I was sweating. I was sweating in jeans and I didn’t like it.
Marco and I only had a day and a half to explore the Ligurian coast. We had dinner the night before in Santa Margherita and walked the forty minutes back to Rapallo, where we were based, afterward to enjoy the night and the sights. For the next day, we were planning on seeing the most famous of the nearby cities, Portofino and San Fruttuoso. Marco assured me he had it all planned.
We disembarked at Portofino, a tiny beautiful port that welcomes 80-foot yachts, Hollywood stars and rich Russian mobsters. A ring of brightly colored houses circled the main piazza that hugged the water and the few non-tourists that were there (aka rich regulars of the small port, since every one is a tourist there) sat, heads craned versus the sun, staring at the plebeian tourists over ridiculously expensive glasses of wine.
It was all lovely, until I started sweating.
See, somehow even while at the sea Marco managed to take me hiking. We go hiking often, so when Marco claimed he wanted to give me a sea getaway I expected sunshine, gelato and full relax. Yet there we were, climbing one high stair after another on a hill that seemed to go straight up from that beautiful, relaxing piazza with a ton of gelato options.
I didn’t know what he had planned and wasn’t dressed for the part so despite the beautiful surroundings – we often turned around to watch the little circle that is Portofino grow smaller and smaller, the view of the sea growing larger – I have to admit that I wasn’t immediately thrilled to be hiking.
It didn’t take long for me to start to appreciate the hike though. By then my jeans were already sweaty, my non-hiking shoes already broken in and I had already taken off my cover-up under the hot sun. Plus I had already bitched enough to get my point across: I don’t like sweating in jeans. But even I know that it’s impossible to worry about a bit of sweat with scenery like that!
We were hiking on one of the many trails in the Parco Naturale Regionale di Portofino, a large park along the Ligurian coast that protects the coastline and the extensive network of paths crossing wildlife areas and sea villages. Trails that were mostly created from ancient paved paths or dirt roads used to reach places of worship, to link various towns or to cultivate the land.
After a tough ascent, the path flattened out and colorful geckos skirted across the path as we walked through olive orchards, hills of wildflowers and with open air views of the sea. The path is well-marked, well-frequented and something completely accessible to everyone, no matter what shape or age. It’s listed as an hour and a half hike and we did ours in about two hours taking many photo breaks.
San Fruttuoso is most famous for its Christ of the Abyss, the submerged bronze statue off the rocky coasts of the small harbor, but for those uninterested in scuba diving, the black rock beach and beautiful views are reason enough to visit. There are no roads in San Fruttuoso and the only way to arrive is by boat. Unless, of course, you decide to walk.
You can hike there and back or decide to hike there and take the ferry back, like we did. The trail ends in San Fruttuoso, spitting you out at the Abbey, a medieval stronghold built by the Benedictines of Monte Cassino that now stands guard over the minuscule fishing village.
There we had sandwiches with genuine Ligurian pesto, fresh mozzarella and tomatoes and soaked up the warm May 1st sun while we could; enjoying it all the more after our hard work.
Though the hike initially seemed like only an inconvenience (but the beautiful movie stars come in their private yachts drinking champagne and wearing heels, not sweating and wheezing in jeans!) it ended up being the highlight of the trip. When traveling you can always come, see, take pictures, spend money and leave. Or you can try to live the experience and location, get involved and see the place from a different perspective, in our case a much higher, much sweatier, and much more satisfying perspective!