Article About Liguria - ITALY |
6 April 2008: We are staying at a campground in the seaside town of Levanto, Italy. We even saw a couple surfers suited-up with boards in town, wandering toward the waves. Yes, we were jealous, but there was not a board-rental shop in sight anywhere! The campground was a bit rustic, which made me wonder about the toilet/shower facilities when we arrived. But to my surprise, they JUST rebuilt it. And, as a matter of fact, are still finishing. They are open-air, which is good and bad. Good for airing out smells, but it’s a little bit cold getting out of an early morning shower, but not too bad. They did a great job in the way of aesthetics and technology: sensor vessel faucets, individual trough sinks, (almost) rain showers, also on sensor, and toilets that automatically flush and sanitize after you’re done.
Levanto is the gateway to Cinque Terre (pronounced CHINK-weh TAY-reh). Literally meaning “the five lands”, this region is a national park in the region of Liguria/The Gulf of Genoa, with five tiny isolated well-preserved villages and no tourist auto traffic. Visitors hike the trails between towns, or do like we did, take the train into town and between the villages. After a lazy, rainy morning of breakfast in bed and watching Finding Nemo for about the hundredth time, the rain cleared up and we started with the furthest town and worked our way up. We were very lucky as the weather even got pretty warm and sunny in the afternoon. We got lost in tiny labyrinth-like corridors in residential areas with steep, steep stone stairways. I can’t imagine being elderly or overweight and living there! But, it definitely worked up our appetite!
We also literally ATE our way throughout four of the five towns on the first day. We ate much of the region’s “cucina tipica” (local specialties), as listed in the Rick Steves book that we picked up from the “free library” at B&W Campers. First, we started off with a morning foccacia walking to the train station in Levanto. Originating in Cinque Terre’s region of Liguria, locals say the best focaccia is made between Cinque Terre and Genoa (which we passed near the France border).
Then, a mid-day snack of fried calamari from Te la Do Io la Merenda (means “I’ll give you a snack”) topped off with a café-flavored gelato in Riomaggiore. Then, Kai woke from her nap, so we got another cheese foccacia for her. We followed up with a strawberry sorbetto for Kai in the town of Corniglia. Then, we had a wonderful dinner at a tiny little restaurant, Trattoria del Capitano in Vernazza. Here, Sean had the Tegame alla Vernazza, made with accuighe (fresh anchovies…looked and tasted more like fresh sardines), potatoes, tomatoes, white wine, olive oil and herbs. He also had fresh pasta with pesto, made with basil, half Parmigiano cow/half Pecorino sheep cheese, garlic, olive oil and pine nuts. This is also born in this region. Basil is supposed to really love the Ligurian climate.
The next day, we started off in Vernazza again. Since we arrived right before sunset, ready for dinner, we wanted to see more of the town. We woke up our calves by starting with a climb up more stone steps all the way up to the top near one of the town’s towers for a breathtaking view. The waves, which were way mellow the day before, picked up quite a bit, so we headed back down to town to sit right in front of the harbor and watch the waves crash over the breakwater. It gave us a great show!
Next, we headed to the last town, Monterosso al Mare. We strolled around and picked up a bottle of another cucina tipica, sciacchetra. This dessert wine is made from near raisons. For a regular wine, 10 kilos of grapes yields seven liters. For sciacchetra, 10 kilos makes 1.5 liters. By then, the atmosphere of Cinque Terre had really sunk-in, and we were completely on slow time. We spend the rest of our afternoon at a café while Kailani got some more time in their local playground. (PS: Thanks Christina, for recommending that we visit this place!)
By the way, we are at least getting by with speaking Italiano, at least so far. Especially in Cinque Terre, there are a lot of Americans as well as tourists in general. So, the locals all seem to understand English pretty well. For us, Italian seems like a mix between French and Spanish, with a vowel at the end of every word.
The Riola Family