Sunday, April 26, 2015

Cinque Terre - What nobody is saying

Cinque Terre is gorgeous, no question. The pictures definitely do not lie. However, whenever I have
Luring you out of the train station
come across any mention of the path between the five cities, I have seen not one word of how rigorous and potentially dangerous that path is. As I mentioned at the time on Twitter, I can walk forfreakingever, and I did not expect the few kilometers on this path to pose any problem whatsoever.

Man, was I wrong. That fucking mountain almost did me in one more than one occasion.

We started the morning in a state of blissful delusion. Choosing a waterfront bistro for a snack around 11 am, since we hadn't eaten breakfast, planning to eat a big pasta lunch when we got to the next city.

I had a breakfast pastry and a cup of hot chocolate. It was cool and a bit chilly, cloudy with a breeze, as we sat on the covered deck. But we were both wearing layers and scarves, which we assumed would be more than enough once we started walking.

We thought the walk from the train station to the bistro was indicative of the path we'd be following
the rest of the way, slightly more than a gentle incline. Plus, we were already quite a bit above sea level, it didn't even occur to us that we'd be going a whole lot higher at a much steeper angle.

Again, we could not have been more wrong.

So. Much. Mud.
It is a difficult, rigorous climb with so much potential for disaster, and that potential was multiplied 
when it started raining. The dirt paths became slippery with mud and the rock steps an invitation to disaster.

We met many people on that path, quite a lot of them much younger than we are, using alpine walking sticks. About two hours in, I was darkly considering shoving one of them over a cliff and stealing their sticks as they went down.

I'm surprised they couldn't smell the desperation on me as they passed by. Or at least caught a glimpse of it in my eyes. But I didn't notice anyone looking at me warily, so it must have been well hidden.

The whole last twenty minutes or more, my legs were shaking. And there were still plenty of steps to navigate...

Finally got to Vernazza, grabbed something to eat at the
waterfront restaurant and then went to look at the very old church. It was definitely not one of the lavish specimens we'd grown used to on this trip. Very stark.

And it had one of the weirdest crucifixes I'd ever seen, with a really emaciated Jesus. Zoom in on it to the right of the altar to see what I mean.

Still, I was ready to give thanks just for surviving. I mean, my ankles turn when I'm just walking barefoot across a flat surface, I am seriously amazed I did not slip on those wet rocks or just fall right over one of the cliffs. Believe me, it is nothing short of miraculous.

At the beginning of this trip, my right knee would sometimes bother me, though not real often. After all the stairs, beginning in London, it would protest more often. For some reason, it hurts more going down, than up a flight of stairs.

Since Cinque Terre, my left knee has started its own protests. And it doesn't like going UP.


I now have one knee that doesn't like going up and one knee that REALLY doesn't like going down. I never really felt decrepit before this trip, but even the bones in my toes are now making their presence felt.

I don't think I've mentioned before, all of the stairs you need to climb in train stations. You have to first go down below the station, walk to your platform and then climb back up. With your suitcases.

And many of them have no elevators. Now that I think about it, I'm going to face stairs in metro stations, as well. In Paris, and back in London.

I'm so screwed.

I mean, I was getting older anyway, of course. I just didn't feel it as much before Cinque Terre. Or as often.

There were certainly nice views to be had. But not so many that it made the climb worth it.

After all, we could have just taken a train to Vernazza and taken photos from there.

And then I wouldn't have had to deal with slippery steps...

...or potentially deadly narrow paths with no guardrails.

And please remember, there were people coming from the opposite direction, as well.

Some of the steps were almost completely vertical.

Cinque Terre is fabulous. Even when it's stormy.

But I do not have fond memories of it. And the kicker is, I paid over 12 bucks to torture myself there.


  1. I've seen many steep, narrow, twisty, slippery...what I would call potentially dangerous...paths that locals easily bound up and down. I like to think I'm not an Ugly American, but I sometimes think I must be an out of shape one. ;)

    1. I know, me too. But the one thing I can do is walk, I walked 14 miles on my last full day in London. All these years, I've pictured those Cinque Terre paths as having gentle inclines, so it never occurred to me that I wouldn't be able to handle it. No one ever says that you could be climbing a mountain in the rain, so I thought I should just mention it. :)


We welcome all comments, questions, observations and requests. Oh, and when you see "No Comments', it just means there aren't any yet, not that you can't make one. Click on Post a Comment, or just type in the comment box if you see it, and tell us what you're thinking!