First thing before you plan a hike in the Cinque Terre - check the weather. Second thing before you plan a hike in the Cinque Terre - check if any of the paths are closed. We dId the first but did not reckon on the second. So after the obligatory Via dell'Amore path between Riomaggiore and Manarola - where you encounter half the population of Tokyo taking pictures of each other and pay five euros for the privilege - we were told that the coastal path to Corniglia was closed due to a recent rockfall. Alternative route via Volastra. No problem except that Volastra is 335 metres above sea level (and you start at sea level) and by the time you get there you are sweating like a pig in the 27c temperature. Thoughtfully the Italians provide a drinking fountain gushing out cold spring water when you get to the hamlet of Volastra after you climb what must be more than a thousand uneven, unforgiving steps.
From Volastra the ground levels somewhat and the walking is incredibly scenic. In short you start enjoying yourself rather than questioning your mental faculties. The path meanders between steep vineyards and the views down to Manarola and Corniglia almost make up for the litres of sweat you lose on the way up. The steep downward trail to Corniglia isn't easy either as by that time your legs start feeling like jelly. It happened to me once before when I climbed down 999 steps in Nafplio in Greece, and pretty it isn't.
The only pity on this hike is that we did not have enough time for a swim beneath the sheer cliffs of Corniglia. Sadly we also missed out on Vernazza which is probably the most photogenic of the Cinque Terre villages. Bloody rockfalls.
The next day the going had to be a bit easier so we took a train to the picturesque village of Camogli. Camogli was a mercenary town of sorts and had "a thousand white sailing ships"; threw in its weight in various naval battles and (the brochures say) it once held off Napoleon's navy too. The ferry service to the Abbey of San Fruttuoso was still running so we finally had our swim in the best of places on a small shingle beach with the medieval abbazia as a backdrop.
San Fruttuoso is practically only accessible by sea as it's backed up by a very steep cliff (or you can trudge up and down hills to Camogli and you're there in three hours...). Strange place to build an abbey and a bit silly too; flash floods and rock falls made a havoc of the place as recently as 1915.
Still old Fruttuoso must have had a very good sense of aesthetics as he apparently chose this place to be buried - posthumously, in a vision to his worthy deacons who went by the equally suspicious names of Augurio and Eulogio. All this happened some time after 259 A.D. when Fruttuoso was martyred in Tarragon, Spain.