“Texan by birth, Italian by accident,” is how Kate Little describes herself. For Kate, a sciopero (strike) became a life-changing event. In 1989, she was traveling through Italy, got stranded in Monterosso al Mare (Cinque Terre) because of a train strike…and never left. She now lives in Fontana, a village between Monterosso and Levanto, with her husband, son, 2 dogs, 2 cats, 8 chickens, a turkey, and 2 awol land turtles.
I discovered Kate through her Little Paradiso blog, where she writes great insider posts about her area, including a recent one about Monterosso’s prized lemons. Kate is an authorized Italian tour coordinator, a licensed sommelier, and holds a master’s degree from the University of Rome in Italian Enogastronomic Culture. She enjoys helping tourists understand Italy and its culture through food and wine. She is also a founding member of RebuildMonterosso.com, and has been active in the reconstruction of the Cinque Terre after the devastating flood of October 25th, 2011.
I’m so grateful Kate’s joined in to share her advice for a Golden Day in the Cinque Terre:
My day would start by waking up early to sunny blue skies and a calm sea. After slipping on my swimsuit, comfy clothes and my hiking tennies, I would walk on the dock in Monterosso to see what the day’s weather will be and to breathe in the delicious salty air. Next, I’d backtrack to Midi Bar (Piazza Garibaldi, 3) in the main piazza, for a cappuccino and a slice of fresh, warm, focaccia–and a daily dose of town gossip.
After breakfast I’d take an early train to Riomaggiore, where I would walk the Via dell’Amore, the easy path that connects Riomaggiore and Manarola, before the tourists wake up. The peaceful views and lovely sounds of waves and seagulls are best seen quietly.
Once I get to Manarola, I’ll make a quick stop in to see my friend Mattia at La Cambusa focacceria (Via Renato Birolli 114) and pick up a piece of my favorite Andrea Doria foccaccia (salted anchovies, olives, peppers, onions) and maybe a wedge of farinata or foccaccia al formaggio for lunch before catching the Cinque Terre National Park bus up to the ancient town of Volastra (ask the Cinque Terre National Park offices for times). If I have friends with me, while I’m in Volastra, I might stop by Luciano Cappellini’s (www.vinbun.it) winery and show them how real Cinque Terre wine is made. After that, I’ll start my hike through the vineyards high above the Cinque Terre and then down on to Corniglia.
Once in Corniglia, I’ll fill up my water bottle, pop into Monica and Guido’s hip shop (MG at 45 Via Fieschi) to see what’s new, and, after running down to the end of the village to peek out over the sea on the fabulous overlook, I’ll start on hiking on to Vernazza.
There’s always a little bit of a shock as you come off the trail, or rather the final bit, which winds through the village residential area, onto the main street of Vernazza. The crowds hit you suddenly and this rude awakening creates a sudden need for a glass of wine to help you get back on track. For this, I’ve always liked the Bar Ananasso, right down by the water near the church (Piazza Guglielmo Marconi 17). If you’re lucky enough to snag a seat, this is a great place to sip a crisp, cool glass of Cinque Terre wine while people watching in the piazza. I always make a stop into the nearby church of Santa Margherita – probably my favorite church in the world–to marvel at its simple, austere beauty.
From Vernazza, my gallant husband and son will come and pick me up on our boat (or you can hire a boat with captain –www.matildenavigazione.com) and we’ll go snorkeling for the remainder of the afternoon. Well, maybe they’ll snorkel or fish- after all that hiking I prefer to relax and soak up some sun on deck.
When the sun starts to fade, we’ll go back to Monterosso and while my husband’s docking, I’ll take the opportunity to sneak a gelato with my son either at Bar Bagni Eden (Via Fegina 79), the only big bar, which is built over the beach, or at Il Golosone (Via Roma, 17), on the old side of town. He’ll run off with his buddies and I’ll make the round of the shops to see if anything is new or fun to buy. La Gazza Ladra in Piazza Matteotti has wonderful Italian-made goods and beautiful silk scarves, Fabbrica d’Arte Monterosso, nearby on Via V. Emanuele and on Via Roma 8, makes and sells breathtakingly gorgeous, one of a kind handmade ceramics. Enoteca Internazionale at Via Roma 62 has a marvelous selection of Italian wines (including hard to find boutique Cinque Terre producers) and olive oils. You can even get a flight of five Cinque Terre wines, one from each of the villages, to compare the various styles–they also make great light lunches and dinners.
Bottega d’Arte, a teeny shop on Via Roma, sells original prints and paintings and funky jewelry made on-site.
Without a doubt, on my rounds I’ll run in to a friend or two (or 5) and we’ll make a bee-line to Eliseo’s (Piazza Matteotti, 3) for our evening aperitivo. This is the original wine bar of Monterosso, where both locals and tourists wind up a day on the beach or working in their shops. Nothing ends a day or starts an evening better than a Campari Soda or Spritz!
For special occasions, I’d shower off, slap on some lipstick and head to Miky’s restaurant (Lungomare Fegina, 116 – tel. +39 0187 817608) for dinner. In 23 years, I have never had a bad meal or less than impeccable service there.
Tonight though, I’ll call Gianni and ask him if he’d give me a ride above Monterosso (which he will–the restaurant has a complementary shuttle to and from the restaurant – Ristorante Il Ciliegio – Località Beo – Monterosso al Mare – Tel 0187 817829). There I can enjoy the relaxed atmosphere and homestyle cooking of the Ciliegio (try the Trofie with Swordfish!). The fact that it’s a little out of the way makes it much more special–no crowds, no rush, just a beautiful view of Monterosso. I’d forgo the after-dinner partying in town and have another glass of sciacchetrà while enjoying the cool evening air.
If my family were to come visit, and we didn’t have room in our apartment, I would gladly point them in the direction of Cà du Gigante. This chic little bed and breakfast with parking has a couple of off-site apartments which are equally as detail-oriented. For a more budget-conscious friend or group of people, I’d call Megan who has reasonably priced singles and a full apartment smack dab in the middle of the historic center of town (Vigna du Raffa, Via San Martino 5, Monterosso +39 345 2356361).
Grazie Mille Kate–I am ready to pack my bags!