Riding the Rails in Cinque Terre

I’ve got to be honest, I woke up this morning and my legs are still burning from all of my hiking yesterday.  As a result, I am feeling especially grateful that today I will see the rest of Cinque Terre by train (even if I wanted to hike it I couldn’t – the last 2 trails have been closed for about 4 years now).

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my walk to the train station

So I made Levanto my first heading this morning.  Wanda (my host) left me an adorable little bag with my breakfast to enjoy in my room or on the go.  So I quickly drank the freshly squeezed orange juice and ate some of the most beautifully red-colored melon, and then I brought the croissant along with me.

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a 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 actually 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.

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my beautiful view from the train

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Riomaggiore felt a little bit smaller than the other towns that I had already visited, but it was very cute.  It definitely had that postcard picture look.

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And it also made for an easy quick stop.  You could probably do the whole town in an hour or less, or if you wanted, you could skip it all together and be none the wiser.

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When I arrived at my next stop, 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.

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In Manarola, there are a couple of different coastal walkways that you can take to get a good view of the town, which was 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.)

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The main street is lined with a lot of 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.”

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I kind of chuckled to myself and then 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.  But regardless, it was worth every step, and in fact, turned out to be my best meal yet.

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I showed up just before service started, but 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 happened to have a pirate flag… maybe Billy is a pirate?)

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I ordered the local white wine and a 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, to crudo, clams, arancini…each bite was perfectly prepared, executed and seasoned.

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one of my favs – grilled octopus over lemon whipped potatoes

For my main course I asked the waitress what her favorite dish was, and without hesitation, she answered the squid ink pasta with mixed seafood.  Equally without hesitation, I decided to go with that.

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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 and local 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).  It was perfection.

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After my insanely delicious lunch, I really wasn’t planning on having any dessert.  But since I had yet to try the local dessert wine, Schiachetrà, and everything had been so good, I decided to order the wine with the cantuccini cookies (baby biscotti that you dunk into the wine).  I had only a taste, as I was really stuffed at this point, but it was all as delicious as the last.

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A relaxing meal in a beautiful setting – life simply cannot get any better than this.

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When you are this far up the mountain, it is so quiet and peaceful – you’re overlooking the vineyards, the lemon groves, the sea, and the colorful town – and you feel like you have found your own hidden piece of Italian Riviera paradise.  The cost?  Just climb the mountain lady.

4 Replies to “Riding the Rails in Cinque Terre”

  1. Miss Katie: Who do you have to know to get appetizers and entrees like this?? Beautiful food (and beautiful photography of the beautiful food!). Sounds like you are finding new and interesting experiences – look forward to hearing more.

    1. Thank you so much James!

  2. Oh my gosh, your meal was to die for! Everything looked so amazing! I am so enjoying these recaps and love how adventurous and curious you are – it definitely shines through in your writing and (I’m sure) makes for a much more enriching trip. :)

    1. Thanks Kali! I am so glad that you enjoyed it!

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