After working for most of June in France (a subject of several posts to come), I’m spending July in Italy. The plan was to spend 5 days in Milan. Milan was hotter than Hades, humid and smoggier than Los Angeles on a bad day. I’d try to put makeup on but was sweating it off before I even finished putting it on. After the third day of this heat and the inability to wear makeup, I chucked all my plans and got on a morning train to the Cinque Terre.
I had no reservation for a hotel or room, but I desperately needed fresh air and the sea. I called a number I had for the affitacamera (room for rent) I rented last year. They didn’t have a room but gave me a number of a friend. The friend only had an apartment. We were disconnected before I could ask what was certain to be an outrageous price. When I called back, they just told me to meet them at the COOP when I got into town. At the COOP, I was greeted by Gemmina and his “friend” who had a room available. The friend, Ilario, tossed my 50 pound suitcase, which I not-so-fondly call la bestia viola (purple beast), over his shoulder and led me to my room. Yes, I know how lucky I am--a room at the last minute, for a great price, on Sunday in the Cinque Terre AND someone to carry my over-packed suitcase up the 60 or so steps!
Two of the top reasons why I love Italy are the sea and its seafood, so my first meal in the Cinque Terre was something from the sea, Spaghetti allo Scoglio (spaghetti with crustaceans). Scoglio in Italian literally means rock, or the seashore bluffs, on or near which the crustaceans live. The dish included mussels, clams, and shrimp. The sauce’s main flavor comes from the juices that the mussels, clams and shrimp release as they cook. Olive oil, a little pinch of hot peppers (pepperoncini), and parsley finish the sauce, maybe one tomato and white wine are in the sauce, too. I had this at the Taverna del Capitano on the Marina in Vernazza. I think those yellow umbrellas to the left of the photo are from del Capitano.
While traveling through Italy, internet access isn‘t easily available, so I will keep posts short--sometimes sweet and sometimes savory--and as frequent as possible. They’ll include the regional or local dish from wherever I am in Italy and a little “dish“ on my travels.
I love Vernazza, it’s a long row of multicolored houses, with only one main street that leads from the train station straight to the cove that makes up the harbor and its rocky beach. Monterosso with its turquoise sea and umbrella-lined pebble beach is where I‘ll be tomorrow, either swimming or laying on my lettino (sun bed). I think I’ve been coming to the Cinque Terre every year for far too long because the restaurateurs recognize me. A sure sign (sigh) that it's about time I ventured out a bit. After my 4 days here, I’ll see if I can find another Ligurian town as charming as the Cinque Terre. That's gonna be a hard task, but we'll see what I can find.
What are your top reasons for loving Italy? What is your favorite beach in Italy?