Monday, 9 June 2008

What food to try when in Cinque Terre?

When in Italy you most definitely have to try the local cuisine as often as possible. I suggest you stay away from hamburgers and French fries while around. If you just can't get along without at least some kind of junk food, I'm pretty sure you can find some local supplement.

Pizza and various pasta dishes can be found all over Italy, but every region has also something special to offer. Liguria is no different (Cinque Terre National Park is situated in the Liguria region).

Best known dishes throughout the region of Liguria are pansoti, trofie, pesto, frisceu, focaccia with cheese and farinata.
Considering the region has lots of coast, sea-food is also very popular. One can find almost any kind of sea dish here: mussels, crab and lobster, tuna, anchovies and many other sorts of fish.
There is also a variety of wine produced there (mostly various dry whites).

M. and I both love Italian food, but this time we were not very successful in finding and tasting many of the dishes mentioned above. There are just so many things to do and always so little time. Budget can also be an important issue - good food is never cheap.

Despite all that, we did try some of the local specialties. One of those is (as I already mentioned in one of my earlier posts) freshly made pesto sauce.

Another simple dish also caught our attention. It was Focaccia con le olive - delicious salty bread with olives (you can see some leftovers on the first photo). We also stopped at a local enoteca for a couple glasses of local wine. It wasn't cheap, but we really enjoyed the wine and relaxed atmosphere. We sat there for quite a while and watched people walking by.

If you liked this post and are interested in more information on our trip, please click on this link or on the Cinque Terre label in the right frame.


Monday, 2 June 2008

A hike from Vernazza to Monterosso

Before we knew it, our last day reserved for hiking in the Cinque Terre National Park came along.

At the beginning of our trip we were a bit sceptical about the amount of time we had planned. I guess most tourists make a one day trip to the area. I have to say we weren't bored for a single moment during our four day stay and could easily spend another couple of days there.

The plan for this day was to visit the last two towns of Cinque Terre. We liked our experience the day before, so this time we had a similar plan - hiking up and down less crowded paths.

We started with a train to Vernazza where we concluded our last hike. First we visited a church in the center of the town and slowly headed uphill towards the sanctuary of Madonna di Reggio, following the path number 8. After 15 minutes or so we reached a place with a really fine view of Vernazza.

Also a strange "vehicle" caught my attention. It was some kind of a cart mounted to a single rail. The whole thing seemed more like a roller-coaster to me but had some kind of a transport trailer attached to it. The rail went around the corner of a really steep slope, so I guess riding it has to be quite an interesting experience.

After enjoying the view for a while, we went on our way. The path was relatively steep and M. was occasionally complaining (she likes hiking, but only until the path doesn't get too steep).

In an hour or so we reached the sanctuary, where we were able to freshen up by an old fountain. There were quite a few people around - it seemed that this place was quite a popular destination.

We didn't stick around for a long time. Soon we moved on towards our destination of the day. First we took a road uphill, but soon found a path which lead us to Santuario della Madonna di Soviore.

From there it was just a 45 minute descent to the town of Monterosso down the path number 9.

When we were nearing Monterosso it didn't seem very similar to the other four towns.
We headed straight to the sandy beach and into the sea. Only knee deep, but it was enough (Tyrrhenian Sea is still cold in the beginning of May). It was quite amusing to watch some trying-to-look-tough guys jumping in and then screaming and crying like babies. To me this seemed just so typical for a group of Italian guys.

When we got bored of sitting by the sea, we decided to look for the train station and check the timetable.
At first we couldn't find the station but signs eventually led us to a underground passageway leading to the other side of the hill. It was quite a surprise to find the other half of the city of Monterosso. And it was the nicer half. This inevitably postponed our departure.

In spite of that I still think Monterosso is the most commercial of the 5 towns. It is easily accessible with a vehicle and I would also say it has more hotels then the other four. Besides that it has a long stretch of sandy beach, which I guess is a people magnet by itself.

An hour and a half and an ice-cream later we finally caught a train to Levanto.

If you liked this post and are interested in more information about our trip, you are welcome to click on the Cinque Terre label in the right frame.


Monday, 26 May 2008

Corniglia - San Bernardino - Vernazza

Since we weren't too excited about the path we chose on the day before, M. and I were hoping for a bit less crowded hike from Corniglia to Vernazza.

Once again we started our day in Levanto, from where we took a train to Corniglia. This time it took us a bit longer then expected. The train was packed and there literally wasn't enough place to squeeze ourselves in. We weren't the only ones with such a problem and some of the people were getting really pissed. I felt sorry for the railroad workers, because most of the anger was directed their way.

After a while another train showed up and everything was well again. Although it was an InterCity train, we didn't have to pay for the ride (Cinque Terre Train Card normally doesn't cover first class trains and fast trains, but this was a special occasion). The train even made a few extra stops.

Once we got off the train at the Corniglia train station, we first had to make a climb to the town (it sits high on a hill above the station). Our Cinque Terre Train Card also included a mini bus ride from the station to Corniglia.
Despite that, we didn't feel like waiting for the bus. Fifteen minutes and some huffin' and puffin' later we arrived to the town just at the same time as the bus from the train station.

We checked out the town with its spectacular views and bought some goat cheese for the way.

After that we were on our way further uphill. With every step the view of Vernazza kept getting better and better.
Our aim for the day was getting to the town of Vernazza but first we decided to make a stop at the little village of San Bernardino. It is situated roughly half way between Corniglia and Vernazza, but a bit higher up on the top of one of the surrounding hills. We followed the paths 7/b and 7/d to S. Bernardino and number 7 from there to Vernazza.

We walked slowly and stopped quite often to take photos. Despite that it took us only 1 hour and 10 minutes to reach San Bernardino and 1 hour and a half to get from there to Vernazza.

We took time for a light meal when in S. Bernardino. Sitting on a bench next to the church and enjoying some prosciutto crudo with formaggio caprino (that's Italian for salted raw ham and goat cheese) we bought before. Delicious!

After finishing our meal, we made a stop at a cafe just around the corner. We ordered two glasses of local white wine and got some potato chips and olives with it. It all went together real well and was an excellent alternative to our missing dessert.

While sitting in front of the cafe, we noticed they also offer accommodation, but we didn't inquire about the price.

The following descent to Vernazza once again offered spectacular views calling for many photo stops.
When finally in Vernazza we thought of climbing the tower overlooking the town. We found out there is an entrance fee and decided to rather just cool off by the see and watch waves splashing on the rocks. After all it was hard to expect the tower view would top what we saw earlier.

A train ride back to Levanto and a 10 minute walk to Acqua Dolce camping was all it was left for us to do this day. We had more hiking planned for the next day, so it was soon time to call it a day and turn in for the night.

If you liked this post and are interested in more information on our trip, please click on this link or on the Cinque Terre label in the right frame.

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