regarding buses, again in Italian. Afterwards she looked at me wide-eyed. “Do you speak Italian too?” No...I really don’t...but I’m getting jolly good at pretending!)
Anyway, I was a little surprised at being the only person headed for the trail to Vernazza, town no. 4, but I quickly fell into company with an American woman called Joan at the head of the trail. An equally slow walker, we both justified all our rest stops and motivated each other in equal measure, laughing at the impractically-dressed people climbing in bikinis or just plain shirtless. It was hard climbing to begin with, and very hot work as the sun blazed overhead, but we were rewarded for our efforts. We had some stunning views of Corniglia on the cliff behind us, and then beautiful vistas out to sea as we approached Vernazza from behind.
Descending into the centre of town, I plonked down at a harbourside restaurant and made short work of a Caprese salad and a cold Fanta. Of course I managed to befriend the Dutch family next to me, and the wife wound up writing me directions for her favourite bar in Granada, because of course she used to live there! A quick change of clothes in the restaurant toilet and I hit the pebbly beach of Vernazza, ready to wash off the sweat of my climb. The water was lovely and cool, a welcome change from high-30s temperatures, and when I was done I pulled on my shorts and joined the queue for the ferry back to Manarola, where a quiet dinner at an old favourite restaurant awaited me.
Today I had a quiet day, after the frenetic energy of yesterday. It’s hard getting out of bed in these humid temperatures, so I rose late, had breakfast in town and caught the train to Riomaggiore. I ambled around for a while in the town – which is pretty similar to Manarola, in most respects - and along the harbour, watching the locals swimming and splashing around, before grabbing some lunch and following it up with gelato by the water. I jumped on the boat back to Manarola again, but high winds meant that the boat couldn’t pull in at Manarola harbour, and instead I got a free ride all the way to Vernazza again! A train was imminent, though, so I bought a ticket and then walked back to the hostel from Manarola station.