Positano Favorites: Casa Buonocore

It’s a misty, dreary day in London – perfect for day dreaming about warm sunshine, clear seas and picturesque views in Positano (aka my happy place) and a new favorite.

I visited Casa Buonocore in September to try their spectacular breakfast spread and tour the rooms. Styled as a “Charming Guest House,” I would describe it as a luxury bed and breakfast.  After refurbishment, Nino, Sandra and Annamaria Buonocore reopened their villa in 2012 with a fresh and airy take on a classic Italian villa.  I love that Positano is exploring this modern direction, exemplified also by restaurants Next2 and Casa e Bottega. This kind of design will likely continue to draw younger guests to what’s traditionally been a retreat for the wealthy, established set.

The design is a thoughtful mix of rustic touches amongst comfortable elegance.  Spread over three levels, each of the six rooms has a distinct style, some drawing on cultural influences from Asia and Africa. Each also boasts at the very least, a private balcony large enough for a table and two chairs for enjoying evening aperitivo.  One classic room has a larger terrace with sun chairs surrounded by lush trees and gardens like a private oasis. The largest deluxe room has a huge terrace with 360 degree views of Positano, the hills and the sea.

The breakfast spread for guests is incomparable to other B&Bs I’ve seen in town. In addition to homemade pastries, charcuterie and cheeses, I opted for a deviled egg garnished with caviar and the sweet confit cherry tomatoes. For a more traditional English or American breakfast, eggs are available cooked on request out of the villa’s state of the art kitchen. And of course, beautiful coffee prepared to order.

Casa Buonocore benefits from a superb and convenient location, just up from the main Piazza Mulini between the square and landmark Le Sirenuse Hotel. Snuggled near several shops, it’s only a short distance from the main road and you only have to climb a few stairs to reach the villa – another luxury in a town built on steep terraces. It’s then a quick walk down to the main Spiaggia Grande or to the Sita bus stop to Amalfi or Sorrento.

After seeing the guest house and all it has to offer, I expected the rates to be comparable with a 5 star hotel, but I was pleasantly surprised. Classic rooms are smaller but are fully functional and beautiful, and start at 220 Euro per night in the low season or 240 Euro per night in the high season. You’ll pay more for the deluxe room at 450 Euro per night in the high season.

As you find with most areas of the Amalfi Coast, the Buonocore family aren’t just guest house proprietors. They take pride in their villa and in welcoming you to your second home in paradise. As a result, this lovely B&B will now be one of my standbys for friends and family when visiting Positano.

Grazie, Famiglia Buonocore!

Casa Buonocore
Via Cristoforo Colombo, 77
84017 Positano (Salerno) Italy
+39 089 875085
www.casabuonocore.com

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© Jennifer Konopasek and GoodTravelerKarma, 2014.

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My new favorite beach…

“This is my second favorite beach in the world,” proclaimed my friend Suzanne with a contented sigh. I didn’t ask her what her most favorite was. Mainly because I’d already decided that Spiaggia di Laurito was at the top of my list.

We found ourselves at this little paradise after a friend and Positano local asked me about our beach plans. When I said we planned to Fornillo, Positano’s small beach and my preferred spot, she scoffed. “No. You have to try Laurito.” Suzanne and I looked at each other, shrugged and agreed, why not? After convincing the shuttle boat to take us a half hour earlier than the next scheduled voyage, we were on our way for the 15 minute scenic trip to Laurito and Da Adolfo, the most favored beach side restaurant. We were greeted immediately from stepping off the boat and settled into sun lounges. (A happy fact: The daily rental for sun lounges is cheaper at Da Adolfo than Spiaggia Grande or Fornillo!)

Da Adolfo looks like a jammy little beach hut but in fact serves some of the best food in the area. Locals know that if they spend a day off at Da Adolfo they are in for a three-hour lunch extravagana. In addition to the obvious grilled whole fish, Salvatore serves up chef specials daily like eggplant parmigiana. Not what you would expect for a hot day in the sun, but surprisingly rich and satisfying.

On my second visit to Da Adolfo with my friend Antonio, I let him take the lead (as any wise woman would do) in ordering.  The result? Mozzarella on grilled lemon leaves, seafood salad, carpaccio, grilled whole fish – “The cheek is the tastiest part” – and white wine with sliced peaches. You can usually tell if I’ve had a particularly spectacular meal when there are nearly no photos to show for it – I was too busy wallowing in foodie bliss with morsels in each hand to be bothered taking pictures that would surely not do it justice.

With Laurito and Da Adolfo, you must have time for an all-day leisurely affair. The boats leave every half hour or so from Positano’s marina and there’s a hiatus between about 1 and 4pm for lunch. (Not a bad life for the boat skippers, I must say.) As the sun begins to disappear in this little cove, the last boats return to Positano around 6pm.

There is another restaurant/hotel on Laurito but no one seems to trouble themselves there – Da Adolfo steals the show. And rightly so.

Da Adolfo
Via Laurito, 40
Positano, Italy 

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© Jennifer Konopasek and GoodTravelerKarma, 2014.

Una Buona Forchetta

At a dinner party in Positano, a friend’s four-year old daughter cleaned her plate of mozzarella and tomatoes, octopus salad and anchovies and asked her mother for more, twice, before the main course even came out. I was simultaneously impressed and charmed.  A girl of my own heart. I asked, “How do you say ‘good-eater’ in Italian?” “Una buona forchetta.” A good fork. Yes, I can certainly relate.

I often tell people that eating is my hobby. A far more poetic description is that for me, meals solidify memories. The most memorable meals of my life, I can tell you not only where I was, what I smelled and what I tasted, but who I met and how I felt.

So not surprising then that my life in travel revolves around food. 🙂  During my summer in Positano, I had the pleasure of adding to my restaurant recommendation list.

Il Ritrovo: After a beautiful hike on the Path of the Gods, we ended back in the main piazza at Montepertuso for a late lunch at Il Ritrovo. Chef Salvatore and his lovely brother Paolo made me feel right at home bringing me a glass of refreshing prosecco as I looked out to the ocean from our table on the terrace. I started with a beautiful grilled octopus recommended the chef and sampled a few of the sautéed local shrimp – to die for. Then Chef Salvatore surprised me with bruschetta and zucchini flowers (after saying they were my favourite) and for a main course sautéed mussels and clams. Fresh ingredients are the star here : On my most recent visit, Paolo convinced me to have a special pasta made with mushrooms he had gathered that day.  I don’t have a picture because I was too much immersed in bliss, savoring this creation to come up for air, but it was quite possibly the most delicious pasta I’ve ever had. I heard this sentiment echoed by a whole group at the table next to me. Il Ritrovo is about a 10 minute drive above Positano but like most restaurants in Montepertuso, it has a complimentary shuttle that will pick you up and drop you off if you make arrangements. It’s definitely worth getting out of Positano center for this gem.

La Sponda: Smack in the center of Positano at the famed Le Sirenuse hotel, is Michellen-starred La Sponda. Admittedly I was always intimidated of both the hotel and the restaurant on my early visits to Positano but I really had no need to be. I first visited the Champagne and Oyster Bar a couple of years ago and was surprised at how even in the most elegant atmosphere the staff put me at ease.  It’s the same in the restaurant as the maitre d’ welcomed me warmly and showed me to my table where sommelier Cristian greeted me with a visit from the champagne trolley.  The champagne, Jack Legras, was a creamy delight that was the most beautiful champagne I’ve ever tasted. Normally I would choose the tasting menu with wine pairings but I actually felt that it was too much food for me on that particular night so I chose to order a la carte and let Cristian choose wines to match each course. I had a lovely tuna starter, then pasta with fresh fish (again convinced by my server), John Dory with saffron sauce for a main and then finally the lemon soufflé with lemon granita. Every course was presented beautifully by the attentive staff and everything was tasty and fresh.  My one criticism is that the soufflé was a bit too eggy in texture for my liking, but otherwise tasty. La Sponda prides itself on the romantic atmosphere – lit by 400 candles nightly according to their website – and on this particular night when rain kept the outside dining terrace closed, it created an intimate glow. Now I did have some special treatment, my visit arranged by the sommelier himself, but I can attest that everyone is made to feel special at La Sponda. The staff doesn’t take for granted that a restaurant of this calibre and reputation is an occasion destination and they endeavour to make everyone have the once-in-a-lifetime memories every night.

Casa Mele: Opened in June 2014, Casa Mele is Positano’s newest culinary offering. Just off of the main road up from the Sponda bus stop, you’ll first notice the chalkboard painted pig greeting you at the entrance. The interior is clean-lined and modern with a few vintage touches like the floral lampshades arranged into a chandelier. There’s no sea view or terrace here, but Chef Raffra does one better with his sleek open kitchen and huge window so you can watch all of the action. I went with three other diners on my visit so we were able to share and sample a range of dishes.  To start, we were treated to a little cheese with peppers and tomatoes. Then it was on to the seafood salad and fresh grilled vegetables.  A seafood risotto followed. For a main, I had a beautifully cooked seabass while my friends shared the seafood soup. You can’t usually go wrong with seafood on the Amalfi Coast as its freshness lends itself to simple preparations which allow the ingredients to shine. Chef Raffra elevates even the simplest ingredients with attention to flavor combinations and elegant preparations. For dessert, I chose my favourite delizia al limone, a local lemon cake which Chef Raffa serves in a kind of deconstructed version of light cake layered with lemon crème. I find that most restaurants in Positano, while skilled at savory selections, struggle with desserts – the exceptions being the tiramisu at Da Vincenzo and basically everything at Casa e Bottega.  But Chef Raffra excels in his inventive takes on regional classics. Bravo, indeed.

Il Ritrovo
Via Montepertuso, 77
84017 Positano, Italy
Phone: (+39) 089-812005

La Sponda
Via S. Sebastiano, 2
84017 Positano, Italy
Phone: (+39) 089-875066

Casa Mele
Via G. Marconi, 76
84017 Positano, Italy
Phone: (+39) 089-811364

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© Jennifer Konopasek and GoodTravelerKarma, 2014.

“Wine is sunlight held together by water.”

Is it any wonder that an Italian said this? And not just any Italian, but Galileo Galilei. Because wine would make stargazing a lot more interesting, I expect. 😉

Having lived in Sonoma County, California, I’ve been on a few wine tastings. But a wine tour? I wasn’t exactly sure what a wine tour even entailed until meeting Positano native and professional sommelier Cristian Fusco. The idea is not simply fork over a few dollars to swirl, sniff, sip and spit, but to completely immerse yourself in the vintner’s world from cultivation through production to consumption.  And at Swirl the Glass, a tour culminates with a tasting experience including the art of complimenting wine with food.

On a recent trip to the Amalfi Coast, I joined Cristian on a tour to boutique winery Tenuta San Francesco in Tramonti. Just a 45 minute drive outside of Amalfi, we began our journey wandering through the vines themselves while Cristian discussed the benefits of pergola cultivation, the weather and seasons dictating the conditions of a great wine, and the requirements for DOCG and DOC wines in Italy. Cristian also discussed the lack of synthetic irrigation and the necessity of dry soil to produce a complex and flavorful wine. This concept harkened me back to one of my favorite quotes from the movie “Bottle Shock” (a fabulous film telling the story behind the famous 1976 Judgement in Paris):  “‘A comfortable grape, a well-watered well-fertilized grape grows into a lazy ingredient of lousy wine.’ ‘So through hardship comes enlightenment.'”

After meandering in the vines, we came inside the winery building for a look at the modest if only in size, not in technology, fermentation room before admiring the beautiful French and Austrian oak barrels in the cellar. Cristian’s explanations were not overly technical but instead explained the life cycle of a great wine, which only built my thirst to try some. 🙂

Cristian conducted the tasting over a superb homemade lunch cooked for us in the winery kitchen and served at a communal table with a huge open window overlooking the vines. We started with Tenuta San Francesco’s Spumante, or sparkling white wine, “Alta Costa”. The crisp white “Tramonti Bianco” accompanied our first course of panzanella (Italian bread salad with fresh tomatoes), fior di latte mozzarella and ricotta. Our pasta course was a local specialty, gnocchi alla Sorrentina, served with the lovely “4 Spine” or “four thorns” red. Finally, it was roasted chicken with Mediterranean vegetables served with the “E Iss” – “This is it” in Neapolitan dialect – red made from just one grape varietal found only in the Tramonti region. For dolce, a tiny tiramisu-like custard cake.

My favorite part of the Swirl the Glass experience was this delicious lunch, clearly made with love by the women of Tenuta San Francesco, accompanied by great wine and conversation with fellow travelers. That day, I shared the table with an Australian journalist living in Dubai, her mother who lived in Indonesia, a couple from Dublin, and another couple from Brisbane. Our afternoon was luxurious and unhurried and was conducive to our understanding and enjoyment of the wine.

Cristian’s gift is not only his passion and knowledge for wine, but the way he makes it accessible to even a wine novice like myself.  My friend Emily once said, when describing her knowledge of Italian wines, “I know about prosecco. And when I say I know about it, I mean I know I like to drink it.” Cristian whole-heartedly agrees with this sentiment. For him, Swirl the Glass experiences facilitate the most important factor to any wine tasting – knowing what you like and enjoying it. Salute to that!

Swirl the Glass
phone: (+39) 329.42.19.392
email: info@swirltheglass.com 
www.swirltheglass.com

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© Jennifer Konopasek and GoodTravelerKarma, 2014.

#onemonthinItaly was just the beginning…

I’m convinced that in order to deserve spending now the vast majority of my summer in Italy, I must have rescued puppies from drowning in a previous life. I can’t just be lucky, right?

After a purely magical month of May in Positano (with a quick stop in Rome in the middle), I was back in Italy for most of July.  First, it was Franciacorta and Lago d’Iseo for my friend Giovanna’s wedding, back to Verona for the Opera Festival, then back to Positano. Because, again, the puppies.

The great thing about my summer in Italy is that it’s been a wonderful combination of new experiences and old favorites. So, dear reader, you’re in a for a treat: A series of posts about my favorite place on earth!

Starting with #onemonthinItaly in review – my month in Positano!

Positano is easy navigable by its two bus stops: Chiesa Nuova (at the top of town where the bus drops you off in front of Bar Internazionale) and Sponda (on the other side just up from Li Galli bar). In between there’s a one way road which winds through town, culminating at Piazza Mulini. I rented a gorgeous apartamentino in the Liparlati area of Positano, just a 10 minute hike up steep stairs from the center of town between Piazza Mulini and Sponda. I had a teensy Juliet balcony with French doors that opened on to blooming bourganvilla with a sea view and within chiming range of three churches. So you know, a shack really. 😉

I quickly got acquainted with my local market and vegetable shop. My friend Luigi drove me up to the fish market at the top of town, where Nicola and the crew expertly cleaned and filleted my fish for me, because I of course could not be trusted with such a feat of culinary expertise. But while I was self-sufficient as I could be, I soon found that working from home every day meant that social interaction over meals every day was essential. And so, a normal day looked like this:

  • 9am: Wake up, get ready, check some emails.
  • 10:30am: Walk down to Collina for a cappuccino and cornetto.
  • 11am: A quick little passegiata on the main beach.
  • 12pm: Back up to the apartment on the local bus to continue working.
  • 2pm: Lunch at home. My favorite: Clams sautéed with garlic and cherry tomatoes.
  • 4pm: A little rest at home or on the beach.
  • 5pm: More work until Italian dinner time.
  • 9pm: Back down to town for dinner, then drinks with friends.  If I had an earlier day and could finish around 7 or 8pm, I threw a little aperitivo in there for good measure.

I have a little collection of friends in Positano since I’ve visited once a year since 2007, but what a treat to meet i miei nuovi amici! There was always someone at the bar having an espresso or at La Brezza having a beer and I was always welcomed to join in. I thought I might get bored in this town of 4,000 people over the course of the month, but I settled in quite naturally to the slower pace of life complimented by the buzz of the social nature – what’s not to love about saying “Ciao!” to five or ten people on your walk to town?!

And because I wasn’t cramming my visit into four days and therefore only having time for my favorite restaurants – Le Tre Sorelle and Mediterraneo – I was able to try a whole host of new, both to me and in general, eateries. Tanina’s healthy fare and delectable sweets at Casa e Bottega was a multiple times per week occurrence.

More to come on the foodie adventures, but first, actual adventures! With all of this time in Positano, I knew I would make the compulsory trips to Sorrento, Amalfi and Ravello, but I also wanted to try some new things as well.

First it was off to Praiano, Positano’s sister town just a short 15 minute bus ride from Mulini. I rode the bus all the way to the top of town to take in the breathtaking views, then walked back down to the Chiesa San Gennaro with it’s majestic mosaic piazza overlooking the sea with Positano in the distance.  I visited on a Sunday so several of the shops and eateries were closed, and I didn’t make it down to One Fire Beach so I don’t feel that I experienced the best of Praiano, but that’s something to look forward to on the next trip! 🙂

My lovely friend Suzanne came to visit mid-month and as we sat over breakfast at Casa e Bottega, we got a recommendation to forgo Positano’s main beach and even the more low-key Fornillo, and head to Laurito.  This tiny beach is a 15 minute (free!) boat ride away from Positano’s boat dock – just look for the boat with the red fish sign for Da Adolfo, one of two restaurants on the beach.  You hop off unceremoniously from the boat and within seconds are ensconced in a sun lounge. Lunch is at the spectacularly tasty Da Adolfo which is nearly always packed.  It’s a bit comical really as tables are full at Da Adolfo and empty at the neighboring Le Sirene.  On my first visit, we stuck to chef Sergio’s special eggplant parmagiana which was creamy, cheesy and surprisingly satisfying for a hot day in the sun. When I went back with my friend Antonio, a Positano native now living in Milan, the spread was decidedly more of a celebration of local specialties: mozzarella on grilled lemon leaves, carpaccio, seafood salad, grilled local fish and white wine with peaches. With Laurito, boats start running at midday, stop between about 1:30 and 4 for lunch, then return to Positano between about 4 and 6pm.  Be careful on the weekends as this little oasis gets busy and you may be in for a let down if you don’t make a reservation for a sun chair or lunch.

Throughout my month in Positano I’d been asking around for a guide to take me to hike the Path of the Gods, renowned for the bird’s eye views of Positano. A friend offered to take me in lieu of an official guide the Monday of my last week, offering a much needed physical exertion after a few weeks of delicious food and gelato. We started from his home village of Montepertuso, about 10 minutes drive up from the top of Positano, hiked for over an hour toward Nocelle, then turned around and came back, where we rewarded ourselves with lunch at the incredible Il Ritrovo, just on Montepertuso’s main piazza.

Finally, on my very last full day, my friend Alberto picked me up for the drive to Praiano’s Praia marina, where he guided me on a private sea kayak tour to Laurito and back. It was my first time in a kayak, and after I got the hang of how to steer myself (and push myself off rocks when steering failed me, let’s be honest), we weaved through some spectacular little caves, waved to yachts and earned our 11am beer at Da Adolfo. The trip back to Praia was a bit rough due to wind and rolling seas, so poor Alberto had to tow me most of the way. I’m shocked really that he had the patience and energy to share a yummy lunch with me at Da Armandino (oh dear lord the lemon risotto with shrimp!) before driving me back to Positano.

The best thing about my new experiences in Positano is that I shared them with old and new friends! Thank you to Lorenzo, Luigi, Fanny, Suzanne, Antonio, Cristian and Alberto for making my month truly magical!

 

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© Jennifer Konopasek and GoodTravelerKarma, 2014.

First a detox and then some dolce at Casa e Bottega

Seeing as I’ve been at Casa e Bottega nearly every day since arriving in Positano, it’s about time I wrote the glowing review it’s due. 🙂

Just walking into this calming little oasis, you can already tell it’s going to be a refreshing change from much of the standard fare in town. Half design shop, half café, there are only a few tables but my favorite place to sit is at the bar to watch Tanina, Rosalia and the rest of the lovely ladies prepare the light and delicious dishes to order. Tanina prides herself on sourcing the best local and organic ingredients and as a result, all of the food is incredibly fresh and flavorful.

Start with a detox water with lemon and mint and the amazing “sole liquido” or “liquid sun” smoothie, a combination of spinach, green apple, kiwi and lemon. Next choose from one of the huge salads either on the menu or the special salad of the day. The Casa e Bottega salad with tuna and avocado is a winner. I added chicken to a special salad with apple, beetroot and strawberries.

For aperitivo, the selection of charcuterie and cheese is delicious and satisfying. The platter comes with bruschetta made the way only the Amalfi Coast can make it, with pomodorini or cherry tomatoes so sweet they taste like candy.

And after all the healthy goodness, you can feel a little less guilty indulging in Tania’s incredible desserts.  My favorite is the Delizia al Limone, a lemon cake traditional to this region, but Casa e Bottega’s version was more like a layered profiterole topped with lemon curd and cream. Light and luxurious at the same time.  The ingredients are the star here, so even the cakes have a bit less sugar than you’d get anywhere else.

If the food weren’t reason enough to make this a standby for your breakfast or lunch in Positano, the lovely ladies of Casa e Bottega will make you feel at home immediately.  Tanina is a well-known restaurateur in town, with her more formal dining option, Next2, set in the hill on the Fornillo side of town. Watching her at work is like watching a dance, and you can see how much pride she takes in her business and the customer experience.

Grazie per tutto (tutti i giorni), belle ragazze! 🙂

Casa e Bottega
Via Pasitea 100 
84017 Positano 
+39 089 875225

Open for breakfast and lunch. Closed Tuesdays. 

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© Jennifer Konopasek and GoodTravelerKarma, 2014.

 

32nd Birthday in Verona, or “How many Italians can we get to sing to you?”

or, “How many liquids can we drink in one day?”

Midnight. February 1, 2014. All of a sudden, the lights dimmed, and a chorus of “Tanti Auguri” started, led by Paolo, our exuberant bartender at Osteria del Bugiardo. With rousing operatic style, Paolo received cheers from the whole bar as I blew out the candle in my little birthday biscuit. (Many thanks to Alan for orchestrating this whole little surprise.) A group of handsome Italian men, celebrating their friend’s birthday, invited us to join their group and we proceeded to down a few more glasses of bubbly before shutting down the bar. Not a bad way to start my birthday. 🙂

The next morning, Alan and I decided to see the main tourist sights in Verona before our dinner reservation. First it was off to Juliet’s House, where we showed the lady herself a little affection all in the name of good luck in love. 😉

After another wander through town and some coffee and juice at Caffe e Parole, it was off to the Arena, Verona’s Roman amphitheater.  We climbed to the top to take in the views of the city and out to the mountains (pretty impressive on a broken toe, I may add). The walkways beneath the stadium steps were spectacular as well and made for a good photo shoot.  Alan and I agreed we would love to come back in the summer when the Arena hosts Verona’s Opera Festival. What a fantastic place to hear some classical music!

Then it was on to the Castelvecchio. While we found the compulsory museum a bit dry, we loved roaming the ramparts. We were two of only about four people on the walkways on that cold February day.  After a scenic stint on the Castelvecchio Bridge, it was off to warm up and forage for some snacks and drinks. We walked back along the river and ended up in the Terrazza al Ponte, a bar and café we spied previously from the Ponte Pietra because of its cute terrace (so not just a clever name). The mist and the rollicking river made the terrace a delight, but it was too cold to stay out for long, so we warmed up inside with some wine and a caprese salad snack.  It was here that we met another group of lovely Italian men (after we noticed them taking tequila shots at 3pm) who bought us a drink and proceeded to sing “Happy Birthday” a couple more times. Our little break turned into over four hours of antics, and we had to tear ourselves away for dinner at Enoteca Cangrande.

I initially wanted to do the bespoke tasting  I read about, but the regular menu looked so good we decided just to order off that. The kindly staff presented us with a gnochetti dish on the house, then it was ravioli with truffles for me and we split beef braised in red wine with polenta.  Enoteca Cangrande gave us a luxurious experience with plenty of time for energized people to chat during courses which nearly turned into nap time for us.  Here’s the thing: You really do need a siesta when eating and drinking your way through Italy. It exists for a reason. Instead of resting, we were making new friends over several glasses of prosecco, which means we hit the wall at dinner.We couldn’t even make it to dessert! (A fact which I’m still a bit sad about, really.)

After a blissful sleep at the fabulous Hotel Milano, only Caffe e Parole and Osteria del Bugiardo were on the agenda before our evening flight. Back at the wine bar, we walked in to a warm welcome like we were old friends. We settled into our regular place at the bar, had a few more glasses of Vigliacco, some charcuterie and bruschetta and sampled the beef meatballs with polenta just to fuel us for the flight.

I realize as I write this that food and wine (and antics) feature more than the Verona sights, but isn’t that what a good birthday weekend is all about?  How it’s taken me 32 years to have a birthday in Italy when I am, if nothing else, an Italophile at heart, I will never know. I think this may need to become an annual tradition.

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© Jennifer Konopasek and GoodTravelerKarma, 2014.

In fair Verona where we lay our scene…

In Mr. Massart’s 9th grade English class, we had to memorize the prologue to “Romeo and Juliet.” Turns out, 18 years later after a couple of glasses of wine, I can still recite about half of it. Then again, maybe I was just inspired by Verona. 🙂

My fellow London-based American world traveler and friend Alan and I took a painfully early flight from London to squeeze the most out of our weekend. We arrived in Verona, wandered through the huge Piazza Bra, the most open piazza I’ve seen outside of Rome, and not long after went to forage for pizza.  Juliet could wait.

Our search took us to Pizzeria Du de Cope in a small galleria off of the main shopping street Via Mazzini. After munching on delicious brick oven pizza with that superb crispy-outside, chewy inside dough and a couple of glasses of Valpolicella, we were off to orient ourselves with this little town.

The great thing about visiting Italy in the winter is that the other tourists are scarce. As we wandered the Via Mazzini to the main Piazza Erbe, we were partaking in passeggiata with all of the locals, which, for me, an elementary Italian student, is a feast for the ears.  We rambled to the river and then over to find a coffee shop and a gelateria. Sadly, gelato is not a big seller in January so the recommended Gelateria Ponte Pietra was closed, but we did find the warm and comfortable Caffe e Parole. This quickly became my favorite spot in Verona with exquisite creamy cappuccinos, fresh spun vegetable juice concoctions and pastries to die for. My favorite were the little “frittelle” doughnuts filled with cream.

Buzzing a bit on good Italian espresso, we continued to wander the town, getting our bearings and planning our tourist adventures for the next day. We wanted a little apertivo before heading to concierge recommended restaurant for dinner and as we wandered the Corso Porta Borsari, we found a great wine bar, Osteria del Bugiardo. It was a bit quiet around 4pm on a Friday, so we sidled up to the bar, ordered some 2.50 Euro glasses of Valpolicella classic and soaked up the scene. This is clearly a local favorite, but being in a tourist area, the staff is welcoming, English-speaking and friendly.  The osteria got increasingly busy as we sat there while the town got off of work and got ready to party. While we sipped the house red, everyone around us was drinking a sparkling rose. It was obvious that we needed to try this, and after one glass of the lovely Vigliacco we were hooked. We dragged ourselves away to dinner, but knew we would be coming back later.

And return we did. The clientele was notably younger and clearly starting the weekend right. We squeezed into a tiny corner near a group of attractive Italian guys celebrating a birthday. They were drinking the bubbly first but then changed to a beautifully decanted red. And this is why I love Italians. A birthday party in London or New York would likely involve a teetering tray of Jager Bombs. In Verona? A bottle of fine vintage.

The shots came later. But more on that shortly. 🙂

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© Jennifer Konopasek and GoodTravelerKarma, 2014.

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.

“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.