Nostra Terrazza della Coppa di Vino

When we first discovered our little terrace at the end of Via Fieschi in Corniglia, we were the only people there. That’s probably why we had no shame in drinking red wine from licked-clean gelato cups. (Who are we kidding, we would do that anyway.)

There were a few more people this time and we were glad we classed it up a little with a bottle of prosecco and proper cups, but it was still as beautiful.  Corniglia’s main drag ends at this terrace with its spectacular views so I suppose it’s impossible to miss it, but it still surprised us.  It’s certainly a popular place to watch the sun set, but when dusk falls, it gets remarkably quiet. Becky and I made it a point to stay until the people thinned out and it was just us and the local cats enjoying the view.  It’s a must for us in Corniglia after our obligatory perusal at the fabulous Fanny Bazar ceramic shop (yes, that’s the real name). Really, this little terrace is a piece of paradise in Cinque Terre. We haven’t yet befriended the little nonna who lives in the last house before the terrace, but I’m convinced one day she’ll invite us in for dinner.

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© Jennifer Konopasek and GoodTravelerKarma, 2014.

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“I could house another meat and cheese board” and other Cinque Terre culinary adventures…

Walking along a popular shopping street in Monterosso, a beautiful creation caught my eye: A platter of antipasto including cured meat, cheese and vegetables served to a couple sitting outside what appeared to be a tiny charcuteria. I knew immediately that I wanted whatever that was. We commandeered the table next to our fellow guests while I popped inside and ordered “una otra” and pointed to the platter, and “due bicchiere di vino rosso.”

A sign on the outside of the shop, Da eraldo, advertised “tigelle,” a pita-like flat bread the size of your palm, a basket of which were served with the platter. We used them like pita, ripping them in half, opening them up like a pocket and filling them with the paper-thin charcuterie and cheese. This fortuitous little find turned out to be one of our most memorable dining experiences in Cinque Terre. I can also attest to the fact that we ate every scrap of the antipasto, which was evident by the engraved outline of Italy on the top of the wood cutting board after we munched it clean.

The five towns of the Cinque Terre have no shortage of amazing eateries and my previous posts give a snapshot of my favorites. Here I’ve compiled a summary, separated by town and encompassing a wide variety of choices from takeaway focaccia to fine dining. Two I haven’t mentioned up until this point:

  • Bar Centrale in Riomaggiore is a great spot for coffee or a drink but their breakfast is also fantastic. The pesto omelette is delicious and even better when you order a breakfast dessert of strawberries in lemon and sugar.
  • Il Pirun is an enoteca in charming Corniglia. We didn’t eat there but it’s also a great wine bar eponymous for the unique wine carafe with a long anteater snout-like pour.
  • Gelateria Cinque Terre is home to the incredible “Loveria” gelato, I’ve deemed “what peanut butter wishes it tasted like”. Pistachio crème combined with chocolate and vanilla. Don’t order any other flavors, this is all you need.

Cinque Terre – Dining in Review

Riomaggiore:

Manarola:

Corniglia:

Vernazza:

Monterosso:

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© Jennifer Konopasek and GoodTravelerKarma, 2014.

Cinque Terre Oasis: Buranco Winery

“Don’t come here. It’s terrible. And crowded…Just kidding, it’s heaven.” This was Becky’s caption as she posted a photo of Buranco Winery and I couldn’t agree more.

On the morning of her birthday, I found Becky sitting in the window of her room in our little Riomaggiore flat looking at the ocean. While I got ready for our day, Becky went to our favorite focacceria Te La Do Io La Merenda, and picked up some focaccia for breakfast on our terrace.  Fortified for the day, we headed out on the train to Monterosso, the largest of the five Cinque Terre towns, to locate Buranco Winery.

It turns out the vineyard wasn’t too hard to find, just a quick walk uphill from the center of town.  A cheerfully painted wine barrel greeted us at the entrance, and when we walked in, we saw the main house and a spacious patio looking over to the valley below and the vines on the hill above. When we arrived, there were only two other people visiting the winery: an American couple who departed shortly after we were served our first glass of the tasting. After that, it was just Becky and I soaking up the sun, looking out over the vines, and enjoying a generous wine flight and little plate of complimentary bruschetta. We then decided to sample Buranco’s olive oil and honey, and finally, one more glass of wine as we watched paragliders soar over the Ligurian hillside. The local wine was lovely, but instead of a bottle of red, I had to take home what turned out to be a very large bottle of grassy olive oil.  Well worth it to add the extra weight to my suitcase.

All told I think we were at Buranco a grand total of four blissful hours. The great thing was that the helpful staff had no interest in ushering us off – they were quite happy to have us visit as long as we wanted. And as a result, we really didn’t want to leave!  Becky and I really couldn’t believe our luck to have this incredibly beautiful place all to ourselves – such a great birthday present for Becky!  Buranco is also an agriturismo – a local inn on site of a working farm – and if the service for a tasting is any indication, I’m sure it’s a welcoming place to stay. I will have to try it on my next visit!

As the afternoon wore on, we decided it was probably best we continue Becky’s birthday in Manarola, as we wanted to have dinner at the home of the tastiest pesto we found on our last trip, Trattoria Il Porticciolo.  This was the point at which we decided it would be a great idea to take a boat to Manarola as opposed to the train. And this is when we ended up hitching a ride on a boat to Vernazza instead, refreshing ourselves with gelato at the other fabulous Il Porticciolo, the best gelateria in Vernazza. After a lovely afternoon in Vernazza, we made it to Manarola, only to find that Il Porticciolo was closed. We enjoyed the “magic hour” and sunset in Manarola, maybe the most picturesque of the Cinque Terre towns, before heading back to Riomaggiore. Dinner was at another of our favorite spots from the last trip, Veciu Muin, for a trio of spaghetti. Tasty and reasonably priced, this place is no frills but good quality, and easy stumbling distance from our Riomaggiore apartment.

I think it would be hard to have a bad day in Cinque Terre, but this was a pretty incredible day, to say the least. 🙂 Grazie, famiglia Buranco!

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© Jennifer Konopasek and GoodTravelerKarma, 2014.

Cinque Terre Recovering

“Are you going to Manarola?” I asked, as the first mate ushered passengers onto the boat. “Not today,” he replied.  “Just Vernazza.”  Becky and I looked at each other and shrugged. “We will go to Vernazza. But we don’t have tickets.” “Well,” he said, “Give the captain a kiss and it will be okay.” 🙂  We had barely situated ourselves on the boat for the less than 10 minute journey from Monterosso to Vernazza when another member of the crew brought us a handful of sweet little yellow grapes. So we steal boat rides and are rewarded with a snack?!?! Only in Italy.

The wind tousled our hair and drank in the sun, spitting grape seeds over the side of the boat into the sea. Before we knew it we were navigating a tiny gangplank bobbing in the choppy breaking water, disembarking at what some consider to the be the heart of the Cinque Terre, Vernazza.

In October 2011 deluge rains had caused flooding and landslides across the region and one slide in particular nearly destroyed Vernazza and  Monterrosso. When we first visited in April 2012, six months after the disaster, only two restaurants and one gelateria were open while the community continued to dig out. Now, nearly a year after the slide, the recovery is remarkable. Nearly all of the businesses were open and the tourists are flooding in. Becky and I were both actually quite overwhelmed with emotion to see how much this beautiful town changed. We grabbed gelati at Il Porticciolo, home of the most incredible cinnamon (cannella) gelato I’ve ever tasted, sat on a bench near the main piazza and took it all in.

On our last visit, nearly every door to businesses and homes were boarded up, although most were brightly painted with murals. This was my first impression of Vernazza, beauty and art overshadowing the ruin. Today, only a couple of doors on Vernazza’s main street remain boarded but the city is no less colorful.

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© Jennifer Konopasek and GoodTravelerKarma, 2014.

Pesto and Seafood (but maybe not together)…

I was in T.K. Maxx last weekend, buying home goods for my new flat, and I felt compelled to buy a mortar and pestle.  Not that I’ll be making my own pesto from scratch in it rather than say, in a food processor, but I like to know that I could.

Pesto is one of the great triumphs of Liguria and we ate it in abundance while in Cinque Terre.  Another regional specialty is “trofie” a short pasta twisted in a spiral so the pesto will cling to it.  The best trofie di pesto I had was in Manarola, followed by a Nutella tiramisu (yes, you read that right).  The pesto was delicious, the tiramisu probably better looking than it tasted but that’s why there’s the old standby of gelato if your restaurant dessert goes wrong…

The seafood in this region is also special and we had a feast on our last night, dining in Monterosso at Via Venti.  We had a delicious meal including sardines and crab gnocchi along with some beautiful wine.  After dinner, we had a glass of wine at a chilled out bar in the center, then found the much more happening bar on the main drag that just reopened a week before our arrival following the October 2011 flood.

We stayed at the bar a bit too long, making new friends, and just missed our train – literally, we ran to the platform and could only touch it as it pulled away.  Since it was the last train back to Riomaggiore and we had no where else to go, we walked back to the bar in the rain and drowned our sorrows in White Russians.  Still, hard to get into too much trouble in a town with a population of only about 2,000.

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© Jennifer Konopasek and GoodTravelerKarma, 2012.

Paradiso Rustico

Sometimes you just need to crash someone else’s vacation.  And enable them to drink heavily.  And calm them down when you miss the last train back to your town…

GoodTravelerKarma readers know that I am completely fascinated by Positano in Italy’s Amalfi Coast.  I have a beautiful picture I took of Positano on my computer desktop and I can’t tell you how many times someone has asked, “Is that the Cinque Terre?”  and then gone out to tell me a story about this beautiful place.  Both of these idyllic destinations lie on Italy’s western coast, one south and one north respectively, and are built into the hillsides.  When I found out via the power of social networking that my best friend from college’s sister, Becky, was heading to Italy and Cinque Terre, I had to invite myself along to see them.

Cinque Terre is part of what is often referred to as the Italian Riviera, the jewel of which is Portofino.  We didn’t make it to see the glitterati in Portofino but we did explore all five towns in the Cinque Terre, a much more rustic and humble place than the Amalfi Coast that lives in my heart.

“Cinque Terre” means “Five Lands” and the region is actually a national park encompassing the five towns and the surrounding hiking trails.  In years past, most tourists to the region hiked the trail that connects all five towns: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore.  Tragically, on October 25, 2011, floods and landslides devastated the two largest towns, Monterosso al Mare and Vernazza, after days of torrential rain.  The trails are now closed between Corniglia and Monterosso and the towns are busy rebuilding.  When we visited at the end of April, there was still a lot of work left in both towns, Vernazza in particular.  But this is a hardy region and one that I have no doubt will come back from tragedy.  A tribute to the spirit of this beautiful place is the art that now covers so many of the boarded doors of business, pensiones and apartments in Vernazza’s main drag.  There were two restaurants open when we were there and a gelateria with the most incredible cinnamon gelato I’ve ever tasted.  To find out more about the region and how you can support the rebuilding effort, visit http://savevernazza.com/.

Becky and I stayed in Riomaggiore, at the opposite end from Monterosso, in a little apartment run by the fabulous Ugo.  Our favorite feature was the tiny bathtub that we affectionately called “the birdbath.”  Needless to say, after a few days in the birdbath, the power showers at our chic hotel in Milano enthralled us. 🙂

One day as we explored Corniglia, the smallest of the five towns with a population of only about 300, we discovered the epitome of paradise. At the end of the main drag of the town, there was a huge terrace with a panoramic view of the sea.  We sat, drank red wine from gelato cups and watched the sun go down until we again had to hike it back to the station to catch the last train to Riomaggiore. 

That was the night we did make it back.  The last night, we weren’t so lucky… or maybe we were. 🙂   More on that later.

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© Jennifer Konopasek and GoodTravelerKarma, 2012.