Having a vivid imagination can be both a blessing and a curse. Real life tends to fall short of grandiose visions nearly 100% of the time. Even in a magical place such as Cinqueterre. So looking back on my trip, I might have had to pry a little deeper than any trip I have been on before. Beautiful moments like long, sleepy, winding train rides through the Italian countryside then trickled back to me. I laughed about the time we bought train tickets for the wrong destination, after getting off the train we should've stayed on in the first place. At dinner one night, we learned to never order Ravioli in Italy if you're actually hungry and want more than 2.5 tiny pieces of ravioli! I could still feel the bumpy and windy boat rides from Terre to Terre in my bones. Oh, and looking out the window of our stunning bed and breakfast to take in the view of the sea.....and seeing someones granny underwear drying on a clothesline and flapping away in the breeze instead. These are the things I remember most, not the fact that the restaurant I wanted to go to was closed, or that we got to the beach a couple of hours after I had wanted to.
So maybe next time, I'll sleep in a little longer. Walk a little slower. Bring bug spray because who knew you could even get bit in so many places in such a short period of time? In Italy, no less. And how did the mosquitoes find their way THERE?
But, lets be real. The most important thing I learned from this trip is that if you're staying at an airbnb to make sure you have food and coffee for the morning for the sake of your relationship. Then you will both act like sane, fed, caffeinated individuals come morning.
There is a Focacceria on practically every street corner in all five terre. Don't worry about finding a specific one, just wander around and pop into one that appeals to you because they are all delicious. You can find them topped with cheese, meats and vegetables. My personal favorite was cebolla/onion. I think my record was 3 in one day. I'm sure my breath was FANTASTIC.
Fried Seafood Cones // Monterosso Al Mare
Down by the ferry dock before you enter the old town area of Monterosso, and behind a long line, you will find adorably grumpy nonna frying seafood in the back of a food truck. She stuffs it inside a paper cone, tops it with a lemon wedge, and you have yourself quintessential Italian Riviera streetfood that you can eat while waiting for the next ferry to arrive.
Agriturismo Uliveto nel Parco // Monterosso al Mare, Cinqueterre, Italy
This gorgeous bed and breakfast is set high up in the hills of Monterosso al Mare and gives you spectacular views of the ocean and town. They grow olives, lemons, tomatoes pomegranates and more on site and will even cook dinner for you using the food they have grown upon request. The breakfast in the morning is simple but enough to get your day of sightseeing started. All it takes is a winding walk down the hill to get to the striped umbrella lined beach. Just remember you have to waddle back up that hill with your belly full of pasta, wine, and gelato at the end of your day. More information and reviews HERE.
There are a couple of different ways to see all five terre. You can take trains, purchase a tour, hike them, or see them by boat like we did. Wanting the experience of seeing them from the ocean, we chose to see them this way. I highly recommend the ferry! That way you can really take all the scenery in. You will take plenty of trains just getting to and from Cinqueterre anyway and they are very crowded from what I saw.
On our first night in Cinqueterre, we had dinner at a lovely seaside restaurant where I discovered that Pesto Lasagne was a local specialty. It didn't immediately appeal to me because I usually find pesto to be harsh and overwhelming, however I found the lasagne to be none of those things. One taste of the nutty pesto beneath the fresh blankets of pasta and caramelized cheese and I was hooked. My version uses pistachios instead of the more traditional pine nuts and arugula in place of pesto. This will definitely give you a more delicate pesto.
1 cup pistachio nut meat
1 cup arugula
2 tbsp. olive oil - to taste
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
Juice of half a lemon
3 cloves garlic
Sea salt, to taste
In a food processor, blend pistachios and garlic cloves together until the pieces are small but not completely smooth. Add arugula, lemon juice, olive oil and parmesan cheese. Blend until smooth. If you find that it's still a little too chunky add another drizzle of olive oil until it's your desired consistency. Taste, add salt to your liking and blend again until evenly incorporated.
I spread the pistachio pesto on a sliced and buttered baguette. Other ways you can use it is by replacing the marinara with the pesto in your favorite lasagna recipe, or you can also keep it simple by mixing it into your favorite pasta noodles. This pesto really packs a lot of flavor and a little goes a long way.
While traveling, I save a lot of tickets, money, knicknacks, pretty candy wrappers (and other random seemingly useless things if anyone were to investigate the innards of my bags) in case I decide to use them later on for one of my illustrated food diaries.I had saved all of our many train tickets without knowing what I would be using them for and they rolled around in my purse for several months afterwards until I came across THIS project via Martha Stewart, where vintage recipe cards were printed onto fabric to be used as tea towels. I decided to do something a little different than illustrating this trip and so I took the train tickets, scanned them, then sent that off to SPOONFLOWER to be printed onto their cotton linen fabric. They have different fabrics but I like the not-too-perfect slightly wrinkly and rustic look of linen. After cutting them to size and washing them, I hand embroidered them in a pattern I made up as I went along. Now they are in my kitchen to remind me of this lovely trip every time I use them.