While Lake Como was a gorgeous, relaxing start to our honeymoon, the Cinque Terre region was by far our favorite place thanks to the amazing food the area is known for. Just like certain restaurants are known for certain dishes, different areas of Italy have their specialties. And in the Cinque Terre we made sure to try as many of these specialties as we could find, including pesto, olive oil, Limoncino, focaccia bread, and lemon-dressed sardines.
There are five towns that make up the Cinque Terre and they are all connected by a series of hiking paths, which wind you up, down, and around the gorgeous mountainsides with breathtaking views of the Riviera of La Spezia. Our home base was in Monterosso, the northernmost town, also known as the main beach town of the Cinque Terre. I am embarrassed to say that I didn’t do my food research before we went, so I was completely stunned when I took my first bite of pesto in Monterosso. I know food bloggers say this a lot, but I genuinely mean it when I say that the pesto in the Cinque Terre is one of the best foods I have ever eaten. And rightly so, as it turns out the Cinque Terre region is the birthplace of pesto. So what makes it so wonderful? The texture is much thicker than pesto you find in the States, plus the ingredients used are just so fresh that the flavors are just perfect.
Our first night in Monterosso was one of Bry’s favorite meals and unfortunately I cannot remember what the restaurant was called. BUT, it was our first exposure to the pesto there. For his first course, he got the pesto spirali.
Then for his main entree ordered the sea bass, per recommendation of the waiter. The bass was so light and fell apart to the touch. It was served with more of the amazing pesto as well as a lightly seasoned potato round.
Since the Cinque Terre is known for its lemon trees, we went with a lemon dessert. While it was called a “cake” on the menu, it ended up being more like a lemon bar, which I did not have an issue with at all!
Our first full day in the Cinque Terre was our hiking day – 15 miles total with many of those being sharp inclines and steep steps. So tiring but also the most beautiful hike either of us has ever done. At the second village of Vernazza we grabbed a late-morning snack: stuffed focaccia. Unfortunately this picture does not do it justice as it was nearly impossible to get Bry to stop eating it long enough to take a proper picture. But man oh man was it good! The focaccia was seasoned well with oregano and stuffed with fresh tomato sauce and buffalo mozzarella.
By the time we reached Corniglia (the third town), we were ready for lunch. Off the main street we came upon this adorable wine bar and knew we had to eat here. Rather than getting a standard lunch, we decided to split a wine tasting that came with local foods. The woman who owns the wine bar was so wonderful and friendly, spending time with us to discuss the local cuisine.
Each wine was paired with a small bite, so that we could properly appreciate the flavors of the food and wine.
From left to right: Lemon-dressed sardines, local salami, 2 slices of toast with homemade pesto and 2 slices of toast topped with a fresh tomato spread.
From left to right: Thin slices of toasted focaccia bread + pesto-stuffed tomatoes, variety of local cheeses served with an apricot relish.
After a long day of hiking we wanted carbs, so we headed over to Il Piccolo Diavolo for pizza. By far our favorite pizza of the trip. We ended up splitting two: one with pesto (of course) and the other with prosciutto and ricotta.
We also decided to take a break from wine and try out the local beer, which they call bireta and serve in these adorable bottles! The beer was light and refreshing – a nice change up from wine.
The next day we gave our bodies a break and did a beach day followed by a trip to Buranco Winery. Off the beaten path, my parents recommended we visit Buranco, which is a family-run farm where they make their own wine, Limoncino, grappa, and olive oil. They also have a bed and breakfast, which I would love to go back and stay at. As you walk up the hill from Monterosso to the winery, you are surrounded by lemon trees and vineyards. When you reach the winery, it feels as if you are visiting a relative. The house is so beautiful yet comfortable and we were the only two people there.
The owners gave us a warm welcome and showed us around the outdoor kitchen and lounge area.
Along with our wine tasting, one of the owners made us snacks from scratch, using many ingredients that she grows or makes on the farm including basil and olives.
With our grappa and Limoncino tastings, she brought out a homemade tart with a shortbread crust and an apricot, lemon filling.
Phew, sorry for such a long post, but the food in the Cinque Terre was just SO good!! Next up: Florence!