Ryan, Sami, and I made our way to Cinque Terre after having lunch in Monte Carlo. We caught a train from Monte Carlo, switched at Ventimiglia, and then continued to one of the Genoa stations. Our late night walk to our B&B was just 10 minutes long and we got there just before the check-in cutoff. The pleasant elderly proprietors showed us around and thankfully Sami speaks Spanish because the couple were probably Argentinian and only spoke Italian and Spanish (the B&B was called Albergo Argentina). We just stayed there for one night before we continued to La Spezia, which would be our jumping off point for visiting Cinque Terre.
Once in La Spezia, we dropped off our stuff in our B&B. Ryan and I stayed in the Blue Room, as it said on our key, and it was easy to see why: we had two blue chairs, a blue desk, a blue wardrobe, a blue easy chair, a blue coverlet, and blue curtains. And thankfully a quiet A/C! After dropping off our stuff, we took the train to the first of the villages in Cinque Terre: Riomaggiore.
The train went through the sides of cliffs and the station was just a little outdoor platform between two tunnels. We disembarked and headed through the pedestrian tunnel to the village itself. Then we headed up. Up, up, up! There aren’t many places to go other than up. The five Cinque Terre villages are built on the cliffsides and all the walkways are very steep.
By now it was around 3 pm and we were hungry. We found a little restaurant almost at the end of the strip where we sat for lunch (bypassing pizza stands, fried seafood take-aways, and shopfronts).
Our table for three was on the front patio of a little restaurant. I ordered the grilled swordfish with salad, something simple and delicious. Ryan and Sami wanted it all, so they got it! They both ordered the complete seafood dinner. I was happy with my one course, a large and meaty swordfish steak topped with sweet, pink pickled onions (or shallots?), served with peppery arugula and red, ripe tomatoes. I finished my dish just as Ryan and Sami wrapped up their first course:
Their first course was a seafood platter with two types of thinly sliced dry smoked fish, brined anchovies, cured anchovies, some sort of seafood salad, those pink pickled onions, and a large flatbread.
As their second course, they got a dish of mussels in a tomato sauce.
Then, they each got a dish of pasta with mussels, prawns, and clams. I kept on ‘helping’ Ryan by having tastes of each course, and they were all spectacular. After the pasta, they each got a swordfish steak the size of my whole meal!
Watching them keep on eating as the courses kept coming made me hungry, so I ordered a vanilla semifreddo with meringue and drizzled with chocolate. Scrumptious! Then, to top it all off, Sami ordered the tartufo nero, a little nugget of vanilla ice cream encased in a larger layer of chocolate ice cream and rolled in chocolate meringue crumbles. That was obviously amazing. However, something interesting happened while we were dining: a black Mercedes pulled up (one of maybe two cars we saw in the village), some staff got out and checked out the interior of our restaurant (and possible checking out the bathroom), before some woman got out of the car and ducked inside. After a few minutes, they all got back into the Mercedes and left. Ryan asked our waitress who that lady was, but the waitress just smiled and didn’t say anything – intriguing!
After our late lunch, we browsed some shops and I bought a bottle of limoncino, a lemon liqueur brewed in Riomaggiore and the rest of Cinque Terre.
One of the small delis along the main road of Riomaggiore had a cooler of wine…and a box of €1 chunks of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Despite his massive lunch, Sami decided he had to have one for a post-dessert tidbit.
Riomaggiore had a few place that sold fried seafood cones, and these looked delicious but unfortunately I was too full to try one!
After our large lunch, we decided to explore the village. This paved park was constructed over the train walkway, and was full of locals and kids just hanging out.
There were lots of stairs!
We picked our way over steep, narrow, stone staircases that overlooked the little marina, where maybe 15 boats were moored and where a whole bunch of tourists were swimming and leaping off rocks. It was blisteringly hot in the sun, despite being early evening, so we set off once again up narrow stairs that in some places were only one metre wide. We eventually headed down and then were back where we started; it’s not easy to find anything because of the random winding streets, but it’s also impossible to get lost because Riomaggiore is so small!
The hills were terraced to allow the villagers to farm the steep slopes.
Then we decided to go find the castle. Sami navigated up, up, up along a narrow road and we (mostly I) got quite sweaty in the humidity. Once we found the little castle, we waited and watched the sun set behind the mountains. Afterwards, we trekked back down the steep paths and took the train back to La Spezia.
The next day, we visited three other Cinque Terre villages, but Riomaggiore remains my favourite.