Yesterday, after a mind numbing, back breaking six and a half hours on trains, we landed in the Cinque Terre (five lands), five villages clinging to the cliffs over the Mediterranean just south of Genoa. The towns are connected by rail, boat and foot path. Along with the surrounding, terraced vineyards, low brush and cliffs they comprise a national park. As a result development is strictly controlled maintaining the old charm of the villages. The place is well discovered and pretty full of tourist. Nevertheless it feels real. The old timers still sit on the bench in the town square, begrudging the visitors, but no doubt glad for their money. The church bell still rings loudly every half hour through the night as if to say “this is still our town, you are just guests.”
Corniglia, our home base, is the middle of the five and the only one without a harbor. As such it is slightly less touristed than the others but only slightly. We’re staying at Barrani Agritourismo, a B & B connected to the Barrani family farm. Signora Barrani is an acclaimed chef. Last night she cooked up an amazing feast for her guests. The antipasto was fresh anchovies in olive oil with bell pepper and olives – not the extreme, salty canned stuff we’re used to – these were mild and delicious. The secondi was penne with a sauce of tomato and eggplant that was melt in your mouth. Signora Barrani makes the pasta from scratch! I’d been craving pasta with a tomato sauce and this was perfect. The primi consisted of thinly sliced, lean, roast pork in a reduction with onion, pepper, carrot and zucchini. The pork was tender, the sauce was to die for. The meal was perfectly matched with a local vino bianco and topped with a small glass of sciacchetrà, a local desert wine. We were served alone on a third story balcony over looking the town’s tiny chapel and gardens of the upper town. Molto romantico.
Today we took the train to the south most village, Riomaggiore. From there we took the ferry to the north most, Monterosso al Mare stopping briefly at Manarola and Vernazza, the other two towns with landings. The Mediterranean sparkled. Gulls hung on the updrafts against a clear blue sky. The towns clung like crystals of amber, red and peach to the blue-gray cliffs streaked with white, thrusting out of the sea. Between the towns and cliffs, ancient terraced vineyards cascaded towards the water.
We lunched in Monterosso on shrimp and avacado salad and took the train home. Tonight another feast from Signora Barrani.