I’ve got to be honest, I woke up this morning and my legs are still burning from all of the hiking yesterday. I’m feeling really grateful that today I will see the rest of Cinque Terre by train (even if I wanted to hike I couldn’t, the last 2 trails have been closed for about 4 years now). In addition to the last two towns of Cinque Terre, I happened to notice nearby Levanto on the map, and thought that maybe I should check that out as well.
my walk to the train station
So I made Levanto my first heading this morning. Wanda left me an adorable little bag with my breakfast to enjoy in my room or on the go. I quickly drank the freshly squeezed orange juice and ate some of the most beautifully red colored melon, and brought the croissant along with me for the train.
local fruit vendor
I caught the train to Levanto and was there within minutes. I got out, and kind of thought, “huh.” There was not a colorful town waiting for me like I was anticipating, and it looked like it was a bit of a walk to the town center, so I quickly made the decision to skip Levanto, jump back on the train, and head to Riomaggiore.
view from the train
Riomaggiore felt a bit smaller than the other towns, but it was very cute. It definitely had that postcard picture look from the coastline.
It made for an easy quick stop (you could do the whole town in an hour or less), or if you wanted, you could probably skip it all together and be none the wiser.
When I arrived in Manarola, I was again greeted by a cheery colorful town. Honestly, the colorful homes set against the sea never gets old, they are all so beautiful. Everything feels so peaceful and yet lively and interesting all at the same time, it’s really a very enjoyable place to visit.
In Manarola, there are a couple of different coastal walkways that you can take out to get a good view of the town, which was very nice. I walked them all, and found that they did each offer a slightly different vantage point. (However now looking through my pictures, the differences seem only slight. But regardless, it was very enjoyable to walk them all.)
The main street is lined with a lot cute little stores and restaurants…which brings me to my next adventure. I had a restaurant in mind for lunch today, Trattoria dal Billy. I didn’t notice it during my original wander around town, so I stopped and asked someone where it was. In Italian, the man laughed and said, “lady, you need to climb up the mountain.”
I kind of chuckled to myself and started upwards (as I knew he probably was not kidding). While it wasn’t all the way up the mountain, it was quite a ways. And if you didn’t know that you were looking for this restaurant, you definitely wouldn’t go this far up in the town just for the fun of it. Regardless of the journey, it was worth every step, and in fact, turned out to be my best meal yet in Italy.
I showed up just before service started and they kindly welcomed me in, offering me the pick of the tables. I chose the only table outside; just one little table on a little terrace overlooking the town and sea (which also happen to have a pirate flag… maybe Billy is a pirate?).
I ordered the local white wine and mixed seafood appetizer to start. I don’t have any clue what my expectation was, but it was blown out of the water when my 12 course antipasto showed up. Each bite more delicious than the last – from a squid ink crepe, to panelle, crudo, clams, arancini…each bite was perfectly prepared, executed and seasoned.
one of my favs – grilled octopus over lemon whipped potatoes
For my main course, I asked the waitress what her favorite was, and without hesitation, she answered the squid ink pasta with mixed seafood. Equally without hesitation, I decided to go with that.
One word. Unbelievable. Everything about this dish was just right. So right in fact, that I was desperately trying to figure out what they put in it, so that I can try to recreate it at home. In large part, I am sure that all of the flavors I am tasting are particular to the fresh seafood and produce that they use. Have you ever heard some one say that something “tastes like the sea?” Well, I completely get that now. Yes! It did taste like the sea! Fresh seafood piled high on top of the amazingly delicate homemade squid ink pasta, all lightly dressed in some sort of secret sauce (of which I am still dreaming about and trying to figure out). Perfection.
I wasn’t planning on dessert, but since I had yet to try the local Passito, Schiachetrà, and everything had been so amazing, I decided to order the Passito with cantuccini cookies (like baby biscotti that you dunk into the wine). I had only a taste, as I was quite full at this point, but the Schiachetrà was sweet, but oh so smooth.
A relaxing meal in a beautiful setting, life simply cannot get any better than this.
When you are this far up the mountain, it is really quite quiet and peaceful. Overlooking the vineyards, lemon groves and the sea, the colorful town…you feel like you have found your own hidden piece of Italian Riviera paradise. The cost? Just climb the mountain lady.