To reach the trail, follow the stream of tourists down the mountain from the crowded parking lot at Bocca di Larone. In the curve you'll probably overlook the entrance to the trail, especially if there's a caravan parked in front of it (and there will be a caravan parked in front of it). It's textbook inconspicuous. There's no sign, just a path leading into the scrubby mastic trees.
This shady, gentle path lures all manner of sandal-wearing tourists in bathing suits or pretty pastel summerwear. Nothing in our guidebook actually warns us to wear proper hiking shoes, but we're no dummies. After 30-40 minutes of tramping through the woods, you'll notice the terrain gets rocky, then rockier, then so rocky that you shouldn't go on if you're wearing twelve-year-old flipflops and pastel summerwear.
There is one particularly perilous crawl over an enormous boulder. If you slipped and fell off, you'd break your neck. And I guess that's your choice. But maybe you shouldn't take your six-year-old child over it if he is--I can't say this enough--wearing flipflops and has never climbed over a perilous boulder before. This trail wins the prize for no information about how dangerous it is. I suppose the authorities rely on tourists using common sense. My tip: Wear hiking shoes and lean into the mountain when you're climbing over boulders. Don't jump from one foothold to the next. Those crazy people who run down rocky descents at breakneck speed have been doing it so long that they know every pebble in their way. It just takes one turn, one snap of the ankle to ruin your holiday. And now I sound like your mother.Your mother is a sensible person.
If you're daring, though, and you're wearing the right shoes the rewards are nice. The trail leads into a canyon with lots of pools and serene hideaways. One of these in particular (on the right) was so peaceful and airy, I wanted to stay there all day. It was like a cathedral with a massive wall of stone on one side and the woods on the other. The light was as refreshing as the trickling water and the crisp air. I could spend the rest of my--
"Move along," Iggy barks. This eerily serene place sadly isn't our destination. We're headed to the next pool, not too far away, where a dozen tourists are already splashing around in the water--which is the opposite of serene. It's a popular place to swim and jump from the cliffs. We join hikers of all ages and abilities crawling up and inching down sheer cliffs: a few with pretty white trousers and dirt all over their behinds from scooting down cliffs they didn't expect, risk-loving teenagers climbing higher and higher to jump into the pool below from the most dangerous spot possible, their parents screaming at them to come down from there right now as they do back flips into the crystal-clear water, so crystal clear in fact that it's impossible to guage how far below the water the massive boulders are.
Then the canyoners come--groups of Italians using the waterfall as a slide. It looks fairly safe, but there's this bump at the end that surprises everyone but me after a couple times. It's kind of fun to watch their expression change from exhiliration to ow-I-wasn't-expecting-that--all twenty of them. Some chiropractor in Italy's making a lot of soldi this week.
This is paradise, but you'll hear the occasional helicopter coming to the rescue of a hiker who's twisted his ankle or slid off a boulder.
I must be off,
Christopher Allen is the editor at SmokeLong Quarterly. His debut flash fiction collection is Other Household Toxins. Allen's fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in [PANK], Indiana Review, Juked, FRiGG, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts and others. Read his book reviews in Necessary Fiction, The Lit Pub, Fiction Southeast and others. In 2017 Allen was both a finalist (as translator) and semifinalist for The Best Small Fictions. He lives somewhere in Europe--for now.