Four out of five ain’t bad

Riomaggiore. Manarola. Corniglia. Vernazza. And then our home town, Monterosso. Yes, we understand that there is some tourist mandate that says you must see/walk/visit each of these, or else you have not done Cinque Terra.

As we are honest tourists, we will confess that today, when we really did plan to see the four we aren’t staying in, we (I) weakened and we only did three of them, bringing our grand total to four. Okay, just shoot us.

But we did learn some things about the similarities in the towns, which allowed us to be more forgiving of ourselves than others might be.

First of all, they are all very picturesque villages perched on cliffs overlooking the Ligurian Sea. All except Corniglia have very sweet harbors, but only our Monterosso has real beaches.

Manarola and Vernazza have amazing terraced vineyards, that grow where things just shouldn’t. Some mountain-goat-like men in Roman times found a way to create amazing dry-stone walls up almost vertical cliffs to support their grapes. What a tough business that must have always been. We walked above the town of Manarola to see the foot of the vineyards and the wonderful views of the town.

All the views, whether up into the hills or towards the sea, are just beautiful. What was life like when these towns were virtually isolated and there was no way for throngs of tourists to clog the streets?

It’s hard to find a large level space in these towns for a good game of soccer, so kids make the most of any flat surface. Laundry and boats go wherever they can fit.

We were looking forward to the elevator at Riomaggiore, but it seems to be permanently anticipating inclement conditions.

All in all, this is a part of the world that is full of charm, gorgeous in any direction, and totally, totally discovered. Wish we had seen it years ago, but glad we can now understand what all the fuss is about.

Don’s Food Corner

We had lunch in Manarola, avoiding the crowds at restaurants overlooking the harbor.

I knew that we needed to try some of the local specialties. First, since this is the region of Italy where pesto was invented — reportedly because the finest basil is grown here — that was, of course, on the taste-test list. Also, all kinds of seafood, especially anchovies.

Following that general idea, we started with trolie (a flattened corkscrew-shaped pasta) with pesto along with green beans and, surprisingly, potatoes.  I guess the pasta wasn’t enough starch. It was delicious; the pesto was perfect, as we had hoped.

Then, for a second course Jo went to another pasta dish:  seafood-filled ravioli with lobster sauce.  However, the lobster sauce wasn’t a creamy lobster sauce as expected. Instead, it was a light tomato sauce with whole sections of lobster still in its shell.  It took some work to get the meat out of the shell. But from what I tasted, it was great, as was the ravioli filling.

I had stuffed anchovies.  The anchovies, which appeared to be as large as sardines, were stuffed with what looked like a combination of breadcrumbs, mushrooms and spinach.  The anchovies were then breaded and deep fried.  The portion, like the portions of the pasta with pesto and the ravioli, was gigantic.  But we polished it off so as not to be rude and offend anyone.

After seeing the effort put into growing the grapes on the steep cliffs around the town, we had a bottle of the local white wine.  Excellent.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen this wine sold in the U.S., but we’ll look.  It was a little sweeter than other white wines we’ve had so far in Italy.  But I’m not sure that is a characteristic of the wines of the region or just of this particular vineyard.

2 thoughts on “Four out of five ain’t bad

  1. Don, thank you for doing America proud by finishing all the lunch that was served – there is no greater insult to an Italian than rejecting food prepared with love. Looking at those stuffed anchovies, I regret not having them. Were the anchovies cured in salt, or plain like normal fish?

  2. They weren’t salted. They also didn’t taste very fishy. Clearly they were filled when they were raw, stretching their little skins to the near breaking point with a great amount of stuffing. They were served with only a lemon wedge. Also, there was no attempt to remove the minuscule bones or the tiny tails. I loved them! – Don

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