Despite lots of great potential content, I didn’t write much about our fabulous trip to Europe last spring.* Over the next couple of weeks, I will rectify that by sharing snippets from my travel journal in the “Looking back at . . . ” series.
Cinque Terre, March 30-31, 2011
Wednesday (3/30): On to Cinque Terre. Due to slow service, we abandoned our plans for delicious looking pizza in La Spezia (at least we hadn’t paid for it yet) in order to catch our train to Cinque Terre. Given the sub par pizza lunch that we ended up eating in Vernazza, perhaps we should have just waited for the pizza and taken the next train.
After checking into our “hotel” (Albergo Barbara, identical to the B&Bs, but without breakfast), we filled our water bottles and headed out for some hiking. The high trail from Vernazza to Monterosso was beautiful, and I was glad I pushed through the challenge of the initial climb, which I took at an embarrassingly slow pace (maybe I DID qualify as a person of impaired mobility!).
After a great hike, including some thunder and a bit of rain, we arrived in Monterossa at a proper Italian dinner time, only to find most of the town, including the most interesting looking restaurants, closed. Turns out many of the restaurants and stores in Cinque Terre were still closed for “low season,” even though all of the lodging establishments were charging “high season” prices.
The day continued to be a food flop, with a dinner that consisted of pasta (the noodles themselves were decent) with the worst pesto we’ve ever had, plus some minestrone that was decent, but was likely a decent variety of canned minestrone. If the prices reflected the quality of the food, this would have been somewhat less painful, but instead we paid about 20 euros (~$28) for the privilege.
Thursday: Found a bakery (Il Discovolo) specializing in local products in Manorolo, where we really enjoyed the farinata (chickpea flour savory pastry filled with cheese) and the lightly sweet chesnut bar. In Riomaggiore, we found a place to buy nice panini ingredients (buffalo mozzarella, sun-dried tomatoes, artichokes, eggplant, and olives) by the kilo, so we loaded up on lunch ingredients and set off on the hike between Manarola and Corniglia.
Another great hike, through terraced vineyards, and overgrown terraces that must have once been vineyards or otherwise farmed. For dinner, we headed back to the bakery and picked up a savory spinach pastry (similar to spanikopita), plus more panini ingredients, since the restaurants in Cinque Terre left us quite nonplussed.
We also found out that the train strike [that we'd heard rumors of all day] was ON, which put Friday’s travel to Siena in jeopardy . . . .