If you want to accompany us on the last stage of our Ligurian hill walk, you’d better be ready for some serious climbing
In our most recent post, (perhaps a little misguiding) headlined The Five Walks of Finale Ligure, we ultimately gave you only three: a beach promenade, a stroll through the historical centre, and a short hike to the fortress that looms over the Old Town.
Today, we are taking it further from there, cranking the “stamina levels” up to numbers four and five, and after we have already left my 89-year-old mother, our tired family retainer and the teenage version of our son way behind, the moment has finally arrived to separate the man from the wife.
Leading to the grand finale in hiking Finale Ligure
Stamina level four: Castel Gavone. A short and sweet walk, with something interesting to see at the end – perfect for Mrs. Easy Hiker.
From the Castello San Giovanni, a stone path leads you gently up the hill …
… and, soon enough, a little deeper into the woods …
… until you arrive at a little fork in the road where you have to turn left (uphill). This is the path straight up to the Castel Gavone …
… which is another impressive piece of military architecture, but one that is a lot older than the San Giovanni and, in parts at least, dates back to the Middle Ages. (One of the main reasons for the construction of the lower-lying San Giovanni fortress was, in fact, the need to keep the Castel Gavone out of the range of hostile artillery fire.) Unfortunately, when the Genoese took over the area in the 17th century, they decided to raze the fortress – a symbolic act, presumably, to emphasize that the ancien regime no longer called the shots.
From the castle, return (downhill) to the main trail and continue for a few hundred meters until you reach Perti, a tiny hamlet built around the medieval church of San Eusebio.
There is not much to see or to do in Perti, but there is a restaurant on the small hill right opposite the church where you can have a short rest before you return to Finale. Thinking back, this is what we should have done, too. But you know what they say about hindsight.
Stamina level five: The Rocca di Perti. On balance, I probably should have done this alone.
If you want to continue beyond Perti, you will have to find the red-and-white trail markers first. This is a little like a game of “where’s Wally” (aka “Waldo” in the US) . Can you spot them?
The difficulties, at any rate, do not end here. I have to warn you: the last section of the trail goes, after a short “prologue” in the flat …
…pretty much all the way up.
This grand finale of our hiking up the Ligurian hills is not alpine climbing, obviously, but you will need to watch your step and constantly scan the path in search of large rocks strong enough to support your next move up the hill, in effect always planning your route a couple of steps ahead and more than once reaching out for a tree trunk or an overhanging branch to steady you and to give you halt. Fortunately, there are plenty of those around since the woods on this slope are in parts as dense as the Amazonian forests.
Mrs. Easy Hiker was not amused. “Why are you doing this to me?” she inquired, in the tone of a woman in childbirth who has retraced the chain of events which have led to her predicament and identified the culprit. The last time we had a similar falling out over my choice of hiking trail was during our ascent to Eze Village when, unable to hold me responsible for the general direction of the trail (steeply uphill, that is), she decided that I was to blame for the fact that she was not wearing the right kind of shoes. (What would have been the right kind of shoe for her on that day? One with wings on, presumably.)
In her defense, Mrs. Easy Hiker has been a brave and loyal companion many times and, over the years, developed a genuine appreciation of hiking. There are, however, two important provisos. One is that the hikes must not be too long and strenuous, which is fair enough, and second that there must be something interesting to see along the way or, at the very least, at the end.
This does not altogether sound unreasonable either, although I myself have always liked walking for its own sake – the gentle pace of the change in landscape, the rhythm of feet hitting ground, even the exhaustion at the end of a long day. But perhaps it’s me who is the eccentric here. To her, walking for walking’s sake is, essentially, an exercise in absurdity – particularly if you have to duck overhanging tree branches.
Thankfully, I have learnt over the years how to distract and amuse her. “There is a cave at the top of the trail”, I promised, having seen the Italian sign pointing to a “cava”. “A wonderful, miraculously beautiful cave. Look! We’re almost there – I can see it already!”
In the end, of course, there was no cave. The Italian word for cave is “cavo”, as I have since found out. A “cava” is a quarry, and that, in short, was all there was.
Our marriage, at any rate, has survived this latest crisis, and we are already planning our next mountain hike on the Ligurian coast – for the winter of 2016. We’ll keep you posted!