By Nadav Soroker
VOLASTRA, Italy – Hiking Cinque Terre sounds like a great idea, an understatement in reality, but it definitely doesn’t feel like it coming up the hill from Manarola, the second of the five towns in the national park along Italy’s western coast. Every view you see of the terraces of grapes and vegetables and olives spilling down the hillside beneath you, over small stone shacks with shadow blackened doorways, is gorgeous. However, you spend your time looking at the next step to come, wiping sweat from your eyes and cursing the more fit, middle-aged Australian banking couple on holiday who are putting you to shame. Even worse is how nice they are about it all, and well informed too of the apparent 1,400 steps we are hiking up.
I am not convinced that any sane person would actually have anything to do with this ancient, god-forsaken path until I see a sun-browned figure off to the left in one of the olive terraces fixing a wooden stake fence. That luckily means we are close to Volastra, the peak of our efforts and where the trail levels out. Almost immediately we struggle into the tight alleyway leading up into the town where we dead end into a small foot path with a fountain, a defibrillator for the less hardy, and a blessed market shop blowing cool air and proudly displaying a fridge with a selection of drinks and water bottles the size of a large cat.
Two lovely ladies, who might be angels, staff the small delicatessen counter and collectively speak about zero English – not that you would expect them to – but fully understand our desperate panting and flushed red faces. A hike well worth the effort, though If I was less exhausted I would buy some of the delicious olives waiting in big bowls in the counter.
Instead, we proceed to enjoy the most delicious beverage of our trip to date: water from a cheap plastic bottle to replace the sweat pouring from our brows and down our backs, as we look down at the small town of Manarola where we started, now way off in the distance.