Yesterday, I got you as far as the formidable steps to Corniglia (After writing my post, I was enlightened - there are 365, one for every day of the year).
Today, I'm going to push you quickly through the rest of our lovely weekend. So, let's start in the beautiful mountain town of Corniglia, shall we?
Umm... actually, we didn't make it very far into Corniglia before spying with our little eyes this adorable enoteca, or wine shop, on the six-foot-wide "main drag." Note the oddly-shaped receptacle on the sign - it will be important later.
This enoteca had some pretty hysterically kitschy things on their street-front shelves, mixed in with the local products and mortars-and-pestles for making pesto.
First, the wall of Pope- and Revolution-wine. Lots of Che Guevara, for some reason, with some Karl Marx thrown in. And is that a Stalin I see, or am I perhaps mistaken?
Moving on to the beer, we have the People's Red. Guess who?
And, if you'll allow me to go back to the wine for a minute, today we have the "don't mention the war" special:
So, after taking multiple pictures in front of the shop, how could we not go in?
The interior was cave-like, but in a good way. The shelves were lined with local wines, liquors, sauces, and anchovies.
We ordered two glasses of a local white from the girl tending bar (who rushed in just after we arrived). Upon sitting down, we noticed odd containers on the tables - were they for decoration, or for something else?
Apparently something else. Enoteca Il Pirun's owner, Mario, saw us examining the object. He dropped a bib onto Husbear, and saying "Guarda" (watch), he grabbed a cyclist friend and proceeded to demonstrate the use of the pirun.
Well, if that's all there is to it...
After being presented with a bib, I gave it a try, too, but I'm much too timid to do this the right way.
We bought one. They were only 13 euros! So, if you come visit us, you can drink wine out of a pirun. How's that for enticement? Eh?
I also had a glass of sciacchetra (pronounced shock-e-TRA) that Mario makes himself.
It was good.
After paying, we checked our train schedule...
which is when we realized that we had 6 minutes to run down 365 stairs and then perhaps another 1/4 mile to catch the train to Vernazza, where we were hoping to take a dip in the Mediterranean before meeting up with the ladies back in Monterosso.
I still don't know how we made it.
Oh - wait, yes I do! The train was 5 minutes late. Lucky us!
On to Vernazza!
Sooz, this pic is for you: (and for whitney's mom, and toska and her mom, and all of the unfortunate souls with gluten sensitivities and allergies)
I've been seeing a lot of low-gluten or entirely gluten-free products and menus here - I remember sooz telling me a while back that many Italians have gluten sensitivities.
Anyhoo, Vernazza is considered by some (especially Rick Steves) to be the jewel of the Cinque Terre. It is beautiful, but this popularity meant that the town was the most crowded of all.
We walked through the main piazza towards the Mediterranean Sea. It took us a while to find a rock large enough to hold our butts and bags, but we did eventually find one and strip to our bathing suits for a dip.
The water was cold, but felt great after our walks and runs.
We swam for a little while together, and then I got out to enjoy the view of the town (and the crazy topography!) while Husbear began searching for a jumping rock.
Well, he found one he liked, but that rock just confirmed my view of him as one of the luckiest people I know.
He eventually jumped from a point slightly below where he's sitting in this photo.
Husbear got out, we toweled off, and we headed for the train station to catch a train back to Monterosso, where we were supposed to meet the ladies at 7. (This was at 6:30.)
We got onto the train and were sitting, when Husbear spotted his mom and pegs outside the train window! They were getting off the train to head into town, so we decided to get off and go back with them.
Since they wanted to take many many pictures (Mama Bear's up to 3100 pictures on this computer, and rumor has it she took an additional 400 or so yesterday in Siena!), we thought it might be fun to check out a small wine bar just off the square.
We ordered two glasses of a local wine (this one was called "Vernazza", and was made by the same people who made the Corniglia and Monterosso varieties we'd already tried) and picked up some snackies. The bartender warned us that, though it was almost empty when we walked in, the bar was going to jam up in about two minutes.
He was right! Two large platters of delicious fried anchovies were carried in to the room, followed by jabbering locals, all of whom were justifiably excited by the fried offerings. We grabbed a couple and were eating them, when who should wander in but Mama Bear and Pegs! We offered them our seats and Husbear hooked them up with some fried anchovy goodness.
After enjoying our aperitivi, we jumped the train back to Monterosso and waited in a very long line for a very cold shower.
Dinner Saturday night was at a Ligurian home-style place (at least that's how we classified it) in Monterosso called L'Altamarea.
We ordered three pasta dishes and one main, all of which we split.
First arrived the trofie con scampi. Trofie are the same pasta we had the previous night with pesto, only these were served with great big crustaceans.
This was my favorite of the pasta dishes. I think I just love small pasta dumplingy shapes.
We also ordered the chef's special ravioli, fish ravioli - oddly in meat sauce?
I thought this was good. The meat sauce somehow didn't end up overpowering the more delicate fish filling. It was like the Tuscan idea of fish ravioli - and since their bread didn't have salt, I was thinking that it was possible there was a Tuscan in the kitchen.
This pansotti, or cheese and greens-filled ravioli with walnut sauce, was very good. The walnut sauce didn't have the overly-sweet over-processed taste you get when you leave the nuts in the food processor for too long, and the filling had a nice balance of ricotta and slightly bitter greens.
The real star of the show, however, was the Ligurian anchovy terrine, served piping and bubbling out of the oven.
Layered anchovy and potato, with a little bit of tomato thrown in, baked in a pool of olive oil with parsley thrown on top. Delicious. Very subtly flavored, but very hearty.
That night, Husbear was sweet enough to pick up that ooey gooey cream puff from Miky while the rest of us went back to the hotel and tried to get into the bathroom. He was more successful than we were.
The next morning, after stuffing ourselves with breakfast and getting yelled at by the desk clerk (I was told I had no manners for trying to lock our bags together in their lobby, which apparently was also their luggage storage room) we took ourselves back to Corniglia.
This time, we managed to make it a little farther into town. The ladies became captivated by a group of young folks bringing in the grape harvest, so we split up and walked up to the top of the town, where there's a scenic overlook.
After taking in the views from the scenic promontory, and poking around in the town's central piazza, we ran out of town and went back to Il Pirun. Yes, I am fully aware that we are very, very predictable.
This time, they gave us snacks! But we didn't drink out of the pirun.
This time, we tried two kinds of local wines - a 2005 Forlini Cappellini Cinqueterre and a 2004 Pregin. I believe they're both made from the big three local grapes - bosco, albarola, and vermentino. I liked the Forlini a lot more - the pregin had a very odd nose to me, very vegetable-heavy.
Leaving il Pirun, we were on the lookout for a local vini sfusi place (where you can by local tap wine by the jug) but had no luck. Instead, we found ourselves in a very sweet little enoteca/shop just a few yards down the road to Corniglia, speaking with a very nice man who gave us a great restaurant recommendation.
Again, two different types of wine - a 2005 La Polenza Cinque Terre and a Lievantu (there's an accent over that a) from nearby Levanto. I liked both of these very much. The Cinque Terre just makes such wonderful white wines!
It didn't hurt that the kind owner served the wines with tasty little caperberries and little cracker twists, either! We were the only people in the shop, and I certainly hope that was unusual, because his wine and product selection was great and he was really, really nice to us.
From here, back down the tiny winding road on a bus stuffed with people to the train station, and thence to Monterosso, where Husbear got this good picture of me.
We only had about an hour to wander Monterosso before we had to catch our train back to Florence, so we went a'hunting farinata. Again.
I enjoyed this quite a bit more than our previous farinata experience, but still found it a bit dry and mealy. My personal farinata jury is still in recess - I'll have to give this ligurian treat another try or two.
We went back to our hotel to grab our bags, and then on to the station, where we were confronted once again with the real world...
Yup, all of those people are standing on the track we needed to be on to get a train to Pisa and then Florence. It was quite an elbowfest, getting on that train, but we did eventually find four seats together.
That's our adventure in the Cinque Terre... this weekend, we bid a sad adieu to the ladies as we travel to Rome to locate their plane.