Thursday, September 4, 2014

Cinque Terre Day 2

Well our intent to get going nice and early sort of didn't happen, and we weren't out the door until 9:30. We headed over to Pasticcheria Laura for cafe latte and pastry. Unbeknownst to us this was a hot spot for the locals, and got packed 5 minutes after we arrived. McC had a slice of pastry that looked like it had berry filling but we discovered it was chocolate. I had a small fruit tart that had the lightest, sweetest crust I've ever had (Mom, please don't murder me for sayin that). We escaped the crush in the nick of time.
I remembered I didn't bring a scarf to visit the churches so we stopped at a shop next to our pensione. €10 for 100% cashmere? Yes please! We made our way down through Piazza Garibaldi and decided to check out the castello which sits on a high rocky promontory, ready to alert the town in case of Saracen pirate attacks. As we walked up the path I noticed another structure sitting below it, also looking out to sea. While I had seen it the night before I didn't truly understand what it was until just then. It was a German pillbox bunker leftover from WW2. Nearby La Spezia was a Nazi stronghold during the war, as it had a big port, but the Germans dotted the little villages up the coast from there with troops as defense from Allied attacks. The bunker was in great shape and I was amazed at being able to see something in real life that I had only seen in my grandfather's photos from the war.
After that we bought some train tickets and head to the next town south, which is Vernazza. Little Vernazza sits in a very steep canyon leading down to its little harbor.  The buildings are a rabbit warren of paths, tunnels and warped steps leading every which way. We did a little shopping and then ventured into those alleys, on our way up to the Castello Andrea Doria, which is a fortified building from the middle ages. The view from the tower and deck is amazing. You can see Monterosso on one side, and Corniglia on the other. Behind you climbing the steep canyons are the famous terraced vineyards of Cinque Terre where they grow the grapes for their wine. McC and I went in search of the outside deck for the wine tasting I had read about only we discovered it was closed on Wednesdays.  Damn! Some nice Korean ladies from Lake Arrowhead were lost in the pathways and followed us out. How random! We've met quite a few Americans here in Cinque Terre, which is sort of funny.
We decided to check out the church of Santa Margherita de Antiochi which was built in the 13th century. Its a very dim church, simple on the inside with very thick walls and highly place windows. I imagine they probably hid all their wealth so as not to be a target for pirates. McC and I started getting hungry by then so we went in search of lunch. We ended up at a tiny enoteca, with some foccacine (sandwiches made from foccacia, which was "invented" in Cinque Terre) and wine. Perfect light meal. I really wanted some gelato so I bought una coppa piccola with chocolate and raspberry.  Omg it was good. There is nothing like gelato made in italy, I don't care what anyone tells you! McC and I were bummed about the wine tasting but we found another place to do it and walked right in. The Cinque Terre is known for their white wines but also for a specific dessert wine called Schiaccetrá. Its fairly strong and served in small glasses. To me its has this honeyed texture and even tastes like honey with almost no aftertaste. They serve it with cantucci, which are little almond cookies sort of like biscotti. I was a bit buzzed after that so we decided to go back to Monterosso and chill out.
Once we got back we wanted to check out this sculpture of Neptune clled Il Gigante. It was made in 1910 but the Allied bombing raids on the Germans in the area wrecked it pretty bad so he's missing his arms and the giant shell he used to carry. The main body is still intact and is magnificent in scale, even from as far back as we were standing. We met a nice older lady from La Jolla who was by herself and strolled with us for a bit. We checked out this restaurant called Miky which is #1 in a lot of guidebooks and on TripAdvisor. I made us a reservation for that night for dinner.
We decided if we were going to have one expensive dinner then Miky would be it. And holy cow it was worth it! This area is known for its seafood so I decided to step out of my box and order the stuffed anchovies. SO GOOD! We also ordered spaghetti with monkfish and olives (which they set on fire at our table), yellowfin tuna and filetto piemontese. For dessert it was tort ciok con banana carmellato. Its safe to say we were in a food coma after that. The 20 minute walk back to our hotel was needed to work off some of the food and I fell into bed like a sack of potatoes. Tomorrow we leave for Genova on the next phase of our trip.

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