After a short visit to the romantic city of Venice, our tour group travelled by train to Cinque Terre (meaning five lands), a Unesco World Heritage Site on the Italian coast consisting of five fishing villages nestled in steep terraced cliffs, dating back to medieval period.
Trains run regularly to each picturesque village, through tunnels carved out of the rocks. For the adventurous who prefer travelling by foot, there are hiking tracks between each village, each with varying lengths and levels of difficulty. When sections of walking tracks are closed for safety reasons (some were during my stay), you can be heavily fined if you ignore the signs and walk along a closed track. Additionally if you get injured, you won’t be covered by travel insurance AND you will be given the hefty rescue / medical bills. Choo choo!
We stayed at Monterroso which was founded in 643 AD, making it the oldest of the villages. It was here, at one of the cafes facing the beach, that I had my first Italian hot chocolate. I’m not talking about the sugary imitation-style, this was the real deal – a syrupy Italian hot chocolate. Thick like gravy, gloriously warming and not too sweet.
One of my favourite villages was Riomaggiore which was established in the 8th century. The town has steep streets lined with tall and colourful terraces, with forest green shutters and pot plants soaking up the sun from the small balconies.
I can’t tell you just how blissful / relaxed / content I felt here. Perhaps it was because I was soaking up the sunshine by the sea, or simply because I was on holidays, or maybe it was because I had finally, after so many years of yearning, made it Italy. It’s such a stunning, breathtaking part of the world.
I had a wonderful lunch overlooking the water – a simple dish of pasta with pesto, cubed potato and green beans. I tried to recreate this for friends recently and I certainly didn’t do it as well as these guys.
As the villages are perched on the cliffs of the Italian coast, there are some incredible views, like this one at Manarola. It was late in the afternoon and the wind was loud and whipping – a storm was on its way so I didn’t stay to see how harsh mother nature would be by the sea.
In Monterroso there was a small, popular bakery / cafe on the beachfront. The specialty is fresh, thick focaccia pizzas and the servings are very generous. I went first thing in the morning to get a slice of freshly baked margherita pizza with pesto. The focaccia was soft and light, covered in a rich tomato sauce, basil pesto strong and melted cheese. Oh how I would love to start each day with one of these.
These little herb stalls were in a few places and I wish I had bought one of everything! I was a little worried about whether they would be ok to bring home through Australian customs. Each pack had all the ingredients for a particular dish so you can just heat up some oil in a pan, add a few spoonfuls of herbs and toss through fresh pasta. Simples!
Sadly we only had a short time in Cinque Terre and I would have liked to spend more time visiting each village.
Stay tuned for the next post as our tour takes a tasty pitstop in Pisa.