1400 stairs and a room with view

By Nadav Soroker

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The small town of Groppo nestles into the hills above Manarola, one of the five villages that make up Cinque Terre or “The Five Lands,” a UNESCO world heritage site on the Liguria coast of Italy. Photo 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.

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The trail that leads from Manarola to Corniglia, two of the five villages of Cinque Terre, ascends a steep incline of allegedly 1,400 steps up to the small town of Volastra, passing small stone buildings, terraced vineyards and olive gardens along the way. Photo by Nadav Soroker

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.

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Across from the fountain and the defribulator that welcome hikers into Volastra is another type of salvation: small market that offers bottled water, soft drinks, fresh fruit, and traditional deli offerings like meats, cheeses, and olives. Photo by Nadav Soroker

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.

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Filed under Cinque Terre, MU Journalism Abroad, Science ad Agricultual Journalism, Uncategorized

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