It’s time to hike another trail in the Cinque Terre, this time from my little village of San Bernardino down to Vernazza via the Sanctuary of the Madonna of Reggio. It’s another high trail, only recently reopened, as it passes across the valley where most of the landslides occurred in the 2011 floods.
Leaving San Bernardino the trail leads almost immediately into a cluster of houses ( Seroa) and it’s easy to think you may be walking into someone’s private space. Women lounge out of their windows, catching up on the gossip, and welcome me through indicating where the trail continues.
That’s not without a question or two as to where I’m from …. “Ahhh you’re in Tin’s old house, well well, he was the boss around here in the old days! Long gone now though.”
I leave them chatting and continue, past a well tended vegie patch and old stone cottage and on into the woods. Most of the trail is in the shade, which makes a nice change, in parts it crosses some tiny streams and every so often the woods open up to vineyards and farm houses. A stray, out of season, poppy waves in the breeze alongside other wildflowers and exotic looking mushrooms, probably poisonous, have struggled up through the undergrowth.
Curiously wire gates block the trail leading through the vineyards, as defence against the wild boar who dig up roots and create a lot of damage to the vineyards and to the Nationa park in general. The gates appear to block the way, but are simply latched at the top, to let you through and need to be closed properly behind you so the wild boar are kept out.
After the vineyards the trail follows the road, takes another turn or two and then leads down to the shade of the Sanctuary of the Madonna del Reggio. Built in the 11th Century, legend has it that the image of the Madonna was brought from the Orient at the time of the first crusade and it is likely the church is built over a more ancient one.
Locals are very attached to the Sanctuary and particularly enjoy the festival in August when a procession leaves from Vernazza for the Holy Mass followed by a great village picnic. Another excuse for a party!
From here the path down to Vernazza is mostly paved, since it was used as a Via Dolorosa and at various stops along the way you can still see some of the Stations of the Cross. In fact it was one of the first paths repaired after the flood, because of its importance to the locals and its general popularity.
Besides I could admire my little village from another angle and appreciate its beauty even more!