As you can tell by now, I am jumping around my trip’s timeline. Instead of progressing between places, I decided to share snapshots and stories of my favorite part of each place that I visited. Back to Italy, where I split my time between my friend’s house in Bologna and our adorable rented room in Vernazza, one of the five towns of Cinque Terre. My friend picked Vernazza because it is the only town with a harbor, which we figured would make for the best beach destination. As soon as we arrived, we changed into our bathing suits and headed to enjoy the waters of the beautiful Mediterranean Sea. While we were swimming, we were surrounded by tiny fish, likely the small anchovy that the region is famous for, and the rocks were covered in tiny mussels. While soaking up some sun on the rocks, we were passed by a baby crab, and harassed by the biggest sea gulls I have seen in my entire life. It was so cool to be surrounded by such amazing wildlife!
After a day in the sun and heat, there is nothing better than a great dinner to end the night. We asked around for a recommendation of where to go for dinner, and the apartment owner’s husband recommended his favorite place for seafood. He obviously has great taste! This restaurant had some of the best food I have ever eaten. We started off with a sample of five small seafood dishes, the highlights of which were lemon anchovies and a warm octopus salad.
Anchovies, usually very salty and definitely not something I am prone to eat
often ever, are actually an amazing and delicate fish when not so heavily salted. They are so fresh in this region, most likely straight from the ocean to the table in the same day. That makes all of the difference! The sample contained the classic salted version, which were still quite tasty and so much less salty than what I expected. However, the unexpected highlight for me were fresh anchovies in a light lemon sauce with bits of fresh tomato. The lemon was so fresh and really let you appreciate how flavorful the anchovy itself is! What a great surprise.
I was also pleasantly surprised by the warm octopus salad, which honestly freaked me out when they first presented the plate. The tentacle still had the suction cups on it, and it was bright purple and looked like it was straight out of the ocean. But that was what made it so great! The octopus was really tender, which can only be accomplished if it is really fresh and cooked perfectly. It was served with potato wedges, olives and fresh herbs, giving it incredible fresh flavor. This alone made the whole appetizer worthwhile!
For dinner, I stuck with the seafood theme and ordered a pasta dish with mussels and tiny clams in a red sauce. Not always a fan of shellfish, I was a little nervous about if I would like my dinner or not. However, I had heard rave reviews about the region’s shellfish, and figured that they would be incredibly fresh since I had seen them coating the rocks earlier in the afternoon! All I have to say is best shellfish ever. The clams were tiny and really tender, and the mussels were perfect with a twirl of fresh pasta and a bit of red sauce. I was in food heaven. My plate was literally clean by the end of dinner, both because of how good the food was and because of our waiter’s insistence that we clear our plates. His games got us a free round of drinks by the end of dinner, so we weren’t complaining!
The food continued to be amazing in Cinque Terre. Other highlights of food that I enjoyed in my time there were a sandwich with prosciutto and fig, fresh foccacia, and a bowl of pasta with real pesto. Did you know: Pesto originated in the Liguria region and is traditionally made in a mortar and pestle (hence pesto!)? Fun fact! I brought home some trofie pasta, the regional specialty, and hope to make my own pesto to go with it sometime this week!