If your missed my first recap post of my summer Italian adventures, be sure to check it out here
The next site on our agenda was Cinque Terre. Cinque Terre is cluster of five "sister towns" on the west Italian coast. What's special about these towns is that there are walking paths along the coast that connect them so that you can hike from town to town. That is what motivated us to hop in the car and visit them, but unfortunately the paths were closed due to weather damage. We still had a wonderful day however (I mean, how is it possible to NOT have a good day when on vacation in Italy?), with one of the coolest things being this marble mine we passed on the way to the towns where they were mining real Italian marble!
The towns were still lovely, though rather touristy.
Look at these tiny little farm trucks! They have them all over Italy, especially in the country side. They don't even have steering wheels! Instead, they have a horizontal bar you push and pull on the ends to maneuver the automobile around Italy's twisting roads. I'm bigger than it is!
And of course we had to get our daily gelato! This time I tried lemon and pistachio. The lemon was very refreshing, but wow, the pistachio was especially amazing!!
Look at how blue that water is!!
Because the paths were closed, we had to take a train to the last town and didn't get to see the middle three towns. Luckily, I think all three towns were pretty similar, but it still would have been nice to see all of them.
An old World War II barricade that I explored with my brother!
My mom and I hiked up to the top of a hill where there was a really neat old cemetery (most of it above ground - it reminded me of the cemeteries in New Orleans), as well as gorgeous views!
See the grape vineyards lining the hills?
We explored the town a bit, and then headed back to our pension, hoping to find dinner on the way. We ended up stopping at this little place, in a rather abandoned feeling small town, called Ristorante Eloise. It was an adorable, quaint cafe with only one other table occupied, but it was very homey feeling, and we felt like we got the true "Italian dining" experience (meaning that we weren't rushed out with the check but encouraged to stay and relax after dinner). Pretty much every restaurant in Italy brings you bread as a part of the "cover charge." As much as I love bread, even plain, white, rather flavorless bread can get old after a while. Thankfully, this bread was extra special. I believe it was bruschetta, the best bruschetta I've ever had! The bread was toasted, rubbed with garlic, and drizzled with olive oil prior to being topped with the most delicious tomato topping. I could have eaten a plate of that bread alone for my meal!
But thankfully I didn't do that or I would have missed out on the best pasta of my life. It sounded simple on the menu (pasta with spicy tomato sauce), and it was simple, but that is what made it so perfect. Rather than the sauce masking the flavor of the pasta, it complemented it. The sauce wasn't hot spicy but very flavorful, showcasing the fresh tomatoes and spices. The pasta was obviously homemade as it was wonderfully thick and chewy. My whole family agreed that this was one of the best entrees we tried that night (though everything we had was fantastic), and by far the best pasta dish we had ever had.
I ordered a side of swiss chard and could only dream of being able to cook it like that at home! Olive oil and garlic were obvious components of some of the best greens I'd ever tasted, but the swiss chard flavor shone through as well. Still, there was not a drop bitterness.
Whille in Italy, my mom and I had a list of foods that we had to try, and on that list was Tiramisu. We figured that this little eatery would be the perfect place to try it, as it was homemade, and it turned out we were right. We had never had it before and weren't even expecting to like it, but we ended up loving it. The coffee flavor was light but still present, and the cake was incredibly moist, rather dense (in a good way), and topped with the thickest, creamiest, whipped topping ever. It was better that we had ever imagined.
While the night was already perfect, it became even more perfect when our waiter/host brought this complementary drink to the table:
That would be a bottle of ice cold cream limoncello. We found during our time in Italy that it is tradition to end a good meal with a shot of limoncello. Because lemons are a big agricultural commodity in Italy, limoncello is a product commonly sold in Italy, much like olive oil. And since the legal drinking age in Italy is 18, I got to taste it! I only had a few sips, but it was truly wonderful. Sweet, creamy, smooth, and as thick as cream. That dinner was one of the best meals on our entire trip.
We drove to Tuscany the next day and so didn't see a whole lot that day (except for the gorgeous countryside), but we did have the opportunity to visit a really neat walled medieval town, San Gimignano, for dinner.
The gelato flavors of the day were yogurt and fruta de bosca (mixed berry). We consumed our gelato just prior to dinner because it was late, and we didn't want to take a chance that the gelaterias might close! ;)
And for dinner, I had the most amazing mushroom crostini topped with plenty of cheese and fabulously thick, meaty mushrooms.
The walled city was even more beautiful at night. Just look at that incredible sky!
My next Italian recap will include Florence and the beginning of my Roman adventures! Stay tuned.
Happy Wednesday everyone!