Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Cinqueterre / Manarola Day 3: I eat horse while admiring the sunset.

Today we got up early and took the train to Monterosso. There are several hiking trails that connects all five cities in the Cinqueterre, but several of the most direct ones by the seaside are closed because of mudslides. So to hike all the way to Monterosso would have taken all day. Instead, we took the train over (this time, paying attention to the schedule, so our wait was less than ten minutes) to the city furthest away.

Monterosso is more of a beach town. We were there early so it was a sea of empty beach umbrellas and chairs, waiting to be rented!

The beach of Monterosso.  

Not too crowded at 9 in the morning. 

We stayed in this town for less than 15 minutes. We had thought about coming and swimming for a bit before starting the hike to the next town (Vernazza). However, we decided we liked Manarola much better. Not that Monterosso is bad, it's just that, coming from California, we've had our share of sandy beaches (I know, I know) and would have rather spent the day in our "home" town or exploring a different one.

So we took off for the hike to Vernazza. We were told by the ticket office (you have to purchase a daily hiking pass to hike the main trails in the Cinqueterre) that it was difficult and took more than 2 hours. We finished it up in a little over an hour so we were feeling pretty good about ourselves. We were also feeling super sweaty :)

View of Montarosso as we hiked away. 
For some weird fucking reason, there is a cat sanctuary along the trail. Doug was excited.

Doug with some cat houses on the trail from Montarosso to Vernazza. 

Cat Chat

A little over half way there, view of Vernazza. 

Doug and Tanya snagged some lunch at a takeaway cafe. Focaccia's of different varieties. This was some of the best focaccia I've had, strangely (since it's pretty readily available everywhere in the Cinqueterre). It was light and fluffy and not too oily. I feel most foccacia I've had is perhaps stale or over-oiled? This was pillowy and delicious and tasted fresh. The pizzas were warmed in an over before handed over.

Best focaccia pizza so far. 

Me? I had a poor-man's leftover packed lunch... of lobster.
My lobster leftovers, Doug's tomato-pesto-cheese focaccia and plain foccacia. All delicious. 

We ate on the rocks next to the sea.

Me and my veiny feet. I think the lobster was causing my blood to pump a little harder this day. That or the hike. 

I did end up jumping in the water for a bit, which felt great after the hike. We took a boat ride back to Manarola. It was about 15 minutes. It was overcast, which is bad for pictures but great for sitting on top of the boat and avoiding a sunburn :)

Doug, hair blowing in the wind on the boat. 

View of Manarola. 

Headed home! 

Got back to the apartment so Doug and Tanya could put on their swimsuits. I sat on our balcony - the sun had come up and we had a great view of the hillside gardens on the opposite side of town (which is really a five minute walk from our hillside apartment).

View of part of the town and some of the hillside gardens. So cool. 

Spent the afternoon swimming in the Ligurian Sea. Very salty.

Ligurian Sea - Dock at Manarola

Rested up (we had really late dinner reservations) and read on the patio. This place is like out of a movie. Every day, 3-5 local Italian ladies come to the area downstairs from our apartment and gab for a few hours in Italian. It's cute and makes a good backdrop to the trip :) Another good backdrop is that clothes and sheets are literally hanging of the balconies in every Italian city we have visted to date. We have yet to encounter a dryer. This is not a holdover from the old times - people are literally hanging their laundry out to dry in big and small cities here. I love it (as I'm a hanging clothes dryer person myself - gotta make good use of that hot Sacramento heat!). So hanging laundry has accompanied us all throughout the trip, too.

The noontime Italian gab session with these local Manarola residents. 

We read and relaxed and grazed the afternoon away with espresso, white wine, leftover focaccia, and leftover crossaints that Tanya had bought in the morning (before Doug and I were even up).

Me, the city, the laundry, the leftovers. 

To kill time before dinner (I'd been starving since 6PM) we walked to the other side around the corner to take in the sunset.

Sunset from the town. 

Fishermen below. 



View of our city during sunset. 

For dinner, we went to Trattoria del Billy, per the recomendation of our hosts again. It has a great backdrop on the patio so the best time we could get for a reservation was for 9PM - they were pretty booked this week. But the views we got during our meal as the sun set to dusk made the late dinner totally worth it. (Plus we'd been eating dinner around 8:30PM anyway). This was the "nicer" restaurant in town, and the food delicious, local, and on-point, but I have to say I liked Aristade and Marina Piccola better.

TripAdvisor tip: request the hot chili oil. It was spicy and good - went great with their balsamic cream sauce. 

View from the balcony where we had dinner. Beautiful, and perfect weather/temperature. 

My babe. 

They had horse on the menu. Actual horse. I clarified to make sure that the translation was accurate. It was. Obviously, I had to order it. I am always down to try a new animal or animal part.

Horse meat, wtih arugula, cheese, pine nuts, and tomatoes inside. 

Doug got the spicy spaghetti, which had a definite kick to it and was really good. You cannot beat fresh made pasta.

Tanya got the local specialty - Trofie pasta with green beans and potatos and pesto. It was good, and we agreed that the pesto we had at Marina Piccola was better.

Trofie alla Ligure

Close up of the horse meat - inside. 

Neigh! Neigh! 

The view changed dramatically as we ate (we were there over two hours).
"So I says to the guy..."
On a whim, Tanya ordered the cheese plate. Biggest cheese plate ever for less than 10 Euro.

Pecorino Romano, Parmesean, camelized onions, and gorgonzola. 

I got the fresh catch of the day. I think he refered to it as Blackfish, and he did not know the English trnaslation for the type of fish it was. Our server literally brought out the fresh fish on a plate (and it almost slid on to a customer's lap as he was simultaneously serving bread to another table) to show it to me before the cook's prepared it. Pretty neat. I've never approved my fish before they grilled it :) They served it just like this, ready to dive in to.

Doug got the veal scallopine, which was tasty and unlike any I'd had before - it was very acidic and had been flavored with lemon. Delish.

You can see the progress made on the cheeese plate did not match the progress made on the fish.

They serve complimentary limoncino at the end of the meal.

The desserts were not amazing, so we were a little disappointed. I mean they were good, but we've had some outstanding desserts so I think we were all a little let down by these.


Chocolate almond cake. 

Lemon almond white chocolate cake. 

While it wasn't our best dinner in Manarola, it was still one of the better, and fresher, and local-er, dinners we've had in Italy. I'm loving the Cinqueterre!

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