The Ligurian coast can be a bit frustrating in a motorhome, and having left Deiva Marina heading for Rapallo and Portofino we couldn’t find anywhere to stop despite searching for quite a while, other than campsites which were either closed for the season and/or very expensive. So we gave up and headed on eventually finding a nice though crowded spot in San Rocco. With just a couple of spaces available we headed for the flattest and tightest spot where an Italian kindly guided us back in then preceded to ask us questions before looking crestfallen when he realised we couldn’t speak Italian. Undeterred we eventually worked out with a bit of pointing and his broken English (which was better than our Italian) that he was asking to borrow a screw driver as he had locked his keys in his garage. Luckily we did and after battering his lock (we had a hammer as well) we managed to get him in to retrieve his keys, by which point another Italian had appeared offering advice and pointing out to that he had done the exact same thing happily showing off his own damaged lock.
After all the drama of both our search and the lock a brew was called for before an early evening walk into San Rocco, which we knew nothing about and which turned out to be a pretty little village on the edge of the Parco Naturale Regionale di Portofino above Camogli and the beginning of several hiking routes through the park of which 2 were routes to the Abbey At San Fruttuoso which sits isolated in a little bay on the coast. We had struck lucky with our parking choice and a plan was forming (as much as we ever plan that is).
Sunday morning saw us heading back into the town intending to hike to the Abbey, both of us deciding against walking boots as it would be too hot for boots so walking sandals it was!! ( we will revisit this decision later). We did however pack a flask and some snacks for the walk, luckily. In San Rocco we had 2 options – an easier 2 hr walk inland or a 2.5 hr harder walk around a coastal path, which of course we opted for (better views, less insects). The path wound out through the village passing houses perched on the side of the hills with little or no access other than a narrow path, many with large orange nets hung out underneath their olive trees waiting to catch falling fruits. Walking by, thinking about the practicalities of living in a place like this and how you could ever move furniture in or anything big and heavy for that matter was beyond us but maybe the fabulous views are compensation enough? As we came to the end of the village the made up path became a rough foot worn meander working up though beautiful country offering fabulous coastal views and up into the hills along the coast, requiring a little bit of care under foot.
About 45 minutes in we came across Batteria Chiappa a restored WWII coastal battery built by the Italians but later taken over by the German Army before being abandoned, and after a look around a coffee was in order before continuing our journey. Now as you rejoin the path on leaving the Batteria you are greeted with a warning sign which is effectively your last chance to turn back before heading off into the hard part of the walk, with talk of death and difficulty and instructions on how to get help if something happens on the route and confirming your next of kin know of the whereabouts of your last will and testament. Sign duly read and noted we headed on into the abyss.
Well I have done harder walks but not in walking sandals and the onward path is full of vertical drops, narrow rocky gullies, steep climbs and descents including some where you are literally hanging on to a chain walking across a 6” ledge above a vertical drop with the rock face often polished smooth over the years of use. All that said the safety chains are excellent and the route well marked both for direction and safety information. Onwards we went climbing scrabbling and scrambling stopping regularly to look at the view before after around 45mins we came out onto a high rocky outcrop to see an inlet to a bay below us, however it wasn’t long before we realised it wasn’t the bay we were headed for!
No that required another long descent down almost to the bay before climbing back up and over another very high ridge the other side. That meant time to sit, soak up the views and consume the last of our coffee and our snacks in the 25C + sunshine before continuing on, both wondering about our choice of quality hiking footwear. Had it been hotter it would have been very uncomfortable and we would like to point out you shouldn’t try this at home without suitable equipment and supervision 😉
The climb back down was interesting, at times difficult and demanding but fun none the less. On the way we passed a group of 4 Italians sitting down looking utterly exhausted (which made us feel a little fresher) although they had made worse choices than us for the walk, thick jeans, jumpers, fleeces and even a coat! As we reached the bottom we could see the next climb up – a steep gully stretching several hundred feet above us before we could top the ridge and begin our climb down to the bay at San Fruttuoso. As we climbed higher and higher we started getting slower and slower, stopping frequently for a breather. Then feeling utterly elated, we were at the top and almost immediately we could hear people laughing and the lovely cool blue sea lapping the shore still hundreds of feet below us. The route down was no less challenging than the climb up other than it was down rather than up, a steep winding rocky path with smaller drops and climbs in between still requiring constant concentration to avoid a fall and certain injury.
At last through the trees we could see the beach full of sun bathers (who mostly caught a boat in) then we were on steps and down heading straight for the bar before changing our minds and booking our place on a boat back to ensure we got one. Our plan had been to take the shorter 2hr walk back but this had been kicked into the long grass as soon as we got down, feeling completely exhausted and not wanting to risk injury by attempting another challenging walk back when already so tired. Then it was straight to the bar to grab a couple of cans each and secure a place on the beach for a couple of hours to drink them in the warm afternoon sun and have a paddle in the sea which looked so inviting. All too soon the last boat pulled in and we duly climbed aboard for the 15 minute ride back to Camogli, as we sailed around the coast looking at the impossible terrain we had just scrambled over we felt both happy and weary.
Leaving the boat we still had time for a short walk around Camogli which proved to be a sheer delight bustling and lively in the early evening sun with it’s pretty harbour and taller than normal buildings, busy bars and restaurants. Before long the sun was going down and we still had a 30 minute walk back up a steep hill to San Rocco and Buzz. It was a slow weary walk that seemed never ending and we were both flagging and dragging our aching feet. About half way up we came across a young boy selling Cachi from his garden gate. Cachi is a type of Persimmon and funnily enough we had seen them in the shops and had been meaning to try them, so much to his delight we stopped and bought one for a whole 50 cents including a plastic plate and a leaf. We gave him the plate back and carried on, having the Cachi (pronounced Kaki in Italian) after dinner and it was delicious and sweet, tasting like honey flavoured custard, so much so we wished we had bought more.
So ended a tiring day full of beautiful scenery, hard but enjoyable hiking (sandals aside), a restful couple of hours, delightful boat ride back and a new taste sensation tried and approved. Once again we went to bed exhausted but happy.