Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Our Favorite Village, Vernazza in the Cinque Terre

The last three days have been the most remarkable as the Cinque Terre is truly one of the absolute gorgeous places we've ever been. Upon arriving at the crowded train station where day-trippers were clamoring to get on and off the local train, we looked around and knew that this was IT! Vernazza is one of the five villages of the Cinque Terre, and from our perspective, it's the best and most scenic.

This was taken this morning on our 3km hike from Vernazza to Monterroso. The hike is full of narrow paths, tons of stairs and uneven gravel. Even though it was only 3km, we sped through it in one hour. They advertise it as an hour and a half hike.

The coastal trail takes us alongside the cliff line. We had originally wanted to mountain bike the higher trails, but it was quite complicated and we couldn't get a straight answer from any of the national park staff. It's too bad because it seemed like it would've been fun.
The Cinque Terre region is famous for its white wines, pesto, anchovies and sacchietera (sweet raisin wine). So far, we've enjoyed this region's cuisine the most. Here are the vineyards on the trail.
A view of Monterrosso from the trail. We noticed many elderly European tourists on the trail and wondered if they should be hiking at all. It does require a bit of fitness to get through it.
In Monterrosso village, the largest in the Cinque Terre.
We had a tasty lunch here: antipasti de mare, anchovie, capers, mozzarella & tomato bruschetta and an insalata mista which also looked like a bruschetta and not a salad. All were great, however, the restaurant staff were fighting loudly, and we wondered if the cook had quit.
Leaving Vernazza near the clock tower.
Last night, we had one of those great dinners at the Il Pirata delle Cinque Terre, which is owned and operated by Gianluca and Massimo, known locally as the Canoli Brothers. They are so witty, entertaining and fun that they made our entire dining experience an adventure. Russ asked what Massimo recommended and he said, "Spaghetti Bolognese" which didn't sound too exciting but when he got it, it was nothing like we've ever seen. In Sicilian cooking, they paper-thin layers of pasta are stacked upon each other like a lasagna but much lighter and in between are the meat, cheese and herbs. Simply delicious! I had the Aubergine (Eggplant) Parmigiana which was tasty as well. On this trip, we've had pasta or pizza daily!
We met fellow Americans on holiday. To the left are Barbara and Natashia, a mother and daughter duo visiting Europe to celebrate Natashia's graduation from med school. On our right is Charlie & Jill, newlyweds from North Carolina. We were eating inside and the four of them met out on the patio but came in for dessert when the weather cooled. The six of us sat together and had a party with the Gianluca and Massimo! Afterwards, we all went down to the Blue Marlin Bar for some drinks until they kicked us out at midnight.
The restaurant was highly recommended by Rick Steves guidebook and we ate there in the morning for its famous pastries. Our hotel room is just above the kitchen so we could smell sweet pastries in our room all day.
For dessert, Russ had the infamous tira misu and I had the canoli ~ all delicious!
The limited beach at Vernazza
One of the many quaint alleys
We hiked from Vernazza to Corniglia to Manarosa to Riomaggiore yesterday.
I think this was Corniglia
The chiesa (church) at Manarola
Another view of Vernazza
There were areas with stairs descending down to the rocks. Russ decided to take a brief dip in the cool water. It's much cooler than Saipan's but not TOO cold.
We walked through each village and found Vernazza to be our favorite with its scenery, small beach and great local characters.
Our first night here, we ate at Piva's, where we shared Piva's famous risotto, which resembled paella, with fresh seafood piled into a tomato based broth. We also tried the local specialty - fried anchovies!
Tonight, we're going to dinner at the Belforte restaurant, located near the castle, where the red canopies are located.
We watched these three local ladies just talking for hours on the bench.
Russ and the guys. There was one guy working (the one sitting) with all of his pals just watching. Russ bought them a drink to toast! Salute!
We've met some other wonderful people on this trip. This morning, we had breakfast with Walt and Marcy from San Francisco who are also fond of biking. For lunch at Manarosa yesterday, we met Amy & Teresa, educators who've lived in Vicenza for the last 19 yrs. Traveling is such an adventure and the journey is both exciting and fulfilling.

1 comment:

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