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Report 803: Da Acciughe a Cinghiale

By patid from Oregon, Spring 2005

Trip Description: An overview our our two weeks in Liguria, with one week in a cooking program, and one week in Toscana, living like Italians during late spring.

Destinations: Countries - Italy; Regions/Cities - Florence, Liguria, Tuscany

Categories: Hotels/B&Bs; Vacation Rentals; Cooking Classes; Foodie Trip; Shopping; Sightseeing; Independent Travel; 2 People

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Page 1 of 4: Week 1-Arrival and Casa Aldo in Corniglia, Cinque Terre

This was Bruce's (my husband) and my first trip to Italy. We arrived in Florence after a long journey through Frankfurt on Lufthansa on Friday the 13th of May, 2005. We arrived in true Italian style as we discovered there was an air traffic controllers strike from 10AM to 2PM, so our flight into Florence was delayed by two hours. We took a cab to our hotel: a lovely boutique hotel called Villa Antea.

We went to dinner at an old trattoria (can’t remember the name) near the Duomo that served traditional bistecca fiorentina. It was very old and very busy with lots of locals eating steak. All the tables were family style, so we sat with two families of Italians who were busy gnawing on bones, drinking wine, and talking all at the same time. We each ordered a steak (only served medium rare) and shared two side dishes: canneli beans and baby radicchio, and we drank the house wine. Our first meal in Italy and we were in heaven!

The next day we checked out of the Villa Antea and took a cab back to the airport where we picked up our car (many thanks to Bob the Navigator for his very excellent instructions on getting to and from the Florence Airport).

We had a Mercedes A140 that we rented through AutoEurope (and Slow Travel). We nicknamed it ‘the Wedge’. It was a diesel, very zippy, and an automatic, since Bruce still doesn’t know how to drive a stick shift. With Bruce navigating, I headed northwest towards Cinque Terre. The autostrada was very fun and I enjoyed speeding (wound her up to 110 mph), passing cars, and being passed.

We arrived in Corniglia around 1:30 and went into the village to find our apartment. We were instructed to go to Bar Matteo and ask for a woman named Marilena. No one spoke English, so I fumbled through the request and soon a woman showed up to examine our paperwork (which she couldn’t read because it was in English!). Soon another woman showed up, but neither were Marilena. The problem was that there were two apartments and two American couples and they were not sure which couple had which apartment. I then used sign language to describe stairs (the apartment description said it was 2-story) and immediately we were whisked off with our luggage in tow.

We ran into the real Marilena and the situation was explained to her (she didn’t speak English either), and again we were moving. After several flights of stairs we arrived. Our apartment was called Casa Aldo and was a 2-story apartment at the top of a 3-story building. The view was incredible, and the scent of lemon blossoms was everywhere. We had a deck off the master bedroom that looked northwest over the terraced vineyards, garden, and the Ligurian sea. The main deck was off the kitchen on the second floor and looked southwest over the village of Corniglia, to Manarola and Riomaggiore. After we recovered from all the stairs, we went into the village for lunch, shop for supplies, and began the adventure of living in Corniglia for a week.

We spent the next eight days touring the Riveria and Cinque Terre, hiking the trails, riding the trains, cruising in the boats, driving the car on the one-lane roads (dodging people, cars and renegade sheep!), and enjoying long leisurely lunches. We visited Portovenere, Santa Margherita and Portofino in addition to the villages of the Cinque Terre. We found the hiking trails between the towns to be a very cool way to travel, in addition to having spectacular views, and we marveled at the fact that these trails were the only mode of transport between the villages for so many years. Of course the 400 stairs in Corniglia were quite daunting; we went down them more than up!

We quickly got to know the locals and made friends with a few of them. There was Tomasina who sold her vino della casa; we tried one bottle and it wasn’t very good. I brought the empty bottle back to her the next day to recycle it; she thought we wanted more and filled it up again. We didn’t want to offend her, so we bought it.

There was Victoria (one of the women who helped us with our apartment the first day), who did our laundry for us. We didn’t know that the machine in the kitchen was a washer and not a dishwasher until I tried to put dishes in it! Victoria let us know the progress on our laundry one day when she pointed up to one of the balconies in the middle of the village. All of our clothes, underwear included, were lazily flapping in the breeze drying Italian style. The local shopkeepers were pleased to see repeat customers, so they began giving us things to take with us when we shopped in their stores.

We especially enjoyed the Enoteca Il Pirun in Corniglia and Mario D’Elia’s wonderful hospitality. Mario took a liking to me because my last name, D’Eliseo, is very close to his. We decided we were long lost famiglia. We stopped in Mario’s shop nearly everyday after our adventures. He didn’t speak much English, and my Italian is caveman style, but we were able to communicate for the most part. We were introduced to some of his friends and soon the daily visits became routine. We would eat homemade prosciutto, fresh anchovies, olives, cheese, and drink lots of wine. We would then waddle back to our apartment around 6 or 7 PM and start prepping for dinner.

We ate in our wonderful apartment, enjoying the view most nights, and ate out for breakfast and lunch every day. The seafood was incredible and I really learned to love the fresh anchovies. We had them so many different ways and they were all delicious.

Our week went by quickly, and we arrived on the day where we had to leave Casa Aldo and Corniglia and move on to our next destination. We said goodbye to our new friends and drove 10 kilometers up the road to Levanto where we checked into the agritoursimo Villanova.

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