Today I went once again to San Fruttuoso, this time to take the kids to the beach there. Phil was nice enough to ride the ferry with them and meet me so I could take one last hike before he leaves again for the States on Sunday. My original intention was to take the same trail I hiked last week, but when I got to the turning point, I decided to try another route to see what could be seen. I ended up traipsing along a gorgeous, mostly flat, ridgeline that hugged the coast. Quite happy with myself, I had Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken going through my head. “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — (insert chest thumping here) I took the one less traveled by.”
A bit further along, I faced another choice between connecting back onto the trail from last week or once again taking the unknown route. The sign for the new route said, “Sestieri e molto impegnativo.” I understood the first part of the sentence – “The trails are very…” But I was stumped on impegnativo, which was clearly the critical word in the sentence.
Don’t hike if you’ve been impregnated? Don’t hike as part of a procession reenacting the Nativity?? I had no idea, but I decided to go ahead on the basis of three things:
- I am not pregnant.
- I am not part of a Nativity procession.
- I assumed that the sentence did NOT mean, “The trails are very likely to lead you to an untimely death.”
Besides, given that I’m in pretty good shape, it couldn’t be that much more difficult than the other trail right?
Well, yes. Yes it could.
About five minutes after passing the point of no return, I ran into two Italian guys who told me, in Italian, that they had just seen Cinghiale — wild boar (read: ferocious pigs) along the trail and to be careful. Here again, my limited Italian hindered me because I couldn’t ask, “What does one do if one encounters a Cinghiale?” I know what you are supposed to do if you run into a bear, a mountain lion etc, but my wilderness training did not include Cinghiale. I knew I should have packed my Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook. I tried to recollect having read anything about wild boar, but all I can come up with is a faint memory of something to do with preventing yourself from being suffocated by a boa constrictor. Not all that helpful here.
After that, I’d get jumpy every time I heard a rustling noise of any kind (which was often). Then I ran into the chains – bolted into the rock wall to give you something to hang onto in order to avoid plunging to your death off the cliff face. (TIP: If you ever hike this trail, make sure to test the chains first to see how hot they are before you stake your life on them. Those suckers are metal, and they sit in the hot sun all afternoon. Best to know what you’re dealing with before FIRST scalding your hand and THEN plunging to your death…)
The chains seemed to go on forever. On one especially tricky section, I realized I’d let my guard down about the Cinghiale. Probably not a good idea since Cinghiale would almost certainly launch an attack at the very moment you were hanging onto the chains for dear life, right?. The fact that there was animal scat all over the trail did little to ease my mind.
At last there were no more chains. But I was not able to celebrate because by then I realized I’d only just begun the
long, steep ascent over the mountain separating me from the abbey and the beach. I climbed up a series of the most excruciating switchbacks I’ve encountered since the Grand Canyon. By this time, I was cursing myself and the decision to take The Road Less Traveled. Obviously there’s a reason why nobody travels that path – perhaps because it broils under the peak of the afternoon sun? At one point, I was leaning so far forward to compensate for the steepness I was almost parallel to the ground. I told myself that if I did not get a glimpse of the abbey soon I would surely keel over and die. Then the Cinghiale would come and feast on my rotting flesh, so that by the time anyone found me up here they’d only be able to identify me with my dental records.
But survive I did. The reward was a refreshing swim with the kids and taking the ferry back home – the way normal people travel.
We capped the day with a fantastic meal of fresh tagliatelle from the Pasta Fresca down the way. The sauce? Cinghiale ragu of course…
P.S. Turns out “Impegnativo” roughly translates to “difficult.” A bit of an understatement if you ask me…Categories: Italy, Travel · Tags: Cinghiale, Hiking, Italian Riviera, Italy, Parco di Portofino, Portofino Promontory, Robert Frost, San Fruttuoso, The Road Not Taken, Travel, Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook