All of my trips to Italy have found me far from Cinque Terra, but I really want to go. This is a beautiful post on the beauty that still awaits me.
I've got to be honest, I woke up this morning and my legs are still burning from hiking the trails yesterday. Although it offered me a beautiful perspective of Cinque Terre, I am feeling really grateful that today I will see the rest of the towns by train.
I woke up bright and early and decided on Riomaggiore as my first heading. Wanda, my host, left me an adorable little bag with my breakfast to enjoy in my room or on the go. I quickly drank the freshly squeezed orange juice and nibbled on some of the most beautifully red colored melon, and I was on my way. (I stayed in the old part of Monterosso al Mare, and really feel that it is the best location to stay in Cinque Terre. You are super close to the train, but in the best way, you feel miles away.)
Within minutes of sitting down on the train, we had already reached our first stop. Riomaggiore felt a bit smaller than the towns that I had visited yesterday, but it was very cute, and very colorful. It definitely had that postcard picture look and feel.
The best way to experience each of the towns that make up Cinque Terre is to wander. Wander around each tiny little street, wander into shops, wander in search of the most colorful house, and definitely wander for some gelato. Just wander and you will experience all that Cinque Terre has to offer.
After a walk around town (you could easily spend an hour or less), I caught the train to Manarola. When I arrived in Manarola I was again greeted by a cheery colorful town. Honestly, the colorful homes set against the sea never gets old, they are all so beautiful. Everything feels so peaceful and yet lively and interesting all at the same time. Cinque Terre is truly a gem to visit.
In Manarola, there are a couple of different coastal walkways that you can take to get different views of the town. I walked them all, and found that they did each offer a slightly different vantage point. (However now looking through my pictures, the differences seem only slight. But regardless, it was very enjoyable to walk them all.)
The main street is lined with cute little stores and restaurants...which brings me to my next adventure. I had a restaurant in mind for lunch today, Trattoria dal Billy. I hadn’t noticed it during my original wander around town, so I stopped and asked someone where it was. In Italian, the man laughed and said, "lady, you need to climb the mountain."
I kind of chuckled to myself and started upwards (as I knew he probably was not kidding). While it wasn't all the way up the mountain, it was quite a ways. And if you didn't know that you were looking for this restaurant, you definitely wouldn't go this far up just for the fun of it. Regardless of the journey, it was worth every step, and in fact, turned out to be my best meal yet in Italy.
I showed up just before service started and they kindly welcomed me in, offering me the pick of the tables. I chose the only table outside; just one little table on a little terrace overlooking the town and sea.
I ordered the local white wine and mixed seafood appetizer to start. I don't have any clue what my expectation was, but it was blown out of the water when my 12 course antipasti showed up. Each bite more delicious than the last - from a squid ink crepe, to panelle, crudo, clams, arancini...each bite was perfectly prepared, executed and seasoned.
For my main course, I asked the waitress what her favorite dish was, and without hesitation, she answered, the squid ink pasta with mixed seafood. Equally without hesitation, I decided to go with that.
One word. Unbelievable. Everything about this dish was just right. Have you ever heard someone say that something "tastes like the sea?" Well, I completely get that now. Yes! It did taste like the sea! Fresh seafood piled high on top of amazingly delicate homemade squid ink pasta, all lightly dressed in some sort of secret sauce (of which I am still dreaming about and trying to figure out). Perfection.
I wasn't planning on dessert, but since I had yet to try the local Passito, Schiachetrà, and everything had been so amazing, I decided to order the Passito with cantuccini cookies (little baby biscotti that you dunk into the wine). I had only a taste as I was quite full at this point, but the Schiachetrà was sweet, but oh so smooth.
A relaxing meal in a beautiful setting, life simply cannot get any better than this. When you are this far up the mountain, it is really quite quiet and peaceful. Overlooking the vineyards, lemon groves and the sea, the colorful town...you feel like you have found your own hidden piece of Italian Riviera paradise. The cost? Just climb the mountain, lady.
Katie is a blogger, musician and wife living the dream in sunny San Diego. When she’s not at home cooking or writing, in the community performing, or at the studio tap dancing, you will find her following her passion all around the world, living her beautiful life one trip at a time. Check out here blog, La Mia Bella Vita, for all of her adventures both at home and around the world.