Corniglia to Manerola, Cinque Terre, Italy
The path to Manerola began in the village, and then went up, up, up . . . up. We had spotted the 45-minute trail sign when entering the village. We ambled through the village to see its sights, fortified ourselves with a healthy dose of caffeine, and were up and raring to go on our first hike in Cinque Terre. We spotted a sign for our destination, Manerola, and blithely started bounding up the steps.
The terrain was fascinating. Ancient vineyards and olive groves clung to the steep hillsides, held by stone terraces, called schiattiati. These were built by hand by farmers centuries ago, and to this day are maintained by them. No machinery here. Transportation to market is by foot. The path was a series of narrow, rough stone steps and pathways formed by stones of every shape sunk partway into the dirt on the edge of narrow bands of cultivation. We were literally walking on the terrace walls alternating with narrow stone steps from one terrace to another.
Forty minutes into the hike we were getting higher and higher, with no village in sight. We encountered returning hikers and they without mercy informed us that we had two more hours to go! Mistakenly, we had taken the mountain route! My soul was singing, so filled I was with the magnificent views. My thighs, calves, knees and feet were screaming for leniency. There was only one thing to do, and that was for M and P to keep on Treking.
At long last, we spotted our destination, Manerola, sprawled languidly on a bluff above the ocean. Below us was the clear azure sea. Hope restored! Soon, we were sitting on a beachfront deck with our shoes off and our feet up, sipping chilled Cinque Terre wine.